04/11/2012 03:47 pm ET Updated Jun 11, 2012

It Takes a Village

We all get characteristics from our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, Our eyes, hair color, even the shapes of our hands and the curves of our legs. Sometimes we share common freckles and even wisdom, but what if you shared a chromosome or two with a total stranger? Someone who you've only heard about in passing, but when you finally meet them, you're surprised at their resemblance to you...

It's happened millions of times through adoptions and surrogacy, but sometimes we find unexpected relatives through the most unusual circumstances, through documented birth announcements or, or sometimes we stumble upon a greater mystery than we ever planned. The past holds such secrets but really no answers.

For the most part, we all grew up with grandparents or substitute grandparents, who taught us about our family history and where we stood in the family in terms of what ancestors we came from. There is a natural curiosity that comes with finding out about them -- whether they were tall or short, thin or fat, genius or one step above dumber than a fence post, whether we get our most noticeable features from them or we really just clones of our parents.

I know that from my own family, I look like a combination of my mother and my aunts. We share the same height, hairline, round face and we all wear glasses, but I always wondered what my father's maternal side, my grandmother, his mother looked like, because she passed away quite a few years before I was born, and my step-grandmother threw out any pictures of her. I wondered if she shared the birth marks my father and I have, whether she was funny or serious. All sorts of questions that can't be answered, but I have faith that I'll find out them out some day.

I did discover, through a lengthy process, a child of my grandmother's who'd been given up for adoption just before my grandparents met, it was a hastily arranged one that was never spoken about until nearly two years ago and suddenly it's Brady Bunch revisited, we have new people in our lives who don't know us and we don't know them, and yet something brought us together. I don't know if I believe in fate, but suddenly a key piece to a missing past has been brought to light. I look at my new aunt and cousins, I see what my grandmother may have looked like, her eyes and her smile, and we definitely have some sort of resemblance, at least in physical features, that I don't share with my other aunts and my mother.

Our families comes in all shapes and sizes and as much as we gripe and bitch, we wouldn't trade them for the world -- because they are a part of us, we are who we are because of them. Every aspect is a reflection on them and whether we like it or not, we are proud of that, dysfunction and all...

What traits and attributes did you get from your family, do you flaunt them or hide them under the bed with the rest of the emotional baggage?

For more by Nikki Luongo, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

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