I grew up in Bathurst, New South Wales as the only daughter of immigrants from the Netherlands. I can understand, read and speak some Dutch. Every Christmas our family would celebrate in our variation of the Dutch tradition, going to the midnight church service and coming home and feasting on ham and bread rolls served on the crockery my parents had brought with them from Holland. The Christmas tree was adorned with Dutch trinkets and the myrrh man ‘roked’ his characteristic smell that made every Christmas Dutch. Most years we received a parcel from my family of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents with the hand-me-downs and gifts, and the lingering smell of pipe tobacco that was my link to family and my Dutch heritage.
When I was 43 I found out I was adopted and I lost this.
Recently I have delved back into my ancestry and discovered that on my mother’s side I have an ancestor, Jimmy Young, from Xiamen, China who came to NSW for the Goldrush, and another, Peter O’Neill from Wicklow, Ireland who was sent to the Penal Colony of NSW for being involved in the Irish Rebelllion. After he was pardoned he settled at Homecraft, Rockley, in the Bathurst District, not far from where I grew up.
I’m not sure how to respond to this. After the excitement of finding these characters in my family, I am angry with a system of closed adoption that not only cut me off from the roots that established my identity, but also transplanted me into a location where my family ‘ghosts’ and connections resided outside of my awareness and possibility for connection. How many grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins lived nearby? Lost opportunities for connecting to a wider family that is important in developing a sense of who I am. My dream is to be re-grafted back onto one of the family trees that I was cut off from, to be accepted and belong as ‘one of them’ despite the separation, scandal and politics of adoption.