I was adopted from China when I was just seven months old. My parents told me early on that I was adopted, and it just became a fact or a thing about me, like hair color. It was never something that I had trouble accepting, I just shied away from making a big deal about it— as a kid, you just want to be like everyone else.
My parents are both white. My mom’s family is really Italian, and my dad is Cajun. When I go home for the holidays, though, it’s the best of both worlds— on Christmas Eve we always have gumbo, jambalaya, and boudin, and then on Christmas day we have spaghetti and lasagna. My teammates call me Hungry Mel because I constantly eat, and I’m pretty sure it has to do with the fact that I grew up eating great food.
They’ve offered to give me a trip to China several times, to Mao Ming, where I was adopted from. But I’ve never had the urge to go. They ask me “Are you sure?” to which I reply ,“if you’re going to spend that much money on a trip, I’d rather go to Italy"— growing up, the culture was incredibly distinct. The stereotypical loud Italian man waving his hands around? Well, it’s actually a thing— whenever my mom’s family is around each other it’s a lot of everyone talking over each other at the same time but somehow everyone knows what everyone else is saying and I just love that. It’s so loud, expressive, so full of life.
Sometimes at family functions my family forgets that I’m adopted. Even though I think “oh that kid must have been adopted” when I see a family where the child is a different ethnicity, I look at my family and it doesn’t register to me that I’m different in any way. It’s just how it is.
When I turned 18 (when you can get tattoos), I got my birth name tattooed on me— Mao Yu. It’s my subtle way of claiming that this is part of me, that it’ll always be part of me whether I think about it or not. It’s an acceptance of “I am different in a way, and that’s okay.”