Present for a brother I've never met?

I missed his birthday. Well, actually, I’ve missed 50 of his birthdays, owing to the fact that I was relinquished and didn’t grow up with my birth family.

However, I have two brothers and a sister. Have met one brother (recently), and am meeting the other brother and sister very soon. And I’m very excited.

BUT, both my brother and my sister have summer birthdays, and since I’ve missed a whole bunch of their birthdays already–only all of them–I want to arrive with presents. I’m not very flush at the moment so, obviously, it’s the thought that counts.

And it’s the thought that’s making my head ache. I’m thinking something whimsical, like toy trucks/dolls, then I think no, that’s too cutesy . . . or something.

Maybe a blimp? I happen to have one. I wonder if I could get on a plane with it. I’m pretty sure I’d have to buy the helium once I got there.

My sister is equally a problem, what to get her? I don’t even know what kind of gifts people buy their siblings, once they’re adults. Or for that matter when they’re kids.

(My own sons who were close in age tended to buy some toy THEY wanted as a gift for their brother. They all did this.)

I think I really can’t just show up empty-handed. I have to take SOMETHING.

FWIW, I knew about my older brother, as my adoptive mother mentioned him starting when I was pretty young. It really drove me crazy because I was an only child and I desperately wanted siblings. But I didn’t know about the other two until recently; they didn’t know about me at all, although my older brother remembers his mom going off to the hospital and then being told the baby died.

But here’s the thing: they all grew up together, so they know how to do the sibling thing. They got to fight in the back seat of the car on long trips and tell on each other and criticize each other’s boyfriends/girlfriends and share the same secret childhood language and inside jokes. Whereas I’m on the outside and always have been.

Gee, and I somehow think the right presents will fix everything.

I’ve never heard of an adopted child use the word "relinquished " regarding being placed for adoption. Is this something new?

Re gifts you can go wrong with Demel moto-tools and Leatherman multi tools for the guys. For the sister get some tasteful crystal or glass container. If she wants the hardware they can swap.

And you need to send the present with one of those “Sorry I missed your birthday” cards … maybe even 50 of them! It could be a separate present, a box full of “Sorry I missed your birthday” cards.

How about making an appointment with a professional photographer for a group portrait? You can get several sizes of prints, so everybody gets a few different ones. It’ll be a nice reminder, and will become a “new” family heirloom.

This would be easier if Miss Manners had ever covered meeting long-long relatives.

What circumstances are you meeting them under, Cicada2003? Will you be at someone’s home or a restaurant or something like that? Until you know them better, it might be a good idea to stick to small, impersonal gifts like flowers for your sister or a nice bottle of wine to go with dinner. Things could get off on an awkward note if you show up with gifts for them and they don’t have anything for you.

Nothing further to add except I really like this idea. Also, 50 cakes would be equally cool, but that is a lot of cake.

I always suggest a returning boomerang as a gift. For anybody. Well, except maybe a dual amputee. Try googling *Ted Bailey Boomerangs * or *The Boomerang Man * online, and most kite shops carry a few good returning sport boomerangs. It’s got that whole “returning” theme too.

How about a set of photos and journal entries…catch them up on what you’ve been doing all this time, things like school pictures and your favorite activities in school, pets and jobs and spouses that have come into your life, and all the other things that they would have learned about you if y’all had grown up together. Go ahead and make triple copies of everything, and give one to each sib. These collections don’t have to have a lot of fancy doodads like you’ll see on the craft TV shows. Just show them who you’ve been, and include the fact that you had always desperately wanted siblings, and now you’re delighted to have some.

A family portrait will be a great thing to put in the last page of that journal.

I’d buy them a book or a CD that is important to you. It doesn’t matter if they like it or not, the point is that you are telling them something about yourself with the gift (and THAT is the gift).

What a lot of great ideas!

astro, “relinquished” is the legal term for what the birth mom does when she signs over the baby. It’s from the perspective of what was lost. If I was writing from the perspective of what was gained I would have phrased it that “I was adopted at birth,” or something like that, but given the situation I looked at it from the other side.

snoooopy, I love the idea of the “missed your birthday” card. Fifty of them would be great, but I think one will do the trick. Missed your birthday . . . by half a century . . .

Lynn B., I do plan to take some photos. I have, for instance, me on my birthday, ages 1-5. Apparently after 5 I had no further birthdays. But adding a narrative is a really good idea.

The circumstances are going to be first, at a restaurant, and then at the home of the brother I’ve already met.

Hey, maybe someone needs to write the adoption/reunion etiquette book. Hmmm. I’m a writer . . .

Another vote for something small, but personal. What that might be depends on your personal history.

A few years ago Mr. S’s family was “reunited” with a branch of the family we didn’t know existed; his grandfather had disappeared back in the 1920s, and we found out that he had remarried and had a whole other family. Mr. S presented his 70-year-old “half-uncle” (Grandpa’s youngest son from the second family) with a pipe that had belonged to Mr. S’s now-deceased dad (the uncle’s half-brother). Uncle was moved nearly to tears.

I think Lynn’s idea is great. When I first met the half-sister I never knew existed, she brought pictures of herself as a child and a whole lot of memories, and that not only meant a lot to me, it was the catalyst for many really wonderful conversations.

I third Lynn’s suggestion. A nice picture of yourself in a decent frame (get 'em cheap at Wally World or some such place ) and all sorts of “scrapbooky” kind of info about your life. Visit websites from your old schools and print out some stuff. Same with hobbies/interests, the town you grew up in. Maybe make a “friendship bracelet” with the same colors for all of you. Not that anyone would have to wear it, but just that you all had the same thing. Or 4 matching coffee mugs or something like that. Hallmark makes a ton of them and you can probably find something relating to “family”.

Hope you have a great experience meeting all of your siblings.

Just a bit of an update here—

Had a great time, the pictures went over well, the BLIMP (and the “Horror of Blimps” printout that accompanied it) led to a great exchange of Childhood Alarms at Night–all of which turned out hilarious, some at the time, some not until years later. Really, it is such fun having siblings. (Note to self: it’s never too late to have a happy childhood . . .)