When she opened the door and opened her arms to me there was a strange complexity of emotion. I suddenly became the infant she never held, angry that she didn’t, but now wanted her to. The violent storm raging inside was unnoticeable on the outside as I walked calmly into her home. We stood in the living room staring at the setting. My husband has described it as an episode of The Twilight Zone. The house was spotless, the coloring and style of the furnishings were just like ours at home, the same curtains were hung in the kitchen, and identical prints were hanging on the wall. I was in the mirror image of my house in a person’s home I had never met. How could this be? She began talking and bringing out photo albums and family stories and I sat in shock. The final scene of this Twilight Zone episode hit its climax when she walked into the kitchen to prepare lunch and threw a dish towel over her shoulder exactly like I do when cooking commences. My husband squeezed my hand with such intensity it felt as if the blood flow stopped! We were both in complete awe. This is a strange woman in a strange house with eerily similar mannerisms and atmosphere. Some months later her husband, watching the two of us decorate a room, commented, “She’s more like you than the four girls you raised.”
Nature versus nurture? It is not a psychologist’s, humanist’s or behaviorist’s argument for me. It’s reality, and it is not either/or, it is both/and. Nature and nurture have both clearly drawn the picture of my life. I remember how often I struggled in the home I grew up in feeling so different. I looked different, I felt different, I thought different. At five years of age I painted a water color of a blue stick girl with black bars in front of her and named it, “A Girl in Jail.” Sadly, no one questioned the content of the painting, they only celebrated when it won second prize at the Kern County Fair. After a complete mental breakdown at thirty-two years of age, I am most grateful for the gifted therapists who were able to help me piece it all together. They took me through the mosaic of nature and nurture that had made me who I am. The either/or idea was what caused the bifurcated self. Weaving it all together with Psalm 139 over a five-year period help me paint a new picture.
Today I’m reflective after the passing of my adopted mother Monday evening. This event brings this part of my story to a conclusion as my father passed away ten years ago. There are many things that have become part of who I am from the community I was raised in, the religious beliefs and practices, the holidays and vacations, the values and mindset within my home. These all wrote on the slate of my life that already had genetic dispositions. Many family stories of my early life and behavior confirm the nature part of me and were only confirmed further the day I met my birth mom.
In reading works like Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker’s Blank Slate, I often find myself muttering the words under my breath that God spoke to Job out of the storm, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Scientific, philosophical and political arguments over matters that are true to human beings’ development should be written with care. In his review of Pinker’s work, Henry D. Schlinger calls his tone, “sensational and combative and certainly not modest.” Schlinger focuses on how Pinker takes on behavioral psychologists such as John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner. He quotes Pinker’s treatment of Watson and Skinner calling it…
…the words of a polemicist. It is incongruous for Pinker to assert the objectivity of science and then associate Stalin, Mao, totalitarianism, and torture with an American psychologist who because of his contributions to improving the lives of so many, was given the International Award of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation for Mental Retardation in 1971.” He goes on to argue that Pinker is “simply wrong” about many of those he argues are “blank slate advocates.” Finally, he states, “Pinker’s poor scholarship is indefensible…and probably represents a case where personal ambition has clouded objectivity.”
Many reviewers of Pinker’s book complain about the worn out debate of nature versus nurture that Pinker seems to resurrect. While all of these argue their point, I continue to live mine. There is no debate for me. If nature were not true my first experience with my birth mom and the complexity of feeling so connected to a stranger would not have been so profound. Yet, stranger I was, and much of who I am is a result of being socialized into a family and community. This is my story and I am grateful for the nature part of my slate and the nurturing part of my slate…it certainly was not blank on May 17, 1961.
 Job 38:2 ESV
 Henry Schlinger, “Not So Fast, Mr. Pinker: A Behaviorist Looks at The Blank Slate . A Review of Steven Pinker’S The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature,” Behavior and Social Issues 12, no. 1 (2002): 75-79.