Fast Forward – Back to Boston

To fast forward a bit – from the late 1940´s and 1950´s (my survival/assimilation period) – to 1972. Things were going pretty well. Maybe even better. I graduated in 1969 from Brown University, a school I got into mostly for having fast feet. I got married the previous year to my college girlfriend (good, kind, supportive), and started law school. In July, 1972, a year into my marriage and with the first year of law school in the books, we were house sitting in Westport, Connecticut. Sally, the woman who owned the house, asked me one Sunday if I had seen the article about adoption in the New York Times on Friday the 21st. I hadn´t, and she got it for me. It described the beginnings (nationally) of the adoption movement to allow adult adoptees access to their adoption records. An adopted woman, Florence Fisher, had started the Adoptees´Liberty Movement Association – The ALMA Society (even with a year of college Spanish, I didn´t immediately get the connection to the latin word for soul). In addition to describing ALMA, the article reviewed the laws in the various states concerning the right of adoptees to view their original adoption records. Save perhaps for an original birth certificate, I never even entertained the thought that there were any records (my adoptive mother´s ¨we burned your clothes¨ story made a scorching impression). In reading the Times article I learned, for the first time, that Massachusetts was – at that time – one of  just 4 states that allowed adult adoptees to view their adoption records (later the records were again sealed, in swift reaction to the Baby Lenore case – where a New York birthmother gave up her daughter for adoption only to immediately change her mind – she sued for the return of the baby in NY and won, only for the prospective adoptive parents to move to Florida – where they sued and won. The baby was raised by the adoptive parents in Florida, which refused to honor the NY ruling).

Sitting on the back deck of Sally´s house I read the article several times. It kept saying the same thing. I was stunned. First, as a law student, I felt a little dumb for not knowing something so obviously important to me. It was later I learned one of the great lessons of the law – that it is impossible to know everything, but that a good lawyer learns where to find things out.

I read someplace that the day that changes your life rarely comes with a warning. There was no warning  here. Life was pretty good. New wife, new car (hers), nice house for the summer (no rent). My biggest problem seemed to be the guy who kept beating me in tennis 2 or 3 times a week. I didn´t like losing. I still don´t. The fact he was a nice guy made it worse.

I knew immediately I was going to Boston. The next day. I also knew I was going alone. My wife had a summer job. I did too. Neither mattered. I needed to do this by myself. I had to. I didn´t realize then, but the strength of my relationship with her helped give me the strength to go. I had no idea, no conception, of what I would find. Maybe that´s not really true. Two years of my life! Finally allowing myself to think about it – for really the first time – I imagined thick files chronicling my beginnings. I accepted that I was probably illegitimate and had convinced myself it wasn´t important. Even now, I´m not sure it was, at least for me.

I went that afternoon to the law library in Bridgeport, looking up the Massachusetts statute that had otherwise escaped me. It confirmed what the Times reported. You simply had to be an adult adoptee. I qualified! I ¨borrowed¨ the book, even though I knew better (yes, I later returned it). I was not going to take any chance that I would be denied. Nothing was going to stand in the way of me going, finally, back to Boston.

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