A frigid winter day, twenty some odd years ago, I became the coolest four year old on the planet. A stranger, carrying what seemed like a pile of blankets as large as me came to my house and left behind a REAL LIVE BABYDOLL! My life was made, and I wouldn’t put her down. I thought everything she did was adorable. I remember my mom saying, “Anna, remember, that’s my baby. Give me my baby.” That babydoll was my sister, Adrianna, aka Adri, aka A.M. Strings. Today is Adri’s birthday! To celebrate I want to share some of a conversation we recently had.
Q. How do you identify? How did you grow up?
A. I identify as a black, queer, adopted person and a free spirit. I grew up with a mom and dad and I was the youngest out of 3 girls. We didn’t have much money.
Q. When did you know you were adopted and what did it mean to you?
A. I knew I was adopted as soon as I could Identify color difference. I’m pretty sure I knew in preschool, but we started talking about it a lot in kindergarten because other kids would say stuff. Back then, being adopted only meant negative things to me- sadness, loneliness, abandonment, feeling lost. We would watch a lot of adoption movies or movies about orphans and most of them had the same story line - the child was treated badly and unwanted. The emotions portrayed in these movies really personified some of my thoughts and emotions.
Q. You’ve written several songs about your life experience, what is your perspective on family?
A. Yes, I’ve written several songs about my life experiences.One song I wrote is called dear mama. The first verse is about how my family doesn’t understand me and I feel out of place. The second verse is about my birth mom and how we are connected but I resent her for what she did to me but I also want to know her.
Growing up we argued a lot and didn’t get along great. Picturesque movie moments did not happen often. I got so used to that. I just thought it was normal, and I didn’t think family could be anything else. My perspective on family was a dysfunctional group of people who didn’t get along very well and weren't very close.
But now, that’s not what I think about family at all. Your family are the people you can count on. They’re the people you can go to when you don’t know what to do, or when you need company or anything else. These are the people that are really going to be here for you and love you at the end of the day.
Q. Do you think you and I have had similar or different life experiences?
A. I think people thought they were treating us “the same”. But, in reality we have had pretty different life experiences. It definitely is different growing up black. Remember that one time a few months ago when we were talking about racism? In that conversation, I’d share one experience dealing with racism and just talking about one experience would all of a sudden bring up another memory and another memory. I had completely forgotten about, and probably suppressed, so many instances of racism in my life. It made me realize- Damn. I haven’t really talked about this to anyone. I wonder how much all those things have taken a toll on me- my confidence, my self worth, and everything else. Confronting that stuff is one of my main struggles right now.
You were always the logical one. I was the emotional, not thinking, one. I made things a lot harder on myself. But, you were always the one holding it together and you probably have a lot of internal battles I don’t know about.
Q. What was it like growing up black in a white family? In a mostly white school? In a white area? What is it like now?
A. Growing up in this area was definitely hard. I definitely feel out of place- you get looks, you get the finger pointed at. At school kids would call me white girl. I used to think that was okay, but looking back at it... that’s messed up. I should have never gone along with it. I think I was looked at as the exception a lot. Like people see me and obviously see I am Black but categorize me differently than other Black people. I think some of my friend’s parents, some teachers, and some neighbors all did/do this. Even today it bothers me living here. The neighbor has his giant Trump sign out. I go where you live and it's all Joe Biden and Black Lives Matter signs… it feels different.
My sister and some of her storyA. m so grateful Adri is in my life, and that she’s willing to have conversations like this with me. There’s so much to say, think, and feel about all of this. It’s hard to put it all into words. Adri, thank you for having this conversation and letting me share it. Thank you for all of the other conversations we’ve had too. Happy Birthday to Adri!