ON AN UNSEASONABLY WARM DAY last fall, my brothers, sisters, and I sat on a stoop in Philadelphia, sipping beers, eating burgers, and reminiscing about what it was like when we were kids. It wasn’t the typical family reunion, though. We had just met. At age 43, I was the eldest of the six siblings; my youngest brother was just 26.
Together, we are a mosaic of contrasts: black, white, tall, short, curvy, lean. At first glance, we don’t look like we have anything in common. But as it turns out, we do — our mother, Joan. She was 17 and, after years in and out of foster care, she was living in a home for unwed mothers when she had me. Born into the system, I was placed with foster parents five days later; they adopted me at age 1½. All I knew about my birth mother was what my parents later told me — that, for example, she had regularly visited and occasionally taken me for weekends until they adopted me.