Chasing My Rainbow Circle

It was thin, the size of a college rejection letter. I wanted to be alone. I already was, but I wanted to be more alone. Unlocking the front door, I walked slowly up to our apartment and sat on a window seat under an oversized bay window. Outside, an oak tree dimmed the sun. Hiccuping for a breath, I watched my fingers slit the white envelope. The Agency’s report was inside – typewritten, single-spaced, mostly on one page, a little spilling over to a second. I scanned it and quickly confirmed what I somehow knew already – they had not found Virginia. Essentially the report was compiled from a review of public records, most likely records maintained right in their office. Today, most of the information could be found quickly on the Internet, but as of 1972  Al Gore had not yet invented it.

There was, to be sure, helpful information, including Virginia’s birthdate in 1924. The report provided the names of her parents, their dates of birth, as well as other potential relatives (including the name Cleasby, seemingly the maternal grandparents, which would come of use later). From the information, it was apparent my mother grew up in Haverhill, Massachusetts. An old address was provided. There were no current addresses. The Washington Street address my birthmother used when she signed the Consent for Adoption was now a Chinese Restaurant. It may have been a Chinese Restaurant in 1948. Dead end. Interestingly, the report stated my mother married in 1948, to a guy named Edward Yedlin, from New York City. His family address on the Upper West Side was listed. There was not much else.

I placed the letter on my lap. There was no number to call, no current address to visit, seemingly nothing that would quickly complete my search. My fantasy that the Simmons Detective Agency would, with little effort,  provide me the information I needed was gone. If I were able to be honest with myself (I wasn’t), what I really wanted was for my birth mother to find me. She seemed to have departed for parts unknown. Me too. If I had known then what I know now, there was enough information in the report for me to hop in my little Toyota Coupe and go back up north. I didn’t. I could have sung along to the new Tom Rush tape  – ¨Merrimack County,¨ looking for my own rainbow circle (www.cowboylyrics.com/tabs/rush-tom/merrimack-county-2240.html). Tom Rush’s Merrimack County is in New Hampshire, but the river, the Merrimack (or Merrimac to my parents), is the same one that curves through Haverhill, meandering down from its origins at the southwestern tip of Lake Winnipesaukee. On the other side of the Lake, Wolfeboro (America’s oldest summer resort, maybe), and later the Barber’s Pole on Tuftonboro Neck, were second homes to my family for over 100 years. They are as much as part of me, maybe more so, as Needham. Needham was where my friends were. Wolfeboro was where I learned to be friends with myself.

I knew little of Haverhill, though I thought of it in the same vein as Manchester, New Hampshire. We drove through Manchester each time the family travelled up to the lake, sometimes speeding through on the Everett Turnpike, taking the Hooksett exit to pass over the Merrimac River on a one lane bridge; other times taking the local route over the Queen City Bridge and up Routes 3 and 28 (avoiding a highway toll), past the old Indian Cliff Trading Post totem pole and on through Hooksett towards the Lakes Region. We studied Manchester in college, Economics 101, using a Robert J. Samuelson textbook that cited Manchester (shoes and hats) as an example of a failed industrial city due to poor economic foresight. Haverhill (shoes and hats) seemed in a similar canoe. Both were industrial cities. Both had failed to reinvest in its plants and machinery. In time, both were supplanted by other locations with better technology. Though now thriving again, in 1972 they seemed, well, tired.

The Adoption Movement was just gathering momentum at that time. There were few search organizations, and the ones that did exist were feeling their way. Many adoptees still felt guilty about searching. It was an issue that haunted me. I would tiptoe through my search, I reasoned. My adoptive parents need not know. No sense in hurting them. Virginia’s family need not know. This was between me and her. I had a right to know what happened to me for two years. In the same breath, I believed I did not have a right to unnecessarily disrupt Virginia’s life (no matter how much she had disrupted mine). I would quietly go about my business, finding my birthmother, tapping her on the shoulder, and asking her for the inside scoop on what happened. I know now I should have willed myself back to New England; that it was the most direct approach to finding Virginia. I didn’t think so then. Years later, I helped another adopted person find her birthmother. We knew only that my friend was born at home, as well as the general Brooklyn neighborhood where the birth occurred some 25 years before. One Saturday morning we took the subway down to Brooklyn, the same Lexington Avenue line I used to ride to my first year law school classes. We made our way to the neighborhood where she was born. We spent hours going from shop to shop, looking for people who had lived in that area for many years. Finding several, we asked if they remembered a baby born at home in the neighborhood about the time of my friend’s birthdate. Incredibly, we eventually found someone, a butcher I think, who vaguely recalled such a birth and knew the building. He pointed to it, just down the street. In a matter of days, my friend found her birthmother who lived a scant 10 blocks away. They ended up living together. It is sometimes amazing how much you can learn from so little. But for me, in 1972, other facts were at play.

First, there were law school classes. St. John’s kept attendance in every class, and reported the results to the State Bar upon graduation. If you missed more than 5 classes you did not receive credit for the course. It was going to be difficult enough for me to get credit by passing a final examination. I didn’t need issues about absence to make a tenuous situation worse. Second, there was the issue of money. I didn’t have it. Newly married, we were surviving on my wife’s teaching income. Spare cash was not in abundance. Paying for further services of the Simmons Detective Agency was not even discussed. While the Agency gave me reasonable value for the little money I paid, I could envision an intensive search costing what to me would amount to a small fortune. Third, I was swayed by the fact my mother married someone from New York City. I had names and a family address with which to work. I decided I would take on the search myself. If I found Edward Yedlin, I would find Virginia.

I settled into the second year of law school along with my new commute to Queens, speeding down Route 95 each morning and joining the backlog of cars waiting to pay the toll at the Throgs Neck Bridge, which connected the Bronx with the Bayside section of Queens. I sometimes car-pooled with a classmate who also lived in New Rochelle, but I never spoke with him about my search. The social circle of my wife and I essentially surrounded other teachers and administrators from my her teaching position in Armonk. Other than her, I did not have a close friend in Westchester, not anyone with whom to share my trip to Dedham and what it meant for me. I found myself thinking of it more and more, though I tried to limit it to deciding how I would go about searching. I treated it as an investigation, which it was, though I did not then understand fully exactly what I was investigating. Did I let the genie out of the bottle, or did the bottle just break? Did it make any difference? What should I expect? More importantly, what should I do? I needed to talk with someone. My wife, as understanding as she always was, came from a close-knit, loving family. Other than explaining to her what was happening, we were not able to reach any of the dust swept under the carpet. Neither of us knew the questions, let alone the answers. Not knowing what else to do, I picked up the telephone and called B. J. Lifton

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. wow, Don… you made me smile and tear up at the same time. Write faster!! hugz, Cully

  2. Awesome blog you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics discussed here? I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get feedback from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks a lot!

    • Thanks very much. I have been neglecting this blog for a little bit – working on other stuff, but hope to post something new within a week or so. If you look me up on Facebook, I have a lot of contacts there concerning adoption, and I am sure you can find something that fits for you. It’s dhumphrey10@gmail.com. Send me an email so I will know to accept you when the invite comes through. Have a great day.


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