Last night, my husband and I watched This World on BBC2, an episode called "Ireland's Lost Babies", presented by Martin Sixsmith. [Sixsmith was the author of Philomena, the 2013 film starring Judi Dench about an Irish woman searching for her lost son.]
As it happens, my husband has two elder brothers who are Irish and adopted but now is not the time for that long and convoluted story. Suffice to say that I was surprised to come downstairs from child bedtime duties and find my husband watching the programme.
What struck me throughout - apart from, of course, the awfulness of what the Catholic Church did in effectively selling the babies of unmarried mothers - was the desire of the "children" to find roots. To find who they looked like and whose mannerisms they had inherited.
This is a striking theme throughout Long Lost Family on ITV too. Humans, it seems, have a great desire to belong to other humans in a recognisable way.
Friends and acquaintances who were adopted have often said that a real driving force to find their roots has come upon them when they have their own children. There comes, at its best, a curiosity but at its worst, a desperation - to make sense of your history and your personality and characteristics when you are confronted with your own flesh and blood. No matter how wonderful your childhood has been within your adopted family, many adoptees feel a sense of difference - whether that be looks or temperament or both. One of my brother in laws recently said that he had thought for the first time of where his true roots lay. My in-laws are elderly and he himself was ill and it occurred to him that he had no real medical history in terms of predilection for heart problems, dementia or whatever.
On last night's programme and indeed on the recent Long Lost Family episodes, I don't know whether it is just me but when the families finally meet or when, as last night, you see photos of the parents next to the children, it suddenly seems obvious that they are connected. Last night, Martin Sixsmith was talking to "children", now in their fifties and sixties, who had been adopted from Ireland to America. Their upbringings were poles apart from where they came from - not always happily either. Yet upon seeing them in proximity to images of their lost parents, the resemblances were remarkable.
My grandad had a real thing about people trying to say whom babies resembled. He used to say quite firmly that "babies look like themselves". He was right of course. Humans do not look identical - unless, like the Harry Potter characters above, they are identical twins!
But people, it seems, have a need to look like someone or be like someone. Whilst we are living with our families, maybe we just don't see the similarities because it is all to close and if we are lucky, very comfortable. But it must be very different if you grow up without anyone to "take after". Adoptees who only found out late in life that they were adopted often refer to a feeling of not belonging - an underlying feeling of which they could not make sense, even when they had what could only be described as happy childhoods.
In a way, you can see what you want to see, I suppose. My son looks very like my husband, according to many people. My mother, though, often sees characteristics which remind her of my brother at the same age. I, on the other hand, see just my son. He is, as my granddad would say, "himself". Just as all of those people searching for lost relatives are, in the end, THEM selves. However, I am coming to the conclusion that there is an inherent comfort for many humans in having a sense of belonging to the people around them. I think I need that Tardis again - I need to check out cavemen and see where this comes from...