I took a break – a fact some of you (gently) brought to my attention. I’d like to say I was writing something else. I was, in a manner of speaking,  though the words have yet to actually appear on a page. I would be a great writer if I didn’t have to print my words (I’m going to let the joke about eating them move on down the road). I’ve spent 3 months, more, researching the Lizzie Borden murder case of 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts – the trial transcript and newspaper accounts from all corners of the globe. Growing up in Massachusetts, we skipped rope to the popular rhyme: “Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” Nevermind that the rhyme is wrong, on at least four counts. We sang it, and we believed it. Lizzie Borden was creepily guilty. We didn’t need to read about it. Who would make up a rhyme like that if it weren’t true? We didn’t learn about it in school (it would have made a great college course). We knew of it solely from the playground, and no one questioned whether or not Lizzie was guilty; no one knew she had been tried and acquitted; no one much cared.

It is generally referred to as the Lizzie Borden case. In fact, the victims were Andrew Borden and his wife, Abby (Lizzie’s father and, alas, stepmother – a distinction which were among the first words to come out of Lizzie’s mouth when the police sought to question her the morning of the murders). It was apparently important to Lizzie that dear Abby (dear Abby?) not be confused with Lizzie’s real mother, the one who counted in Lizzie’s eyes (though her “real” mother died when Lizzie was barely 3 years old; Abby had been around for about 27 years).

The police investigation was slipshod, even given the forensic limitations of the times. Fingerprinting, though dating back to the times of Hammurabi,  was not yet considered reliable. In the same year of the Borden murders, an Argentinian police chief obtained a confession from a mother to the murder of her two sons after he confronted her with evidence of her bloody thumbprint at the murder scene. No attempt was made, though, to obtain fingerprints from the Borden house. The premises were not even formally searched until several days later (there was a more cursory search when the police first arrived on August 4th), while Lizzie and Emma were at the cemetery for internment services. The (remaining) occupants of the household (Lizzie, Emma, the maid, and a visiting uncle) were allowed to come and go as they pleased, though they were closely followed if they left the house. On the Sunday after the murders, Lizzie was seen burning a dress on the kitchen stove, quite possibly the dress worn by her on the morning of the murders. A friend (with raised eyebrows) suggested to Lizzie that perhaps burning the dress was not an appropriate thing to do, particularly when there was a police officer standing sentry in the backyard. Lizzie’s response? She stepped to the right so as to be out of view of the police officer.

With all of the police bumbling, there was still one seemingly inescapable conclusion: the only people in or around the house at the time of the murders (which were committed approximately an hour and a half apart, between 9 and 10:30 a.m. on August 4, 1892) were Lizzie and the maid, Bridgett Sullivan. Suspicion quickly centered on Lizzie. In the following week she was summoned to testify before a private inquest. She was not permitted to have the benefit of her own counsel and was subjected to a lengthy questioning that was more in the nature of a cross-examination – indeed, a badgering. Upon the conclusion of the inquest Lizzie was formally arrested. Rather than incarcerate her with the other women prisoners, Lizzie was permitted to take up residence in the matron’s quarters in the police station, from which she regularly sent out for dinner and other perks to make her stay more enjoyable. She read Charles Dickens, and she entertained visitors. The police themselves seemed conflicted about whether a woman of Lizzie’s social standing (and prior unblemished record), a regular church-goer, could possibly be guilty of such a horrific crime.

The “did she or didn’t she” part doesn’t much interest me (I think she did). For the record, though, it was not 40 whacks, and then 41 for her father. Abby received 18 or 19, while poor Andrew suffered 12 or so. In both cases, more than enough to get the job done. Dead is dead. The fact that it was more than enough (I think), points to the rage of the murderer. While not conclusive, many hackings of that sort are the result of personal relations (many times family members) going woefully adrift. It seems preposterous to suggest an unknown intruder snuck into the house, hacked Abby to death, then hid for an hour and a half, hacked Andrew to death, then made his (her?) escape in broad daylight from a house fronting on one of the busiest streets near the center of town.  Even so, and assuming the culprit was Lizzie, the police were gloriously inadequate in constructing the necessary circumstantial case against her.

There is a new book just published, Parallel Lives, which purports to provide an in-depth look at Lizzie (she changed her name to Lizbeth after the murders) and Fall River in the Gilded Age. The Gilded Age is a term coined  by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in the book they co-authored: The Gilded Age: A Tale of TodayInstead of a Golden Age, Twain and Warner saw the societal excesses (read Newport mansions) brought on by the exponential growth of the modern industrial economy as “gilded,” with all of the ostentatious wealth nothing more than a thin veneer of gold. The same might be said about other periods in American history that spawned McMansions on places like Nantucket Island and the sale of $20 million apartments in Manhattan.

Parallel Lives is 1000 pages – that should keep me busy for another 3 months. I want to read it (and I would if it weren’t so damn expensive). There is something fascinating about the Borden case and the times in which it happened; about the fact that a gruesome double murder became “news” not only across the rapidly expanding United States, but throughout many parts of the world – all without benefit of television, Internet, e-mails, cell phones, fax machines, cars, and for the most part, telephones. It is true that the first official notification of the crime was made (not from the Borden house but a nearby commercial establishment) to the Fall River Central Station Police Headquaters by telephone. But that call resulted only in the police sending a junior officer to investigate, by walking over dirt roads the short distance to the Borden residence at 92 Second Street. Once there, the officer was shown the body of Andrew Borden, hacked to death on a sitting room settee, one eye-ball split in two. It wasn’t pretty. There was no mention, indeed no thought, of Abby, except that she perhaps was out because (according to Lizzie) a note had been received that same morning about someone taking sick. Neither the “note” nor the “sick” friend was ever found. The police officer dutifully walked back to the Central Station to report the murder of Andrew, saying something to the effect: “He’s dead.” Following instructions, he then returned to the house, whereupon the body of Abby was discovered in an upstairs guest room. It also was not pretty. Once again the police officer again walked (well, let’s hope he was at least trotting) back to Central Station to amend his report: “She’s dead too!” And thus begat the most intense of police investigations, seemingly unrivaled (at least to that point in our history) both in thoroughness and incompetence, with a little corruption thrown in for good measure (see the “Trickey Affair”).

Parallel Lives promises to provide us with another, more in-depth, view of Lizzie and the Fall River in which she lived. The authors, members of the Fall River Historical Society, do not try to solve the murder (smart), but promise new documentation of the life and times of Lizzie Borden. Okay, we know she was kind to animals (she left a part of her estate to endow the Fall River Animal Society), and sometimes had sticky fingers in the downtown department stores. Those hawking the book on websites and in other places promise that a reading of Parallel Lives is an “eye-opening” experience – a strange choice of words considering Andrew’s fate. Andrew and Abby have now been dead for close to 110 years; Lizzie and her sister Emma (they died within a week of one another) have been gone for going on 80 years. There is an economic benefit to many for keeping the murders a mystery. I don’t have a problem with that. It got me to read through all the newspaper articles, a fascinating journey. Without the mystery, there’s less to talk about and much less money for those interested in making it. But the idea behind Parallel Lives is a good one. What is most fascinating about the Borden murders and the trial of Lizzie is the times in which it occurred, in the waning moments of the 18th century. Yet it was a criminal case that mesmerized the entire United States, even the world. Crowds of people jostled to read the wall to wall newspaper coverage, as each edition was taped outside the newspaper offices fresh off the printing presses. Something like 55 reporters covered every day of the trial, along with telegraph runners to get each story published at the first moment possible. Sketch artists provided in-depth scenes inside the Court room, and both the Government and Lizzie were represented by the best available lawyers.

If the Borden murders happened today, Lizzie would get her 15 minutes of fame (whacking someone with a blunt instrument will do that). But she would probably not get much more than, say, Edgar Smith got back in 1968, when he wrote his book while on death row (Brief Against Death). Championed by William F. Buckley, Jr., (of all people) Smith argued his murder conviction was all a horrific mistake. I read the book and was convinced. I was on his side, one of the few times I found myself agreeing with Buckley. Edgar finally got a new trial. Just before the trial was about to start, he copped a plea to manslaughter in exchange for time served. Before he was off the Courthouse steps, Smith let everyone know his plea was a fraud, made only to guarantee his release from prison. I nodded approvingly. Who could blame him? We’d all do the same thing. That was all well and good, until Edgar went out and tried to kill another girl in 1976. He was caught almost red-handed. Whoops. It was all a lie, even though – in a brief showing of chutzpah – the now twice accused felon tried to defend the second attempted murder charge by citing the claimed injustices of his first murder conviction. Huh? The result: guilty and life in prison. So far as I know, that is where Smith remains, far from the public view, his 15 minutes on the scrap pile. And yet Lizzie, who was exonerated by a jury of her “peers” (translation: 12 rural male farmers), remains in our consciousness.

When Lizzie Borden confronted her “peers” in June of 1893, it was, perhaps, the first truly great “trial of the century.” That it occurred in a country courthouse in New Bedford, Massachusetts with the windows open (no air conditioning) and a cow mooing in an adjacent pasture did not stop celebrities from attending, usually arriving by train from Boston – the same train that Dr. Edward Stickney Wood, a Harvard University chemistry professor and the prosecution’s expert witness, used to travel back and forth from his Cambridge offices, sometimes with the severed skulls of the victims in a dark valise at his side. There was even a celebrity reporter, Joe Howard, infamous in his own right – an 18th century Dominick Dunne (or maybe it should be the other way around). He signed his columns Howard and provided the world with much of the flavor and atmosphere inside the Courtroom. Reading his articles is a treat.

Nowadays, a trial of the century seems to come along every ten years or so, but the Lizzie Borden case was from a different era. It was a link in the chain between rural America and modern communication. Word of mouth, newspapers, magazines, telegraph – these were the ways in which the news and gossip of that case was devoured by people all over the world. In 1892, people traveled by train and carriage, maybe a horse, or they walked. One day soon after the double murders, a man walked all the way from New Bedford to the  Fall River Central Precinct Police Station to confess to the crimes. He asked to be hanged immediately. It soon became apparent he was a little bit “off” from having served in the War Between the States. On the promise of his family to “look after” him, he was sent home. They were different times indeed.

There are parallels to O.J. Simpson. O.J. lingered in our public consciousness because he was already a star athlete (retired) and celebrity. There was nothing star-studded about Lizzie. In fact, because Lizzie was so “ordinary” – a churchgoing, Victorian spinster living at home with her father and step-mother – it made the accusations against her all the more extraordinary. But even O.J., in time, wore on our patience, to the point where his (incredible) feats on the football field were more an embarrassment than an accomplishment . Both crimes were grisly, and the evidence pointed to the guilt of each accused. In 2004, the public had trouble accepting that a celebrity, a national sports icon, known for leaping through airports in Hertz car rental ads (as a female helpfully implored “run O.J., run!”), could be guilty of such a horrendous crime. Many in the black community thought Simpson was being treated differently solely because he was black, an interesting twist for someone who had seemingly “made it” in white society. Others shook their heads as they watched O.J. hunkered down in the back seat of that white Ford Bronco, ominously followed by all those patrol cars and police helicopters. When we found out he had $10,000 in cash with him and seemed headed for Mexico, the tide of public opinion took a seismic shift towards guilt. Simpson’s days of superstardom were soon to be replaced by a lifetime of super ignominy.

In 1892 the public had trouble accepting that Lizzie, a Victorian single woman living at home (all of 32), could be guilty of splitting open the heads of her father and step-mother. Lizzie was a 9th generation Fall River resident and, yes, even distantly related to the same clan that brought us Borden’s milk. O.J. used a knife. Lizzie was accused of using a hatchet (which was never recovered – it may have been tossed in the slop of a backyard outhouse or the handle may have been burned on the kitchen stove, along with the dress which Lizzie wore the day of the murders). There were seemingly tense family relations in both instances. O.J., it soon became apparent, was insanely jealous and had a history of domestic issues with Nicole, his ex-wife. Lizzie barely spoke to her stepmother, and both she and her sister implored their father to move out of Second Street (which had no indoor plumbing or other modern improvements of the age) to a wealthier section of town. Andrew was a good businessman. He also was cheap. 92 Second Street was a house of locked doors.

Both O.J. and Lizzie had financial resources to pay for the best legal help. Each trial endured questionable judicial decisions and actions. Both trials attracted worldwide attention. The public ultimately came to accept  that both Lizzie and O.J. committed the crimes. Even though both were acquitted, they were convicted in the Court of public opinion. Lizzie went on to a relatively quiet life in the better part of town (motive?), save for a little shop-lifting and a dalliance with a lesbian actress (Nance O’Neill), with whom Lizzie may or may not have had an affair. She was also kind to animals.  O.J. went on to commit other nefarious acts, succeeding in falling even further from grace. In addition, Simpson was held accountable for the murders in a civil lawsuit (requiring a less stringent burden of proof), something unheard of in Lizzie’s day. There also did not appear to be anyone around in Lizzie’s time with either the money or fortitude for such a lawsuit. Lizzie’s sister, Emma (who was out-of-town visiting friends the week of the murders), moved with Lizzie to the house on French Street in the better part of Fall River. They called it Maplecroft. Whether or not Lizzie committed the murders, she and her sister (from whom she subsequently became mysteriously estranged), ended up with what they claimed was lacking when her father and step-mother were alive.

In both cases there was evidence of police incompetence, perhaps worse. The public was ravenous for information. What is fascinating is the manner in which the press met the needs of the feeding frenzy in 1892 and 1893.   One deputized Rhode Island private detective (Edwin D. McHenry) in the Lizzie Borden case sold phony information to the press (the “Trickey Affair”). Henry G. Trickey (Dickens would have liked his name) was a young star reporter for the Boston Globe. He arranged to buy information concerning the police investigation from McHenry, who had been deputized to help with the murder investigation (which had already grown well beyond the capacity of the Fall River Police Department). The information, the $500 payment for which was presumably authorized by Lizzie herself (to find out what the prosecution had up its sleeve), was scandalous. It claimed that, the night before the murders, Andrew discovered Lizzie was pregnant and confronted her, whereupon Lizzie refused to reveal the name of the man who had impregnated her. Andrew essentially threatened to throw Lizzie from the house. Armed with this information and the names of numerous witnesses allegedly prepared to swear to its truth, the Boston Globe rushed into print with a front page story. The case had been broken! Lizzie was pregnant! The only problem was . . . it was all a big fat lie. The story was concocted and Trickey (?) and the Globe were duped. With egg on its printers, the Globe rushed an apology into print and thereafter wrote generally favorable and sympathetic stories about Lizzie throughout the course of the ordeal. Trickey, for his part, took off, first visiting his family in Illinois, then heading to Ontario, Canada to escape indictment (a sealed indictment was handed down at the same time as the formal indictment for Lizzie). Once in Canada, he registered in a hotel, using the name Henry Meltzar. On December 3, 1892, Trickey attempted to board a moving westbound train in a Canadian depot when he lost his footing and fell to his death. The whole Trickey affair paid dividends for Lizzie in the court of public opinion, where a debate raged as to the true meaning of innocent until proven guilty.

You could say, concerning Back Bay Baby (oh yeah, the adoption story….), that I have been procrastinating. Guilty. I think anyone who has undertaken a search for their personal history, especially those who were in any sense abandoned, will understand. It is interesting to me that I chose this point in Back Bay Baby to take a break.  With the success in getting access to my birth records came both excitement and fear. The fear part had to do with having to accept what I already knew – somebody gave me away. Looking at the signature of my mother, Virginia, on the Petition for Adoption, somehow made things different. It was no longer what someone was telling me, following a script that even I recognized concealed as much as informed. Was that a good thing? One can say, and it would be right, that my adoptive parents did not wish any further harm to come to me. In time, I would come to see there was more to it than that.  But after that day at the Dedham Probate Court came the limited success of the Simmons Detective Agency, interspersed with my foray into the adoption reform movement.  The rap groups were filled with sharing and with pain. I felt for the others, but I also withdrew. I told myself I just wanted to find my mother, just wanted to know what happened to me. I was very lawyerly about it, removed almost, as if I were my own client. As Abe Lincoln pointed out, that is not usually a good thing.

In the Fall of 1972, after speaking with Emma May Vilardi, I took personal control of my search, with her help. It became quickly obvious this was not a search that was going to be completed overnight. That had, perhaps, as much to do with me as with the circumstances. I think adoptees, in general, search in relation to their emotional well-being. It’s no secret that many adoptees begin looking shortly after they get married, or around the time they have a child. While I began searching about a year after I got married, it was more a matter of coincidence because that was when I discovered I could see my adoption records. If I had found out earlier, I would have started earlier. But the pace with which I undertook the search was tied to my emotional well-being – there were plenty of times when, for whatever reason, I crawled back into the rabbit hole and hung out, my “search” suspended.  There were any number of ready excuses. In a pre-Internet age, access to records and public information was decentralized, more difficult. Further, I was in my second year of law school in New York City. I was commuting back and forth to classes, a half hour drive each way. And I also got a job clerking at a labor law firm in Manhattan. The firm was a short walk from the New York City Public Library, which runs along Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets.

While the idea for the Library came out of the Gilded Age, the cornerstone was not laid until 1902. The building was not opened until 1911, a year after my adoptive father and mother were born and a year before the greatest ship ever built met an iceberg built better. The library building, facing Fifth Avenue, is graced by 2 enormous stone lions, originally named Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, after the  founders. Later the lions’ names were changed to Lady Astor and Lord Lenox, a nice touch which ignored the fact the lions were both male. Finally, in the 1930’s Mayor Fiorello La Guardia nicknamed them “Patience” (the one to the south)  and “Fortitude,” qualities he felt New Yorkers would need to survive the Great Depression. LaGuardia, considered one of history’s best big city Mayors, used to sit as a Judge in New York City Municipal Court while he was Mayor. He once presided over a misdemeanor case against a woman accused of stealing a loaf of bread. She said she stole it to feed her family. LaGuardia insisted on fining her $10, then announced he was fining everyone in the Courtroom 50 cents for living in a city where a woman needs to steal a loaf of bread to feed her family. With her fine paid, the woman left the Courtroom with close to $50.00. Not a bad guy.

In late 1972 I walked between Patience and Fortitude for the first time, turned right to walk through the great reading room (worth the trip in itself) and made it to the Genealogy Department. I was told to keep things quiet, not because it was a library but rather because I was looking for information to which some people thought I might not be entitled. All I was going to do was search the birth and microfilm records for any mention of Virginia Peters or Edward Yedlin. I searched birth records, telephone records, voter registration lists, starting in the 1920’s for birth records and in the mid 1940’s for telephone and voter registrations. There were adoptees searching there for their own information, sitting at large wood tables and pouring over birth record books.

Like almost all other states New York sealed its records upon an adoption, but hospitals were required to report births within 15 days. Those records were compiled in Birth Record books, copies of which were kept in the Library. Later, once adopted, the information from the original birth certificate would be “amended,” with the adoptive parents added and the original parent/parents deleted. All other information remained the same, including the birth certificate number. No attempt was made to amend the birth record indexes. Thus, if you were born in New York City, you could use the identifying number on your amended birth certificate to search through all the birth record books for the year in which you were born. It was like beating the system, a little known (at that time) fact that genealogists shared with one another.The records, however, were not chronological (for one thing they were compiled from among the 5 separate boroughs of New York City – Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.) Thus, one needed to look through all of the thousands of births recorded for a particular year of birth (and sometimes overlapping into the following year). The typeset was small, and the searching tedious. One distraction and the number could be missed. Sometimes books were searched two and three times. Since I was born in Massachusetts and already had my identifying information, I didn’t need the birth record books for that purpose. However, I soon found myself helping others find their records, sometimes spending hours looking through the books, certificate number by certificate number, solely to see the look on the face of another adopted person discovering a crucial part of their identity. Painstakingly, with an emphasis on pain. Another form of procrastination, but one with a good purpose.

At the time, the word was that the professional librarians who worked in the genealogy department did not approve of people using their records to “subvert” the sealed records laws. Rumor was that they would not help. The aura was that it was wrong (as if adoptees needed anyone else to add to their guilt). Nevertheless I played the game, never divulging the reason why I was looking and, indeed, not asking for help unless it was absolutely necessary. If it was, I made up a story. Either I was a surprisingly effective liar or they really did not care, because I never encountered one bit of resistance.

In time, I located a number of families named Yedlin (the surname of my mother’s husband) in the phone directories, the last one in the 1950’s. There was one address in particular on the upper West Side, which happened to be in the same neighborhood where my wife’s uncle lived with his family. I made note of every entry and, of course, searched all the current telephone records as well. After discussing this with Emma May, I then expanded the search and located other Yedlins (fortunately not a common name) throughout the country. In particular, there were a number in New York, some in Florida, and in a few other places. After I compiled the information, which I accumulated over the course of several months, I did absolutely nothing with it. I was not really sure what to do, other than to call. The few numbers I did try were no longer in service. Also, I did not like lying, at least not about this. I didn’t think I could pull it off. It was one thing to go see my birth records, another to have a detective agency search, a third to gather information from public records. But now I needed to act, and that was difficult. It involved picking up the phone, actively engaging people in my search. I felt like I was betraying my adoptive parents and, in general, doing something I was not supposed to be doing. I had it pretty good – grew up in a nice house, summer-house in New Hampshire, good friends from high school and college, married to a nice person, in my second year of law school. Was I just opening a can of worms? Was it fair to my parents to go behind their backs searching for the persons and the place from which they saved me? As much as I felt guilty, I also felt compelled to proceed. My head could not register the conflict among feelings that I did not seem able to control. The result? Procrastination.


My Driving Wheel

To say that Emma May Vilardi had a gravely voice is not to have known her. For years I only knew her by telephone, along with a steady stream of lined, 3 x 5 inch, orange note cards. The note cards contained search suggestions she mailed to me, all patiently hand-written in blue ink. Each one gently prodded me forward.  A professional genealogist, Emma became interested in helping those disconnected by adoption while seeking answers for her own medical issues. She was stymied by the fact of her mother’s adoption.  Not for long. Those fighting for sealed adoption records got more than they bargained for with Emma May Vilardi. She was unstoppable. That she also knew what she was doing was a huge resource for many adoptees, like myself, who did not yet have a clue about how to proceed.

After attending the rap session at BJ’s apartment, it was clear the next move was up to me. Good news or bad, Virginia Peters was not going to appear on my doorstep. Unearthing her was going to take some digging. I had mixed feelings about it. It was both something I wanted to do and something that gave me fear. I never spoke about the fear. In 1972, there were not a lot of other male adoptees armed with their sword and sandals. At that time, there were just 4 states that allowed adult adoptees access to their birth records. In the wake of the Baby Lenore case, fearful that adoptees might (God forbid) actually exercise their rights, legislatures throughout the country quickly bequeathed the Tupperware treatment to adoption records, once again sealing them airtight.  The records that I saw at the Dedham Probate Court in July, 1972 were sealed not long after I was there. Even though I know all of the information in the file, the law now prohibits me from seeing them again (¨Look Donny, Kenny if you must, run along now on your stick pony. There`s nothing for you here¨). Whoever said what you can’t see won’t hurt you was clearly not adopted, plus they probably didn’t watch Jaws.

The reason often cited for ensuring the sealing of adoption records was that mothers relinquishing their children for adoption had been promised confidentiality. Allowing adult adoptees access to those records (so the argument goes) would breach that promise (ah, okay – we get it. So it’s a question of morality – you’re just being good guys – honoring your word, so to speak). In truth, it was a promise rarely given. And, as Pam Hasegawa pointed out in her succinct testimony before the New Jersey Assembly on June 14, 2010 (in support of the NJ Adoptees‘ Rights Bill), it is a bogus excuse. Pam researched the legislative intent behind various NJ Sealed Records laws dating back to 1940 and found the real reason: the records were sealed so that birthparents would not later show up and make things difficult. Later, it was said the reason for the laws was not to protect natural parents from being contacted by a child, but to protect them from making rash or abrupt decisions regarding relinquishing their child for adoption. In fact, Pam went on to document that years ago, once an adoption was formalized, many adoptive parents received both the child’s birthname and the name of the birthmother. ( Let’s face it. The records were sealed because they (whoever they are) believed that open records would be a deal breaker for people looking to adopt, as in we’ll have so many little orphans running around we won’t know what to do with them. It took a while to perfect the spin to justify the secrecy, but in the end that is what it was – an excuse. If, in the Baby Lenore case, the media coined the phrase ¨torn from the only parents she has ever known,¨ they also seem to have hopped on the bandwagon with ¨we have to keep our promise to the birthmother.¨ Adoption by sound bite.

My sister, who ratted me out to our parents after I saw my adoption records (¨you’ll never guess what that ingrate Donny did¨), never got to see her own. It was as if the adoption gods were somehow punishing her for her lousy betrayal. But they didn’t punish her for long (okay, maybe for another 15 years or so). Carol never searched, but in one of those quirky twists of fate, her mother appeared on her doorstep, or – more accurately – the milkman did. When we lived on Paul Revere Road, fresh milk was delivered to our back door several times a week. The milkman, it turns out, was Carol’s birth uncle. You can’t make this stuff up. Carol came from Needham. Her mother lived with her parents near town. The parents rented a room to a young guy (whoops). The young guy, from Poland, took a fancy to Carol’s mother, who soon enough became pregnant with Carol. The mother was very young. A private adoption was arranged to a Needham family. The family took Carol shortly after birth (I wonder if they changed her name?), but things did not work out. Carol was returned. In isolated moments not quite approaching brotherly love, I have conjured up explanations for why my sister was returned to sender. No amount of sibling rivalry, though, could wish that on anyone. It must have been excruciatingly difficult, even for an infant – maybe especially so. I read recently about some adoptive parents who were not happy with their Russian adoptee. They felt they were misled, like they had a warranty or something. The child was put on a plane, alone, and air mailed back to the Russian adoption agency. A note was attached. He didn’t just get left in a grocery store – he was also returned, like spoiled milk.

Carol wasn’t air-mailed and she was just an infant. Her return was surely due to the inability of the first adoptive parents to care for any baby, let alone my sister. It would have been nice if they first figured out it’s not really cool to take babies for a test drive. After that failed adoption, Carol was adopted again, this time by our parents. This all happened in 1941, almost 6 years before I was born and 8 years before I showed up on Paul Revere Road with only the clothes on my back. Apparently, my mother and father knew not only the family of Carol’s mother, but also the first pair of adoptive parents. They all lived in Needham. What must it have been like for my mother to walk into Rimmele’s Market in downtown Needham with Carol by her side, while the mother or the mother’s mother were shopping there as well, not to mention the mother for a moment who gave Carol back? It was never mentioned in our house. So far as I know, Carol did not know. I certainly didn’t. Whatever chosen baby story my parents told Carol, they did not choose to share with me.

Both ALMA’s and BJ’s rap groups were predominantly female. There was one other guy at each meeting, but I did not connect with either. Not much had been written yet about adoptees searching for their roots. Florence Fisher’s book, The Search for Anna Fisher, would be published the following year. BJ’s perceptive and important additions to the adoption dialogue (Twice Born; Lost and Found; Journey of the Adopted Self) were still a few years away from making their mark. At home, my wife was supportive, though we were not able to discuss much beyond the facts – what I had discovered and what I needed to discover. Our non-commmunication had more to do with the fortress I had constructed for myself than anything else – my Nueschwanstein (Mad Ludwig apparently had a few birth issues of his own, taken to referring to his mother as ¨my predecessor’s consort¨). I was barely peeking out from one of the turrets. The drawbridge was still firmly slammed shut. Heck, I didn’t even know there was a drawbridge.

A few days after my evening at BJ’s, I called Emma May Vilardi. Sitting on the same love seat where I read the report of the Simmons Detective Agency, in our second floor apartment in New Rochelle, I was watching a Red Sox game – the black and white television propped on top of a wood crate, our early 70’s decor. The prior October, just a few weeks before D. B. Cooper went sky-diving, Boston traded away Jim Lonborg (Gentleman Jim), Ken Brett (George’s brother), Billy Conigliaro (Tony’s brother), Joe Lahoud (whose grandfather played in the Negro Leagues), Don Pavletich (nobody’s brother that I know of) and George Scott (the Boomer) – all to the Milwaukee Brewers, pretty much decimating the remnants of the Impossible Dream Team of 1967 (save Yaz, Rico and Reggie). I spent the summer of 1967 at Fenway Park, going to most games with my Needham friend, Jimmy. In that Spring we made a bet about who would make it to Fenway the most during the season. Known for always bargaining for strokes on the golf course (and for loudly whispering ¨trouble¨ whenever one of us hit an errant shot), Jimmy lamely fished for a Fenway concession. Admittedly, it was a lot easier for me to blow off school and drive up to Boston from Providence to catch a game, than it was for him to travel all the way down from White River Junction. ¨Life ain’t fair buddy – are you a fan or are you going to keep moaning about Crankin’ Dan Osinski giving up a few more shots over the Green Monster?¨ One day, I was sitting in our usual location in the right field bleachers ($1 ticket to sit on an aluminum bench), enjoying the afternoon sun when  Jimmy came chugging up the steps out of breath, mumbling (he was a professional mumbler) that his mid-week trek to Boston was only going to get him a draw for the day. We sat about 15 rows below where Ted Williams hit his 502-foot home run (knocking the straw hat off Joe Boucher, a Yankee fan) on June 9, 1946 (spurring my mother into labor and ushering me into the world). Now the spot where the home run landed is commemorated by a seat painted red. Back then, we only knew it was somewhere behind us, way ¨up there.¨ The Splendid Splinter’s home run was declared  the ¨longest measurable home run in Fenway Park history¨ – which, over the years, I have taken to mean if someone hits one anywhere near as far, they don’t bother to measure. I once saw the Boomer hit a home run so far, the packed Fenway crowd seemed as if it were on tape delay, collectively silent as the ball soared, and then clanged among empty aluminum rows far away from home plate. I didn’t see anyone running for a tape measure.

Listening through the black earpiece, Emma instantly put me at ease. It took a bit to get used to her voice, which sounded as if it were coming to me from a room where oxygen had been replaced by smoke. She immediately offered to help, and I explained to her what I had done so far. We agreed it made sense, for now, to concentrate our (not just me!) search efforts in New York, chasing after Edward Yedlin in the hopes of landing Virginia. I told Emma I did not want to let on to anyone else what I was doing. I felt protective of both of my mothers, the one I knew and the one who left me in the store. Emma understood. Apparently I was not the first adoptee to float that boat of hope and fear. She had heard it before. Emma suggested I start my search at the New York City Public Library on Fifth Avenue, just a few blocks from Grand Central Terminal. The library, she explained, had a genealogy room on the first floor, to the right, reached by walking through a massive reading room. There were records of New York City births (Edward Yedlin?) and old telephone directories on microfilm. Emma cautioned that I should keep to myself the reasons for my search because we were still in an age where secrecy trumped genealogy. Other adoptees had run into problems when they asked for assistance. I could start looking for the Yedlin family. Maybe my mother was living in New York, though I sensed she was still in Boston. It turns out I was wrong on both counts.

Emma also asked me to send her a copy of the report from the detective agency. Ensconced in the era before fax machines, computers and cell phones, we would communicate by letter and telephone. I thanked her and asked if I could send her some money (she declined). Reenergized, I hung up the phone  – both because the Red Sox were winning, and I had done something to get moving. Without realizing it, I had been feeling down since my rap sessions, like (courtesy of Tom Rush) some old engine that lost its drivin’ wheel ( But in one phone call, my little ¨I Think I Can¨ freight train chugged into second gear. I promised myself a trip to the library the following week and went off to mail a copy of the Simmons report to Emma. Once again the fantasy tugged at me that Virginia (maybe spurred on by my crackshot genealogist) would somehow come back for me, as if she had merely forgotten to pay her grocery bill.


When I was a kid, maybe 6 or 7, I used to visit the Burtons, our next door neighbors on Paul Revere Road. Bill and Irene. He worked for New England Telephone, the ¨We’re the One for You¨ company (not that we had a choice). If the Burtons had kids, they were grown. I never saw anyone around except Bill and Irene. There was no fence between our front yards. I used to rustle on over on my Hopalong Cassidy stick pony (Topper), sporting a Hopalong Cassidy Zoomerang gun (it shot ping-pong balls). Though I didn’t know it, Hoppy was a suitable hero for me. Like me, he was also carrying around something from his past, in his case a gimpy leg, the result of a gunshot wound.  In 1971, when Don McLean released American Pie, he thought of Hopalong Cassidy, writing a free verse poem that was included on the inside cover of the original album. McLean paid tribute to the good guy who always wore black and rode a white horse – black and white, a good guy in innocent times, living the cowboy creed, and gone forever, the day the music died. In truth, Hopalong Cassidy was originally a pulp fiction character created by author Clarence E. Mulford in 1904 as a hard-drinking, rough-housing buckaroo, maybe inspired by the exploits of Butch Cassidy shooting his way through South America at the time. Mulford, who wrote the original stories and 28 Hopalong novels (in Fryeburg, Maine), was not too happy with the sanitized, good guy version of Hopalong later portrayed by actor William Boyd. Mulford used to say if the Hopalong of television ever ran into the Hopalong of his novels, one of Hoppy’s sidekicks would have shot him. Notwithstanding Mulford’s annoyance, Hopalong Cassidy went on to such a commercial success (with the help of TV, movies, and the Montgomery Ward Catalog), that the original 28 novels were later rewritten to conform to the new character. Ah, if life were that easy. 

The Burtons braced themselves for my arrival across the great plains of my front yard. Earlier, on a different bright sunny day, I supposedly showed up in their yard with more than just a broomstick between my legs. I had with me one of my mother’s still packaged (I hope) sanitary napkins. I don’t remember that incident any more than I remember the events on which my chosen baby story were based, but Bill and Irene reportedly got a good post-Victorian titter out of my booty. Now, here I was at the Burtons again, my cap gun ready to cold-cock any unsuspecting injuns. This time I had something else on my mind. It was one of those October days leading up to Halloween (I would be a home-made Sir Lancelot, packaged in aluminum foil). My little Hopalong Cassidy pony had a felt-covered head attached to a short pole stuck between my legs.The Burtons were raking dead leaves out to the curb, where they would set them on fire before the spent foliage scattered to the winds – either that, or before the neighborhood kids, knee-high in autumn, rode their bikes through the chestnut colored mounds.

There were days (this was not one of them) when my mother would let me roam on down Paul Revere Road towards Greendale Avenue. Where the road curved left, there was a large rock outcropping onto which someone had spilled red paint. In a stroke of smoke-and-mirror creativity, it was nicknamed Red Rock. We were sure the red came from the spilt blood of redskins. In truth, the only red skin we ever saw was Fred Muzi, the owner of Muzi Motors, who dressed up (including the red paint) as an Indian warrior and rode a white horse in every Needham 4th of July parade. Apparently he is still whooping it up. Recently, some are saying Fred’s ride is disrespectful to Indians, maybe even racist, while two-thirds of Needhamites continue to support the ride as an integral part of Needham tradition. Armed with, perhaps, a somewhat distorted sense of American colonial history, the red Indian on the white pony was my favorite part of the parade. In the cowboy crazed 1950’s, Red Rock was as good a place as any to fight Indians. There are, regrettably, no Indians left to write Bury My Heart at Red Rock. We got them all, a tag team match of Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger and Davy Crockett keeping Paul Revere Road safe for the colonialists. We had cap guns with a red star on the handle (denoting Texas Rangers). The red caps, when fired, gave off little grey puffs of smoke, one each for every shot warrior. The Indians didn’t stand a chance. Years later, when The Gods Must Be Crazy hit the movie theaters, I smiled knowingly at the scene with the bushman and the westerner, the spear and the gun. It turns out that Nehoiden, the Ponkapoag Indian for which a Needham street is named, was actually a pretty nice guy. For my part, I would like to apologize for all the Indians I wiped out with my six-shooter before I realized I was actually trespassing on their land. Red Rock can never be the same.

On this particular Fall day, I was roaming closer to home, sidling over to the Burtons on my fake pony, standing sideways to them (to give Topper a little breathing room). With the stick firmly between my legs I greeted my neighbors. Seemingly out of no place, I laid it on them straight out: ¨You know,¨ I drawled, ¨I am adopted.¨ It was something I had taken to doing, announcing to the world what they might not be able to discern, that I had a unique status. I was different. My name may as well have been ¨Don Humphrey I’m adopted.¨ I did it as much to see the reaction I would get as to impart information, perhaps also hoping for some little nugget of which I was not yet aware. No doubt the Burtons already knew this little tidbit of Humphrey family history. Since I was so young I could not have consciously known for long the fact that I was adopted. I don’t remember when my parents first told me, though it would become one of my talking points: ¨When was it that you first told me I was adopted?¨ The answer was not part of the script. No one seemed to know for sure, but the general consensus was around age 6. While I don’t remember the moment they first told me, on another level, another plane, I always knew. How could I not? I knew in the way that adoptees sense that stuff. While I could have physically passed as my mother’s son, not so for my father. But I was not yet sophisticated enough to be conscious of that. My parents smelled different, especially my father – not bad (except maybe for the cigarettes) but different. It was not a come here and curl up with me on the couch smell.

Speaking of smells, along about 1962, my mother decided she wanted to start a business. Almost precisely at the moment that women were beginning to turn away from purchasing hats, my mother opened a millinery store in downtown Needham, right by the Needham Cinema on Great Plain Avenue. I was in high school. She was a Christian woman, faithfully attending Grace Church Episcopal each Sunday, singing in the choir, partaking in bake and rummage sales, volunteering her time for good causes. She was not a Christian by lip service. She meant to do her best. But she was also a product of her times, having lived in Needham her entire life. Needham, like many bedroom communities in the 1950’s and 1960’s, was predominantly white. I think there was one black family in the entire town. In the 1950’s we went to church each Sunday. I was a choir boy, until my voice (thankfully) changed – I once sang Silent Night as a solo at Trinity Church in Boston, and the congregation is still wondering who scratched the chalkboard. I went to Sunday School, church square dances, became an acolyte, attended youth retreats. I was a long ways from Boston. After church each Sunday we went to visit Grandma Starkweather (Margaret, of Margaret and Oscar). Mandatory. It wasn’t fun, starting with the fact she had a mole on her cheek below her left eye. It was a brown hole that seemed to have no end. Not wanting to find out, I kept my distance. She also smelled funny – so did her house, in part because all the drapes were pulled shut and the windows closed. The only air conditioning was a screen door. I survived the 2 and 3 hour visits by trying to avoid her touching me and by working her jigsaw puzzle on a cardboard table. She was not that happy about me kibitzing, as she called it – but she tolerated it as the cost of having company. Oscar was rarely there. Strike that. Oscar was never  there. I did not yet have any clue why he was absent. Apparently he was a member of another congregation.

To get to my grandmother’s house, we had to drive through the Catholic section of town. My genetic ancestors, including Virginia, were all Irish. My adoptive family was all English. If I looked like anything, I looked like the little Irish kid that I was – red-haired, freckle faced, blue-eyed, skinny, almost an Irish Oliver Twist. Needham, in the 1950’s, was loosely divided into three somewhat amorphous areas, at least to my parents and their friends. There was the Catholic section down near St Bartholomew’s Catholic Church on Greendale Avenue. There also was a Catholic Church, St. Joseph’s, in the center of town on Highland Avenue. My father owned Humphrey’s Service, a full-service gas station (check your oil, wash your windows, flash a smile) across from St. Joseph’s, and I am certain he was happy to fill up anybody on Sunday morning. There was also a Jewish section, in Needham Heights, below the fire station, a self-contained neighborhood within shouting distance of Route 128.

There were some unspoken rules. I could play with Jimmy, John and Greg, who lived nearby, Jimmy especially because his parents also had a place on Lake Winnipesaukee. The Jewish section was strictly off-limits. There were no play dates there. To be honest, it was unlikely I would run into any until at least Junior High School, when kids from the various localized elementary schools all went to Pollard Junior High. There weren’t any play dates in the Catholic section either, not until later, after my parents lost the ability, and probably the desire, to keep track of where I roamed in Needham. Once I reached Junior High School, of course, the family guidelines only caused me to seek out Jewish and Catholic girls. But when I was younger, in the 1950’s, we drove to Grandma Starkweather’s house each Sunday in the family car, a trip my father always seemed to successfully avoid as well. Not only was Oscar never there, but my father always had ¨to work.¨ My grandmother’s house back then was near St. Bartholomew’s, and we drove thorough a Catholic neighborhood to get there. Sitting in the back seat, my mother driving, I watched all the Catholic kids play. Without registering the significance, I noticed that all the kids I was not supposed to play with looked just like me.    

When my mother opened her hat shop, she had a partner, Lucille. Years later, when I got married  in 1971, Lucille sent a wedding gift (the millinery experiment long since abandoned). My wife and I removed the wrapping, were grateful (ah the word fits here) for the photo of a steam iron on the box cover. What a thoughtful gift. Not needing any pressed clothes for the moment, we put the unopened box aside. Later, as were preparing to write thank you notes (okay, as my wife, who hated to write, was doing her best to send thank you notes) we opened the box. Instead of an iron, there was a small plastic flower, suitable for Willy Loman’s breakfast table. Hideous and inexpensive politely describe a gift which must have been, for Lucille, an ode to her not so fond remembrance of the partnership with my mother. My wife still sent a thank you note. We should have enclosed it in an otherwise empty envelope for a  U.S. Treasury Bond.

After a long day in the millinery shop, my mother returned home one evening in 1962. It was a rare day when there were more than a few customers. On this particular day, there were only two and they happened to be black or, as we then said, negro. Two black women shopping for hats. You would have thought the Indians came back looking for more scalps. My mother knew she was honor bound (not to mention legally) to serve the women. She did, helping them try on a variety of styles. The women subsequently left (without buying anything). I wish I could have been there. It would have been more interesting than any American history book I had yet read (or avoided reading). But in the confines of our home, then on Elizabeth Circle, she was mortified. Her face contorted, her body explaining it all, lamenting: ¨I just can’t help it. They smell so different.¨ It wasn’t her finest moment (I’ve had a few of those myself). Ben Harland once said: ¨Race is a pigment of the imagination.¨ My mother was talking about people smelling different, and to that I could relate, more than she knew. She did not have a mean bone in her body, and she believed we are all God`s children. She always said, when she died (in 1989), she wanted everyone to sing ¨When the Saints Go Marching In¨ at her funeral (we did). But in 1962, on Great Plain Avenue she discovered, firsthand,  that the times really were changing. It took her a while to catch up. She wasn’t the only one.

While I may not have been crazy about wrapping my arms around my father or touching my grandmother, I did like the smell of  leaves burning by the curb in front of the Burtons. They were standing on the black tar driveway, leaning on their green-pronged metal rakes. Mr. Bill corralled a few stray oaks with his, the metal lightly scratching the driveway. But it was Mrs. Burton who took charge with me. She put down her rake and walked the few steps to me and Topper. Leaning down, hands on her knees, she looked me eye to eye. I looked right back. ¨Yes, Donny. We know. You are so lucky because you KNOW your parents love you.¨ She emphasized know. Huh? It was not the response I expected, though one I’ve heard many times since. It was a disconnect, really. I was talking about one thing. Mrs. Burton was answering about another. I didn’t say anything about my parents loving me. I was talking about something else. It went unnoticed, like a pebble swept up with dead leaves, only to be strewn aside with the next swish of the rake.

I knew Mrs. Burton had said something important. I didn’t know what was important about it, but there was a finality to it, with just the slightest tinge of a suggestion. I could not tell you one other single thing about the Burtons. Red Rock, Hopalong Cassidy, six shooters, fighting Indians. . . . it is all as if it just happened yesterday. But the only memory I have of Mr. and Mrs. Burton is that one conversation. You know it all, exactly as I do. Maybe what is important is just that, a little cameo in my life. And so it is with adoption. It is a dance, really. We are all dancing around a May pole with blindfolds. No one can know, no one dare say what went before. Hush hush, wink wink. Your parents love you. Rake the leaves. Light the fire.

An Unexpected Visitor

In the fall of 1972, I met BJ Lifton, spoke with Emma May Vilardi and began searching for Virginia Peters. Already a beacon in the adoption universe, BJ invited me to a rap group at her Central Park West apartment. Effusive and ever-smiling, she welcomed me like we had known each other for years. In one sense, we had. Hair framed her face like a crescent moon, and she spoke in rapid metaphors, one on top of another. It was as if she were taking me into her confidence, speaking with me as a co-conspirator. I liked her instantly.

As opposed to the ALMA session, only adoptees attended BJ’s rap group, most of whom had recently started searching for their birthmothers. Birthfathers were not mentioned. That night there were 4 or 5 other participants. The mood was different from the ALMA meeting. Here there were solely adoptees talking about being adopted. I explained my background, at least what I knew of it, and my trip to Dedham. Just the facts, man. I wasn’t  quite ready to unravel the feelings that were resurfacing, but I was fascinated to hear the feelings and stories of the others. A guy in his mid 20’s, soft-spoken, linked his feelings as an adoptee to his life as a gay man. In a brief homophobic moment, I silently pleaded with myself to confirm I was not gay. I found myself listening to the stories and experiences of the others as a means of somehow trying to figure out who I was. As each adoptee spoke, parts of their stories resonated with me. Each story was like trying on a different hat. One fit well, another a little too large, though never one that was exactly right. Is that me? Does that fit? Is that the person I am? Could someone please explain it to me, or was I destined to be like Robert Dupea (Jack Nicholson) in Five Easy Pieces, out-of-place everywhere, stopped even from getting a few slices of wheat toast with my omelet ( .  

 I was struck by a white female adoptee, about 30, who talked about her difficulty getting pregnant. Talking with a New Jersey twang, she sat immediately to my left, explaining that she tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for a number of years. She and her husband went for tests. There was nothing physically wrong. She knew nothing of the circumstances of her birth, only that she was adopted. And then she explained that she had a recurring nightmare that if she were to become pregnant, their baby would be black. The liberal product of an eastern college liberal arts education (though Brown had its own brushes with slavery and racism), my first instinct was ¨what’s wrong with a black baby?¨ That, of course, was not the point. Her fear seemed to make no sense, and yet, somehow it did – if she did not know where she came from, how could she know what she would produce? While, logically, what her mind feared seemed bizarre, I was beginning to see that the experience of adoption could lead down some pretty crooked roads. This particular woman eventually turned to adoption (something my sister did as well). And then, after the woman successfully adopted a baby,  she became pregnant. (p.s. the baby was white). Though not with the racial twist, I had heard of this experience before – an adopted woman, not able to conceive, adopting a baby and then becoming pregnant. It is as if the act of adoption removed a block, some inner fear that prevented an earlier pregnancy. It got me thinking about the power of the unconscious mind to suppress trauma, pain and fear.

After the meeting at BJ’s I began to think about sex and adoption – the ability, and the inability, to have children, and the sexual issues of growing up in a family that could not produce biological children of its own. It also got me thinking about some long repressed incidents personal to me. First, obviously, adopted or not, it took a sexual act for each of us to get here – just like everyone else (at least as of 1972). But there seemed to be something mysterious about the sexual peccadilloes of someone adopted – someone who, by their adoption, was cut off from their genetic past. Adoption, historically, erased the road map that detailed the journey behind. In its place was a new map (the chosen baby story), carefully crafted to meet the needs of the adopting family. In my case, the map was abbreviated. The past was symbolized by burning clothes. For my mother, perhaps, she was trying to comfort me, to let me know that they were going to take care of me, save me, get me better clothes – all of which, by the way, they did. But all I saw was burning clothes. If you lose your way, if you can’t retrace your steps, it is that much more difficult to move forward. Sometimes, maybe, the map from the past is not pretty, but it is not always about being pretty.

After the meeting, so many thoughts were swirling about as I walked down Central Park West alone. The air was crisp, and there were few people on the sidewalk. In that moment I wasn’t even thinking about finding my mother. Something unexpected took center stage, set off by the New Jersey adoptee, something I had not thought about in years. My own sexual history was confused – though not about being gay. I know more than a few gay men who were adopted and who believe issues surrounding their adoption were wrapped up in their gayness. That was not the issue for me, of that much I was sure. By the same token, my sexuality was all very confusing.

My parents were not physically close with one another – a kiss on the cheek at the end of the day was about it. They slept in the same room but in separate beds – for years. Many children have difficulty believing their parents have sex. I not only believed it, I was (and am) as sure of it as anything in life that I do not directly know from my own knowledge. Over the years there were muted incidents that raised questions about my father’s sexual orientation. There were also family secrets about my maternal grandparents, Oscar and Margaret. Both from Needham as well, Oscar was in the first graduating class of M.I.T. (and, coincidentally, a member of the cross country team). He had a successful landscaping business in Needham, adjacent to where Howard Johnson’s restaurant was for years. He was also a member of the Coast Guard. Word is that Oscar liked the ladies. One night Oscar and Margaret, who had 5 children between them, went to a local party – perhaps in the 1930’s or 1940’s. I don’t know exactly. Oscar was enjoying himself, Margaret less so. Eventually Margaret announced she wanted to go home and asked Oscar to accompany her. Oscar, still enjoying himself, suggested Margaret go on ahead, and he would join her later. She did. When Oscar finally arrived home, Margaret had locked him out of their bedroom – not just for the night, but for the rest of their lives. Oscar, being no slouch, took a mistress (perhaps he already had one). One did not get divorced in those days, at least that was the common sentiment. Oscar lived on his Coast Guard boat during the week, coming home for weekends with the family. When he passed away (in the late 1950’s, I believe), he died a la Nelson Rockefeller, in the arms of his mistress and apparently in the midst of a particularly enjoyable moment. Margaret continued to live alone, ultimately ending up in a nursing home in the last years of her long life. Towards the end, one day I visited her and asked the nurses how she was doing. Fine, they replied, except that each morning she jumped up and down on her bed and stripped off all her clothes. One can draw one’s own conclusions for that behavior, but perhaps Margaret should have been a bit less hasty in locking Oscar out of their bedroom for so many years.

Whatever the reasons,the simple fact is that my parents were not amorous with each other. They were also married for 53 years. Near the end of her life, one kidney totally failed my mother. She was told the other might last another month. She was in Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, near year’s end, 1988. I convinced my father we needed to do something, that Glover Hospital, as good as it was for many things, was not equipped to deal with severe kidney failure. That day we had her transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. My father was not well himself at the time. I drove down to Boston to meet the ambulance, and in the following days my mother had vascular surgery. The doctor used a vein from my mother’s leg to construct a new path to her remaining kidney – truly amazing, at the time and considering my mother’s already weak heart, a treacherous but necessary procedure. When she came out of the operating room, I saw her briefly as they wheeled her into ICU. It did not look promising. My father (by this point, my dad) was brought down to Boston. I went to meet him at the hospital entrance. He needed a wheel chair to get to her room, where she had just been transferred from ICU. I wheeled him into her hospital room, and then witnessed the most beautiful moment I ever saw them share. Once the wheelchair was directly in front of her hospital bed and locked in place, my father stood up, holding onto the rail of the wheelchair, then the metal rail of the hospital bed. She was barely conscious but knew he was there. I stood off his left shoulder, feeling as if I were intruding on their private moment. He struggled with the rail, but leaned all the way down, with all his energy. They shared the sweetest kiss I have ever seen between any two people  – so full of concern, love, and fear. I guess 53 years together will do that. In all, between 3 women, I was married 26 years (if you add them all together). I used to joke that, for my 25th wedding anniversary, I would invite all 3 and we could celebrate together. To tell the truth, the only one worth inviting is the first one.

Whatever sexual issues my adoptive parents may have had is none of my business. It is not for me to figure out, except to the extent it had an effect on me. There were not many physical displays of emotion in our family. My parents, so good in many ways, were still from the ¨children should be seen and not heard¨ school of parenting. There were not a lot of hugs or kisses., but there was a certain respect, a fidelity to family. My parents accepted me for who I was, even if I was not so confident myself of the answer. They loved me. There is no doubt in my mind.

In the winter of 1977, my wife and I drove up to Needham from New York to visit my parents, in the middle of a snowstorm – not my brightest move, because my wife was about 7 months pregnant with my first son, David. North of Providence, the storm was so bad we could barely see through the windshield. I had taken that route, reasoning the snowfall would be less severe along the coast. I was wrong. Route 95 was barely passable, one snow-covered lane. I plowed on, finally arriving at my parents home about 11 p.m. They were living temporarily in an apartment in Needham Heights, and shortly would retire to their home in New Hampshire. Snow was drifting in the parking lot, and I rammed the car into a snow bank and left it there, a tribute to both my persistence in overcoming nature and my stupidity (okay, mostly my stupidity). The next morning the storm had passed. After the parking lot was ploughed, my mother wanted me to drive her to downtown Needham for some errands. We left the apartment, a garden style unit in Needham Heights not far from the property my father always referred to as the ¨Sacco and Vanzetti house.¨ As we left the apartment, the neighbor across the hall opened her door. My mother introduced me as her son, to which the neighbor replied…. ¨the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.¨ I smiled. My mother smiled. We all smiled. As soon as the woman shut her door, my mother turned to me and said in a gloriously conspiratorial tone not unlike when BJ first spoke with me: ¨I just love it when they say that.¨

My own sexual beginnings were complicated by more than my parents physical aloofness. They were also forced upon me, by my sister, and this is what I was thinking that night after the rap group, as I walked down towards the subway station. The incidents happened when I was very young. It was on Paul Revere Road. There were 2 instances. So far as I know, there were not others. There was a tree house in the rear left corner of the backyard, a little enclosed space you reached by climbing up and crawling through an open doorway – not that high off the ground, but high enough for me. It was dark inside. I was maybe 6 or 7 (I’m not certain), which would have made my sister 12 or 13. It was the early 1950’s. One day she yelled out to me from the tree house. She told me to climb up. I did. She had a friend there, a girl, and I sat between them. My sister touched me where she should not have touched me, while the friend just watched. I knew it was wrong, taboo, dirty. I was also too young to do anything about it. It was forced, in front of the friend. I squirmed, tried to get loose, felt helpless. I didn’t like it, but I remember nothing else from that day. For many years I submerged it, as if it did not happen. Then, when it floated to the surface, I questioned it. Could I have imagined it? Was it a dream? No. It happened – brief, sexual, wrong. I was sad, withdrawn, and – later – angry. I never told anyone. Now, in 1972, fresh from my first true adoption rap session, it was all coming back to me, again.

There was another time. Later, though I don’t know by how much. I was still young, about the same age. It was in the Paul Revere Road house, in the basement. At the bottom of the stairs, the family room was to the left. For Sunday supper, we would have popovers on fold-up TV tables, or sometimes Welsh Rarebit – the traditional Sunday night save-a-penny supper (after a formal Sunday dinner in mid-afternoon). The other half of the basement was unfinished. In it was the furnace, storage and maybe a door to the back yard. It was also very dark, even in daytime. I am not sure if it was day or night, but she grabbed and forced my face, my mouth to touch her bared breast. I squirmed, but she was bigger and stronger. She held me there. It was awkward, even now it turns my stomach. It was also just a few moments in time, arousing nothing in me except fear. Again, afraid of her, I said nothing.

Those images are with me still. I never spoke about them with her, with my parents, with anyone. When they finally resurfaced (years ago), I questioned myself over and over. Did they really occur? Did I make it up? Were they dreams I had? In the end, I am sure of what happened. I was too young to dream that, too young to even think about it. When I was in 7th grade, probably 4 or 5 years later, one day I was walking through the Carter-Avery school yard (by the monkey bars) with a buddy, Gordon Bahr, now long since dead. A friend, Carla, was there, and she was light years beyond me sexually. She used a slang word to describe a lower part of her anatomy. In that pre-Internet time, when television itself was still relatively new, I was flabbergasted. I had never heard anything remotely approximating the word (a far cry from many kids today).  It was not only the starkness of the word that shocked me. It was the sexuality of it, the fact that girls were  different. What happened with my sister, for me, was not sexual. It was something entirely different. I never confronted her. I am sure she would deny it. I also know she is not a monster. She is, in fact, very talented. My father told me, shortly before he died, that he was sad because he felt, once he was gone, Carol and I would drift apart. He was right. We did not drift apart because of these 2 incidents, seemingly brief moments in time that she may have immediately dismissed as insignificant. But on my first trip to BJ’s, expecting to talk about my adoption and how to go about finding my past, a part of my past came calling  – just not the part that I expected.

What’s in a Name?

I sometimes wonder if my adoptive parents wondered about changing my name. Did it occur to them it might not be such a smashing idea? It’s not like I was just coming home all cute and fluffy from Kenmore Hospital. I’d been around for almost 2 years. I was Kenny. . . ??? Come to think of it, I hope I wasn’t named after Kenmore Hospital??? ¨Oh, look at the sign! Why don’t I just call him Kenny?¨ If that’s what happened, thank God my birthmother wasn’t thinking about naming me as she was passing through Kenmore Square.

After I learned, in 1972, that I was not called Donald right from the beginning, I thought about those first 6 months with my new family on Paul Revere Road, when I didn’t speak or cry. Of course I didn’t – you were calling me by the wrong name! I know that whatever issues I faced, they were more complicated than simply dealing with a different name. Like Frank Shorter said on entering the Olympic Stadium in Munich, give me a break. There’s an imposter adrift. I already had a name. Lately, things had not been going that well for me. A little stability would be nice, thank you. By the way, whatever happened to that bomber’s jacket? You know,  the dirty one. I don’t want to seem ungrateful (a thankless word designed to make an adoptee’s skin crawl)….., but when you stopped by to get me, did they happen to mention my name to you? It’s Kenny!

Many years ago I used to describe to friends, acquaintances (basically anyone who would listen) what it felt like to be adopted, as if I alone had the answer. Mustering a telling ¨I’ve Been There¨ look, I began by asking a question. Do you remember getting lost in the grocery store when you were young? Of course you do. Running up and down the aisles playing, you suddenly turn around. Your mother is not there, not anywhere to be seen. You look in the next aisle, and she’s not there either. A little panic begins to set in. You know you should not have wandered off by yourself. Maybe she even told you to stay close. You try to calm yourself. It will be okay, but pretty soon you are running up and down the aisles, quietly terrified. You only want one thing – your mother. Where is she? And then, just as nearly complete panic is about to overtake you, there she is, reaching for a box of Cheerios for you. Whew! – a great sense of relief,  a promise not to do that again. At exactly this point in the story I would pause, all-knowing-like, look my friend in the eye and say: it’s like that when you get adopted. You’re lost in the grocery store. A little panic sets in. Your mom is gone. You run up and down the aisles, but she has vanished. The only difference is, when you get adopted, your my mother never comes back. She’s not reaching for Cheerios. She’s out in the parking lot, reaching for the keys to the car. Now that I am older and supposedly a bit wiser, that explanation all sounds a bit melodramatic, a little over the top. But one day my mother did leave, not when I was all sparkling and cuddly in Kenmore Hospital (devastating enough), but after almost 2 years. Maybe not in the grocery store. Worse, really. One day she was there, and then the next moment she was gone. And a short while later, while I was still terrified – still looking, expecting my mother to come waltzing in – these other people I did not know put me in a car and started calling me Donny. I don’t remember any of it, but I also want to say I somehow remember all of it. It’s presumptuous to say that is what it feels like to be adopted, but when my kids were young and ran off in the grocery store, I didn’t like the feeling.

I have to admit, absolutely nothing registered that day in Dedham, when I first saw my original name, Kenneth James Peters – no sense of recognition, no warm fuzzy feeling, not anything. I thought only one thing – the good State of Massachusetts screwed up my adoption records. No wonder they wanted to keep them sealed. They couldn’t even get my name straight. Later, when it finally dawned on me (okay, terrible pun) I started checking out the name. Kenneth is considered derived primarily from Scotland, and a Gaelic version of it is translated as the ¨handsome one¨ (I like that one). Another interpretation is ¨fire-head¨ or ¨born of fire,¨ seemingly appropriate for the kid later destined to set the Needham Heights community record for consecutively struck Diamond Safety matches.

After I saw the Probate Court records, occasionally I would look in a mirror and think Kenneth, Kenny, Kenneth James, Kenneth James Peters. I looked at the guy looking back at me, who was the same guy at whom I was looking – the man in the mirror. Try as I might, the names did not resonate. They still don’t. Kenneth is a name now that I associate more with Dan Rather, a guy I admired from his early days reporting from Dallas in the aftermath of  President Kennedy’s assassination until, in later years, he seemed to go a little weird on us. He was subjected to a beating near his home on Park Avenue in 1986 by 2 guys chanting ¨Kenneth, what is the frequency?¨ I wondered if he was adopted? Did Dan Rather have another name? Him too? Empathetic, I was beginning to understand why Dan got a little funky.  Though we (wink wink) thought Dan was maybe up to something a little kinky,  it later appeared that maybe he was just mugged by two media obsessed lunatics. And from there the media took over, morphing the phrase into, practically, the only Kenneth we have ever known. It spawned songs, plays, novels, movies, and even a stint on The Late Show with David Letterman, and ultimately passed into our lexicon as a term describing a dazed or clueless person. I did not take offense.

Kenneth was also a principal character in Sir Walter Scott‘s The Talisman. An ill King Richard the Lionheart is cured through the magic power of a talisman, provided by a mysterious Saracen emir (actually Saladin, whose conquest of Palestine was the basis for the Third Crusade in the first place). Later, Kenneth is charged one night with protecting the banner of England. He is lured away by the King’s devious wife, Queen Berengaria, to receive an urgent message from his amor, Edith Plantagenet (the royal cousin). While Kenneth is gone the banner gets torn down and his trusty hound wounded. A loose noose from being hung, Kenneth was spared execution when the kind emir offered to take him as his slave. Later Ken sneaks back into the English camp, disguised as a mute attendant (no talking, no crying!) to King Richard. Too smart for all that, the King sees through the ruse, but gives our boy Kenneth the chance to find out who ripped down the banner and wounded the dog. The banner back in place, Kenneth’s hound knocks the Conrad of Montserrat (Montferrat actually, but who cares, it’s just a name) off his horse. A duel follows between Kenneth and the Conrad. Kenneth wins, after which Sir Kenneth is revealed to be. . . . Prince David (huh?)- It turns Kenneth was never Kenneth to begin with, though his newly discovered royal status allows (Prince David) to hook up with his love, Edith. Plus he gets a cool talisman as a wedding present. (

The name Donald, on the other hand, as some of my friends were wont to point out during my childhood, was made famous by a flat-footed, color-blind animated duck.

I admit it bothered me that they changed my entire name. Still does. I get the bit about last name, but not the first. I admit it bothered me that they threw away my clothes. Still does. And it bothered me, of course, the fact that my parents did not just get rid of the few things I had, which happened to be clothes, but burned them. Still does. It made quite an impression. I doubt my parents thought much about what feelings I might have had about those things. I was a little kid, a little kid that was not even talking. There was a reason, not a good one, why they changed my first name. They kept it from me for years, and it was not until 1994 when my father, for the first time, told me  he remembered my name was Ken. He waited over 40 years to tell me, long after my mother had passed away. No guilt, no I am sorry for that. Just a matter of fact explanation. Even after fall these years, it did not occur to him that it could possibly have made any difference to me. When my oldest son, David, was 5 years old, his mother and I had been separated for more than 6 months. We were waiting for the divorce papers to be finalized. I had a girlfriend, who lived in New York City. One night David and I stayed over. That afternoon I bought David some new sneakers. He was really happy with them. The next morning we were rushing to leave the apartment to make it to preschool and work. As we left the apartment, I took David’s old sneakers with me. David trailed behind. Briefcase in one hand, I opened the trash chute and threw in the old sneakers with the other. We were on the 6th floor. The trash bin for the building was in the basement. ¨My sneakers, my sneakers!¨ David ran to the shoot, crying. I had not even thought he might want them. They were probably as ratty as my bomber jacket.

I have heard, from time to time, of adoptees who have changed their names – sometimes the last name, sometimes the first. In England it is a simple affair. You can even do it online. It is not that complicated in the United States either. I never considered doing so and have not ever wanted to return to Kenny, a name which does not move mountains for me – any more than Donald. If I were to change my name, maybe I would do what that bloke in England did. He changed his name to Mr. None of the Above. I wonder if he was adopted.

Persiguiendo a Mi Circulo del Arco Iris

Era delgada, del tamaño de una carta de rechazo de la universidad. Yo quería estar solo. Ya, pero yo quería estar más solo. Desbloqueo de la puerta, caminé lentamente hasta nuestro apartamento y se sentó en un asiento de ventanilla en un mirador de gran tamaño. Afuera, un roble atenuado el sol. Hipo para respirar, vi mis dedos la raja el sobre blanco. El informe de la Agencia se encontraba dentro – escrita a máquina, a espacio sencillo, sobre todo en una sola página, un poco extienda a un segundo. Lo escaneados y rápidamente confirmó lo que ya sabía de alguna manera – que no había encontrado Virginia. En esencia, el informe fue compilado a partir de una revisión de los registros públicos, registros más probable es que mantiene la derecha en su oficina. Hoy en día, la mayoría de la información se puede encontrar rápidamente en Internet, pero a partir de 1972, Al Gore todavía no lo había inventado.
Hubo, sin duda, información útil, incluyendo fecha de nacimiento de Virginia en 1924. El informe proporcionó los nombres de sus padres, sus fechas de nacimiento, así como otros familiares potenciales (incluyendo el nombre Cleasby, al parecer los abuelos maternos, que podría resultar de su uso posterior). De la información, era evidente que mi madre creció en Haverhill, Massachusetts. Una dirección de edad fue proporcionada. No había direcciones actuales. Las calles de Washington la dirección de mi madre biológica se utiliza cuando se firmó el consentimiento para la adopción era ahora un restaurante chino. Puede haber sido un restaurante chino en 1948. Callejón sin salida. Curiosamente, el informe se dice mi madre se casó en 1948, a un tipo llamado Eduardo Yedlin, desde Nueva York. Su dirección de la familia en el Upper West Side se enumeran. No había mucho más.
Puse la carta en mi regazo. No había número para llamar, no la dirección actual de visitar, al parecer nada de lo que rápidamente completar mi búsqueda. Mi fantasía de que el detective Simmons Agencia, con poco esfuerzo, me proporcione la información que necesitaba desapareció. Si yo fuera capaz de ser honesto conmigo mismo (yo no lo era), lo que realmente quería era que mi madre biológica a buscarme. Parecía haber partido con rumbo desconocido. Yo también. Si hubiera sabido entonces lo que sé ahora, no había suficiente información en el informe que yo salto en mi pequeño coupé de Toyota y volver hacia el norte. No lo hice. Podría haber cantado junto a la nueva cinta de Tom Rush – ¨ Condado de Merrimack, ¨ en busca de mi círculo propio arco iris ( Merrimack Tom Rush Condado se encuentra en Nueva Hampshire, pero el río, el Merrimack (o Merrimac a mis padres), es el mismo que se curva a través de Haverhill, serpenteando hacia abajo desde sus orígenes en la punta sur del Lago de Winnipeasaukee. En el otro lado del lago, Wolfeboro (la más antigua de Estados Unidos de veraneo, tal vez), y más tarde el Polo de Barber en Tuftonboro cuello, fueron segundas residencias a mi familia por más de 100 años. Ellos son tanto como parte de mí, tal vez más, como Needham. Needham fue donde mis amigos. Wolfeboro fue donde aprendí a ser amigo de mí mismo.
Yo sabía muy poco de Haverhill, aunque pensé que en la misma línea como Manchester, Nueva Hampshire. Pasamos por el Manchester cada vez que la familia viajó hasta el lago, a veces a toda velocidad por la autopista de peaje en Everett, tomando la salida Hooksett para pasar sobre el río Merrimac en un puente de un carril, otras veces tomando la ruta local en el Puente de la Reina de la Ciudad y las rutas 3 y 28 (evitando un peaje de la autopista), pasando por el antiguo polo Acantilado tótem indio de Comercio a través de Correos y Hookset hacia la Región de los Lagos. Se estudiaron en la universidad de Manchester, Economía 101, con un libro de texto de Robert J. Samuelson, que citó Manchester (zapatos y sombreros) como un ejemplo de una ciudad no industrial debido a la previsión económica pobres. Haverhill (zapatos y sombreros) parecía estar en una canoa similares. Ambos fueron las ciudades industriales. Ambos habían fallado para reinvertir en sus plantas y maquinaria. Con el tiempo, ambos fueron reemplazados por otros lugares con mejor tecnología. Aunque ahora prosperando de nuevo, en 1972 parecían, así, cansado.
El Movimiento de adopción estaba cobrando impulso en ese momento. Había pocas organizaciones de la búsqueda, y los que existían eran a tientas. adoptados Muchos todavía se sentía culpable por la búsqueda. Era un tema que me obsesionaba. Yo puntillas a través de mi búsqueda, razoné. Mis padres adoptivos no necesita saber. No tiene sentido hacerles daño. de la familia de Virginia no necesita saber. Esto fue entre ella y yo. Tenía derecho a saber lo que me pasó hace dos años. En el mismo, yo creía que no tenía derecho a interrumpir innecesariamente la vida de Virginia (no importa lo mucho que había interrumpido la mía). Yo iba en silencio sobre mi negocio, la búsqueda de mi madre biológica, tocando en el hombro, y pedirle todos los detalles sobre lo sucedido. Ahora sé que debo he querido volver a Nueva Inglaterra, que era el enfoque más directo a la búsqueda de Virginia. Yo no lo creía entonces. Años más tarde, me ayudó a otra persona adoptada encontrar a su madre biológica. Sólo sabíamos que mi amigo había nacido en el país, así como el general barrio de Brooklyn donde ocurrió antes de unos 25 años. Un sábado por la mañana tomamos el metro hasta Brooklyn, la misma línea de la Avenida Lexington Yo solía ir a mis clases de primer año de la escuela de leyes. Nos dirigimos al barrio donde nació. Pasamos horas yendo de tienda en tienda, en busca de personas que habían vivido en esa zona durante muchos años. Encontrar varias, se preguntó si se acordaban de un bebé nacido en casa en el barrio en la época de nacimiento de mi amigo. Increíblemente, finalmente encontré a alguien, un carnicero creo, que recordaba vagamente como un nacimiento y conocía el edificio. Señaló que, en la misma calle. En cuestión de días, mi amigo encontró a su madre biológica que vivía a escasos 10 cuadras de distancia. Ellos terminaron viviendo juntos. A veces es sorprendente lo mucho que podemos aprender de tan poco. Pero para mí, en 1972, otros hechos estaban en juego.
En primer lugar, fueron las clases del colegio de abogados. asistencia a mantenerse de San Juan en todas las clases, e informó de los resultados de la Barra de Estado después de la graduación. Si te has perdido más de 5 clases que no recibió crédito por el curso. Iba a ser bastante difícil para mí conseguir crédito después de un examen final. No necesitaba las cuestiones sobre la ausencia de hacer una frágil situación peor. En segundo lugar, fue el tema del dinero. Yo no lo tenía. Recién casados, que sobrevivían con ingresos enseñando a mi esposa. dinero en efectivo de repuesto no se encontraba en abundancia. Pagar por servicios adicionales de la Agencia de Detectives Simmons ni siquiera se debatió. Mientras que la Agencia me dio valor razonable para el poco dinero que he pagado, me podía imaginar una búsqueda intensiva cuesta lo que para mí supondría una pequeña fortuna. En tercer lugar, se dejó influir por el hecho de que mi madre se casó con alguien de Nueva York. Tenía los nombres y una dirección de la familia con la que trabajar. Decidí que llevaría a cabo en el mismo de la búsqueda. Si se encuentran Eduardo Yedlin, que iba a encontrar Virginia.
Me instalé en el segundo año de la escuela de derecho, junto con mi nuevo viaje diario a Queens, a toda velocidad por la Ruta 95 por la mañana y unirse a la acumulación de vehículos esperando para pagar el peaje en el puente Throgs Neck, que conectaba el Bronx con la sección de Bayside Queens . A veces me auto-combinado con un compañero de clase que también vivía en New Rochelle, pero nunca habló con él acerca de mi búsqueda. El círculo social de mi esposa y yo esencialmente rodeada otros profesores y administradores de mi su puesto de profesor en Armonk. Aparte de ella, yo no tenía un amigo en Westchester, no alguien con quien compartir mi viaje a Dedham y lo que significaba para mí. Me puse a pensar en ello más y más, aunque trató de limitar a decidir cómo iba a ir sobre la búsqueda. Me tratan como una investigación, que fue, aunque no lo comprendiesen entonces plenamente exactamente lo que estaba investigando. ¿Me permiten al genio de la botella, o que acaba de romper la botella? ¿Se hace alguna diferencia? ¿Qué debo esperar? Más importante aún, ¿qué debo hacer? Necesitaba hablar con alguien. Mi mujer, como la comprensión, como siempre fue, vino de una muy unida, amante de la familia. Además de explicar a ella lo que estaba sucediendo, no fueron capaces de llegar a cualquier parte del polvo barrido bajo la alfombra. Ninguno de nosotros sabía las preguntas, y mucho menos las respuestas. No sabiendo qué hacer, cogí el teléfono y llamó a BJ Lifton

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 ( 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

Sword and Sandals

While waiting for the report from the Simmons Detective Agency, I started my second year of law school in September. The prior year we rented an attic apartment with inward slanting walls, at 160 Riverside Drive in Westport, about a mile from the train station. I commuted each day on Metro North Railroad´s New Haven line, then taking the Lexington Avenue Express of the New York City subway to my law school classes in Brooklyn (bad idea). We had a cat named Theseus (inspired by our trip to Europe in the summer of  1971). According to Greek legend, Theseus was sired by 2 fathers, Aegis and Poseidon, in the same night. Soon after his birth Theseus was deserted by Aegis, King of Athens (the only fathers he never knew?). He was brought up in ignorance of his birthright (can you imagine?). Each year on his birthday his mother, Aethra,  sent him to lift a large rock, which he was finally able to move when he reached 18. Under the rock he found a pair of sandals and a sword, gifts from Aegis. Aethra then sent him to Athens to present them to the King.  When the King saw them he knew Theseus was his son. Later, Theseus was nearly poisoned, slayed the Minotaur, fell in love with King Minos‘ daughter  (who subsequently deserted him), became King of Athens (after his father’s suicide in the sea soon to be named Aegean), and then was murdered by getting pushed off a cliff. At least he got his birthright. (; And I thought we were just naming our cat, who was also without a birthright and liked to hang out in our yard, sleeping with whomever was available.

In my first law school year, my commute to Brooklyn (if everything went right) took about an hour and a half – each way. My plan to study on the train was derailed because there were too many distractions. It was impossible to study on the subway. At the end of my first semester, I sat on the number 6 express train, somewhere between Grand Central Station and Borough Hall, on my way to my very first examination, contracts. The professor, Edward J. Fagan, struck fear in the hearts of every first year student (though he once got half the class to laugh when he described an artificial pacemaker as having a ¨lifetime guarantee¨ – the other half of the class apparently didn’t get it). My contracts book lay unopened on my lap. I was too exhausted to study any more. Across the aisle I noticed a classmate reviewing a torts book. How could he be studying torts on his way to one of Professor Fagan’s notorious contracts exams?  Incomprehensible. I had to say something, cracking a weak joke about planning ahead (all the while quickly calculating my options should a torts exam be in my immediate future). He didn’t laugh. He just  stared back, blankly.   ¨You mean we have contracts today?¨  He was in over his head, and he was just getting the memo. I hope he never needed a pacemaker.

Finley Hall, the new home of St. John’s Law School (courtesy of a major donation from Leon Finley, a major New York lawyer), opened in September, 1972 on the grounds of the University’s undergraduate campus in Jamaica, Queens. There was no practical way I could continue to commute from Westport – the trip to Brooklyn was bad enough. And so we began looking for a new apartment, finally renting the second floor of a house on Mayflower Avenue in New Rochelle, New York, owned by Mrs. Miele, a short sweet Italian lady who spoke heavily accented English and made delicious sauce with tomatoes grown from her backyard garden.  We also got a second car so I could drive back and forth to Queens – New Rochelle was roughly equidistant between the law school and my wife’s teaching job in Armonk.

To get to our second floor apartment we entered through the front vestibule. Invariably, Mrs. Miele was there to greet us. Widowed, her husband died on the living room floor from a heart attack suffered years before in front of the mantel. Each day she mentioned her husband and many times reenacted his last moments. I loved Mrs. Miele and her broken English. She came to the United States from Italy in her early 30’s along with her husband and 5 kids. The kids all grew up to be doctors, nurses and engineers. Mrs. Miele continued to live in the same house, visiting her husband’s grave weekly and tending her backyard garden of herbs and vegetables. We stayed there 2 years, until after I took the New York State Bar Examination following graduation from law school in 1974. I always kept in touch with Mrs. Miele and helped her once or twice, when she encountered a recalcitrant tenant (after which she would try to pay me, I would refuse, and she would then show up at my office in White Plains  with 3 bottles of Irish whiskey I never told her about my English family). One day I stopped to visit her, and it was obvious she was beginning to fail. She greeted me warmly, showed me the mantel, and offered a few words about her still departed husband. She then sat me in the kitchen at the same formica table, in a metal chair with a red plastic cushion. There was a black nurse tending to Mrs. Miele’s pots on the stove, about which Mrs. Miele was visibly perturbed. Sitting beside me, in one of life’s treasured moments,  Mrs. Miele began whispering to me in Italian (so the nurse would not understand). Even though I did not recognize one single Italian word, I understood completely. The next time I drove by to check, both Mrs. Miele and the house were gone, she to join her husband, the house to parts unknown.

It was in that apartment that I began my search in earnest. Each day I waited to hear from the Simmons Detective Agency, and each day I heard nothing. I was looking for a quick fix, expecting a telephone call: ¨Listen, Don, do you have a paper and pen handy. She is at 617-xxx-xxxx.  She lives in Boston, not far from where she lived when you were adopted. Her address is such and such. She does not know that you know.¨ I expected her to be in Boston, or near it. I expected that her life had not changed as much as mine. After all, she sent me off to a different life while she kept her own. But the call didn’t come. After some weeks, it grew apparent there was not likely to be a call. The next step was going to have to come from me. I began to wonder if my $125 was a mini-shakedown, a false promise designed to extract from me whatever could be had. On the other hand, $125 seemed a pretty paltry shakedown, even for 1972. I struggled about what to do, not wanting to appear overly anxious (why?).  I was watching myself act in a play, and the part called for the character to be reasonable, intellectually interested, though removed from feeling. I played the part with aplomb (it helped that I was the Director), though with each passing week (day?) the role became more demanding, more impossible to portray. I was waiting for Godot. Who was Godot? Maybe it was me, running around in circles trying to keep the silence at bay. (

I finally assembled the resolve to call Mr. Simmons. To his credit, he immediately answered my call, spoke to me.  He was, as he put it, working on my report; I should expect it by mail in a few days. He offered concrete information. I hung up, believing nothing had been accomplished but hoping his promise of a report was true. I reminded myself I had only paid $125. I also knew I could not afford more. It was not like I was going to ask my adoptive parents for a loan. This one was squarely on me. Going to Boston to look on my own was not an option, as law school classes were about to start. I was not God’s gift to the legal community and needed to put every possible effort into studying (though it often seemed one’s success as a lawyer was accurately predicted in inverse proportion to how well one performed in law school – by that measure, I liked my chances). Waiting for the report was the only option. It was also the easiest. My sword and sandals were opaque.  I did not have a copy of the Consent for Adoption, having been too afraid to make a photocopy – though of what or by whom I was not then certain. Maybe it was not the clerk, but something else entirely. Perhaps those papers were better off left in the file in which they were sealed, deep in a storage vault of the Dedham Probate Court. It was the information I needed. My sword and sandals were not hidden under a rock, nor sealed away in a court file. They were as clear as the sky on a sunlit day, and they were yet to be discovered.

Golpe de Golpe

Las semanas que siguieron mezclados entre sí. Poco después de llegar de ver el expediente judicial, fui a mi primera (y última) reunión de la Libertad de Asociación del adoptado Movimiento, celebrada en la Quinta Avenida de la Iglesia Presbiteriana, 7 West 55th Street – sólo por la Quinta Avenida del Rockefeller Center y Catedral de San Patricio – el distrito de renta alta. Yo no sabía qué esperar, aunque me trajo la poca información que tenía junto a mí a hablar con un consultor de búsqueda. La Iglesia es una casa de piedra rojiza gótico victoriano, con arbotantes y arcos apuntados (3 de ellas – la tríada de la adopción!). Yo sólo quería saber lo que me sucedió 26 años antes. Una iglesia construida en 1873 en un estilo de hace siglos originalmente considerados bárbaros parecía un lugar adecuado para comenzar. (Http://
En la propia sesión, celebrada el sábado, fue un poco decepcionante – no mucha gente y no ayuda mucho, al menos no existe. Las personas adoptadas se acaba de salir de su encierro para buscar sus orígenes, quizás animadas por el espíritu libre de la década de 1960. Si bien la reunión en sí fue un poco de una decepción (creo que ingenuamente esperaba que ir y que le digan cómo y dónde encontrar a mi madre ese día), conocí a Florencia Fisher. Ella otra vez me invitó a un grupo de rap que se celebrará en su apartamento en Riverside Drive, en el Upper West Side de Manhattan. Además, mientras que el buscar ayuda en la reunión era rudimentario, Florencia me dio dos nombres (junto con sus números de teléfono) que, en el tiempo, eran de gran valor: Betty Jean Lifton (conocido como BJ, un escritor y una persona adoptada), y Mae Emma Villardi (un genealogista e hija de una persona adoptada). Pronto hablaría con los dos, y que solo valía la pena el viaje a Manhattan.
El fin de semana siguiente fui al apartamento de Florencia. No sólo eran adoptados allí, pero sus padres biológicos, así, uno de los birthparent en particular: Olga Scarpetta. El caso del bebé Lenore era famoso en Nueva York y en todo el país. Olga Scarpetta, la edad de 32 años, de una familia colombiana adinerada, llegó a Nueva York en 1970 para tener a su hijo, supuestamente porque se acababa de enterar que el padre estaba casado con otra persona. ( 1995/08/20/1995-08-20_custody_fight_left_scars_paw.html). Lenore nació el 18 de mayo 1970 y dentro de cuatro días Olga entregó el bebé a Spence Chapin, una conocida agencia de adopción de Nueva York. Ella firmó el consentimiento para su adopción en Spence Chapin el 1 de Junio, a menos de dos semanas después del nacimiento de Leonor. El bebé ya había sido colocado en adopción prospectivo (normalmente el proceso tomó cerca de 6 meses a 1 año para la formalización), con Nicolás y DeMartino Jean, que vivía (junto con su hija adoptiva de 4-años de edad) en la Avenida 10 en el Bay Ridge sección de Brooklyn. No estaban las cosas hasta que, creyendo que había cometido un terrible error, Olga regresó a Scarpetta Spence Chapin el 29 de junio y exigió el regreso de su bebé. Entonces las cosas se pusieron interesantes.
Spence Chapin se negó a respetar el pedido de la madre biológica, a pesar de una Nueva York Estatutos para permitir que ella apareció 30 días para cambiar de opinión. Spence Chapin también dijo nada a la DeMartinos, con quien vivía Lenore en su casa de Brooklyn. La Sra. Scarpetta fue a la corte para hacer cumplir su derecho a la devolución de Baby Lenore. La DeMartinos presumiblemente desconocen el procedimiento hasta que pocos días antes de audiencia de la corte programada para el 02 de noviembre. Por otra parte, que no tenían capacidad legal para participar en la audiencia debido a que la disputa fue entre Olga Scarpetta y Chapin Spence. El 16 de noviembre la Corte Suprema de Justicia dispuso que Anthony Ascione bebé Lenore ser devuelta a su madre biológica. El DeMartinos se negó. La División de Apelación del Tribunal Supremo, y más tarde el New York Corte de Apelaciones, tanto afirmó el fallo del tribunal inferior. El DeMartinos sigue negándose a cumplir, optando en su lugar para hacer un caso federal de la misma. El Tribunal de Distrito de Estados Unidos a partir de entonces decidió que no tenía jurisdicción. Más tarde los Estados Unidos Tribunal de Apelaciones también falló en contra del DeMartinos. Una estancia de la Orden de Nueva York se solicitó ante el Tribunal Supremo de Estados Unidos, que se negó a actuar. Ahora era de mayo de 1971, y Baby Lenore continuó viviendo con la DeMartinos, técnicamente en desafío a la orden del juez Ascione desde el prior de noviembre. El juez ordenó que Ascione bebé Lenore ser entregado inmediatamente a la señora Scarpetta. Negativa a cumplir daría lugar a cargos de desacato criminal contra el DeMartinos, que sería sometido a detención inmediata. Y aquí es donde. . . la DeMartinos se perdió. Su abogado informó que ya no estaban en Nueva York. Dentro de una semana, volvió a surgir en la Florida, listo para la batalla allí. Eso DeMartinos la escogió la Florida parecía más que una coincidencia. Olga Scarpetta había más remedio que ir a Florida e interponer demandas por el regreso de su hija. Los tribunales de Florida rápidamente del lado de los DeMartinos, al señalar que los DeMartinos fueron ¨ los padres sólo (Leonore) he conocido ¨ (una frase que sigue siendo utilizado y abusado, por parte de jueces, periodistas, y los litigantes – google los rendimientos frase más de 28 millones de resultados). El DeMartinos Lenore planteadas en la Florida, la adopción formal de ella, con su consentimiento, cuando llegó a la edad de 19 años. ( Después de perder en la Florida, se hablaba de un recurso presentado por Olga. Ninguno llegó.
Nick DeMartino dijo una vez, tal vez en una elección desafortunada de palabras, que ¨ si alguien le diera un perro y luego meses después que quería volver, que les decía a ir al infierno. ¨ Para ser justos con Olga de Scarpetta, no ° es meses más tarde, ¨ y ella no estaba pidiendo la devolución de un animal doméstico. No era culpa suya que Spence Chapin optó por no decir nada a DeMartinos durante 4 meses. Para ser justos con Nicolás y DeMartino Jean, que luchaban por su familia y por lo que pensé que era correcto. Así era Olga. En 1994 (cuando Lenore sólo 22 años de edad), Jean DeMartino quitó la vida, en Florida, después de luchar contra varias enfermedades. El abogado que representó a la familia a principios de año asistió al funeral. Lenore, ya no un bebé, le agradeció a su madre ¨ y papá. ¨ En uno de esos giros extraños del destino, casi al mismo tiempo Lenore recibido una carta, se le informaba que Olga Scarpetta, su madre biológica (un profesor de la Ciudad Universidad de Nueva York con un doctorado en sociología), había muerto de cáncer de mama. Lenore dijo: ¨ me sentí como yo podría haber tenido un extraño murió. . . Ella debe haber sido muy confuso, muy dolido. Me entristece por su ¨. Olga dijo una vez que llegó a Nueva York aturdido por el descubrimiento de que el que pronto sería su esposo y padre de Leonor ya estaba casado. Ella no le dijo a su familia al principio y terminó buscando el asesoramiento de Spence Chapin: ¨ El principal problema en ir a ellos para la consejería es que la adopción es su negocio. Ellos (Spence Chapin) hablan de ella con tal naturalidad que no le ayuda a llegar dentro de ti mismo. ¨ (
Como estudiante de derecho, y ávido lector de periódicos, yo conocía la historia del bebé mucho antes de Lenore que asistieron a la sesión de rap. Yo no sabía Olga Scarpetta iba a estar allí. Estaba retirado de la obtención de días lo que quedaba de los registros de mi aprobación – sólo unos días ya retirado de la firma de mi madre biológica propia por primera vez, una firma renunciar a todos sus derechos legales para mí. Que necesitaba, quería mucho, para encontrarla, y fue por esa razón me encontré en el apartamento de Florencia Fisher. Sabía Olga Scarpetta sólo de los periódicos. Al igual que la mayoría de los grupos de rap (no importa el tema), nos sentamos todos en círculo. Fue un gran salón confortable. Me senté en una silla junto a mí, mirando por la ventana que mira al oeste hacia el río Hudson. Sun tuvo en la habitación, tocando Olga, quien estaba sentada en un sofá – el centro de atención. Florencia se sentó en un sillón a su derecha. Estaba en la habitación. Florencia habló primero y luego alentó a todos a presentarse y decir un poco sobre quiénes eran y qué hacían allí. (Yo estaba allí para encontrar a mi madre biológica y en cuanto a quién era yo, todavía estoy tratando de averiguarlo). Hemos escuchado a Olga, simpatizan con su pesadilla legal. Había hecho todo de acuerdo a la ley y todavía tengo jodido. Para este día, una ola de náuseas alcanza mí cuando oigo la frase: ¨ arrancada de la única hija que nunca supiera. ¨ ¿Por qué el DeMartinos, o cualquier otra persona, el beneficio por un retraso. Al menos con el DeMartinos, el retraso parece más culpa de Spence Chapin, que (probablemente pensando que el caso nunca haría lo suficiente como para alterar el DeMartinos) mantuvo aislado de los procesos judiciales por 4 meses. Cuatro meses es mucho tiempo (así que es de 2 años). Hay casos más escandalosos de la DeMartinos, donde los futuros padres adoptivos en circunstancias similares han buscado intencionadamente, retraso y luego trataron de aprovecharse de la demora que han causado. En el caso de Baby Jessica (madre biológica signos consentimiento para su adopción sin antes decirle a birthfather; mentiras sobre él en el formulario de consentimiento; posteriormente dice birthfather, que demanda para recuperar al niño, porque él nunca accedió a su adopción), por ejemplo, parece que el adoptivo los padres (Jan y DeBoer Roberta) intentó arrastrar a cabo un procedimiento judicial (por más de 2 años) y luego argumentar ¨ No tienen Jessica de los padres sólo ella ha conocido ¨ (que perdieron). Más tarde, cuando fueron obligados a entregar el bebé a los padres biológicos, el DeBoers participó en un circo mediático que seguramente no estaba en el interés superior del niño. (
Pero Olga Scarpetta era también una madre biológica, el primero que tuve alguna vez (a sabiendas) se reunió. Ella había firmado un documento de consentimiento renunciar a sus derechos a Baby Lenore, lo mismo mi propia madre biológica había hecho después de haber vivido conmigo durante 2 años. Yo no tenía simpatía por que, al menos no entonces. No ese día. No hace muchos años por venir. No sabía qué hacer con él. Estaba centrado todo en mí. Francamente, Olga parecía una ruina (mirando hacia atrás, ¿quién podría culpar a ella). Me senté allí preguntándose si tal vez Lenore bebé podría haber sido mejor donde estaba ella, con la DeMartinos en la Florida.
He dejado el apartamento de Florencia Fisher insatisfechos. ALMA estaba poniendo encima y no parece aún dispuesto a ofrecerme el tipo de ayuda que necesitaba. Fui a dar un poco de ayuda jurídica, la redacción de la organización inicial de los estatutos – algo que, como estudiante de segundo de Derecho, yo estaba completamente mal preparados para manejar. Gracias a Dios por las formas jurídicas. Años más tarde, cuando me ayuden a redactar los estatutos de otro organismo de adopción, el ALMA estatutos fueron utilizados como un modelo, hasta que nos dimos cuenta de que eran (para ser educado a mí mismo) de valor. Salí del apartamento de Florencia, ganas de hablar con la Agencia Simmons detective, y de llamar a BJ Lifton y Emma Mae Villardi. Las 3 cosas que me impulsó a la Caída.
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Dejando la Tienda de Paquete

No encontré a mi madre biológica de ese día. Después de hablar con mi hermana y el abogado de mi padre, llamé a New England Telephone (el ¨ somos el uno para su empresa ¨). Una voz amable respondió: ¨ ¿En qué puedo ayudarle? · Bien, pensé, me acaba de dar el número de teléfono de mi madre biológica, y vamos a estar todo listo. Pedí una lista para Virginia M. Peters, quien agregó que no estaba seguro de la dirección o la comunidad. Ella miró a través de cada directorio – Norte, Este, Sur y Oeste – anunciando, uno por uno, no había dicha lista. Strike uno. No importa – mis velas seguían ondeando. Colgar el teléfono, caminé los pocos metros hasta el coche, entré, y lanzó el libro negro sobre el asiento del copiloto vacío. Que yo consideraba mis opciones. No hubo tiempo suficiente para conducir de nuevo en Boston, por lo que reconoció – a nadie en particular – que iba a tardar algunos días más para encontrar a Virginia. Me metí a salir, de Massachusetts, sin detenerse en Needham (no pude enfrentar a mis padres de esa fecha). Pasé por la tienda paquete de Dedham donde solíamos ir cuando eran adolescentes para tratar de comprar cerveza, por lo general Narragansett (¨ Hola vecino …. tienen un “Gansett ¨) – la cerveza oficial de los Medias Rojas de Boston. Needham fue (y es) un pueblo seco, la venta de bebidas alcohólicas estrictamente prohibida. No importa cuál sea su edad, cuando quería comprar licor, que tenía que conducir a una tienda de paquete en una comunidad vecina, por lo general Dedham o Newton. Ellos fueron llamados tiendas de bebidas ya que el alcohol ha adquirido tuvo que salir de la tienda en un contenedor sellado o bolsa de papel, como en la vamos a ocultar lo que realmente está haciendo. Aún se podía ir a casa y se emborrachan, pero tal vez cuando caminaba por la calle de camino a su casa, la gente podría pensar que acaba de comprar un libro. Hay una broma que en alguna parte – esto adoptado entra en una tienda de paquete ….
Cuando estábamos en la escuela secundaria, alrededor de 17 años de edad o menos, 3 de nosotros cabalgamos sobre el almacén de paquetes en Dedham ahora estaba pasando. Nos estacionamos frente a la tienda y convencido de Juan, el aspecto más grande y antigua entre nosotros, para ir y tratar de comprar un six-pack de Narragansett. Tamaño de Juan fue superado sólo por su personalidad afable y respetuoso de la ley general, el producto de voz suave, los padres respetan la ley. Fue un tanto reacios a dejar el coche. · Hombre Vamos, que será un broche de presión! ° Al que iba. Antes de que siquiera le había perdido, John regresó con las manos vacías. ¨ ¿Qué pasó? * Director dice que, cuando pidió un paquete de seis Gansett y una bolsa de pretzels, el propietario solicitó una identificación. Respuesta de Juan? · Mejor hacer pretzels, ¨ en lo que fue quizá el más rápido del área de Boston la negación de venta de alcohol en relación con un menor de edad – Felicitaciones a la tienda. A continuación, condujo a Boston, a lo largo de la avenida de Huntington, en busca de un borracho fuera de una tienda paquete de perdón, un homenaje tanto a la ingenuidad y la estupidez de la juventud. En este día en 1972, me iba Dedham una vez más sin un paquete de seis cervezas y una bolsa de pretzels (no me gustaba de todos modos la cerveza), aunque yo tenía a mi lado un calco de la firma de una mujer que se parecía terriblemente similar a mi propia infantil escritura a mano.
Me dirigí hacia el oeste sobre el verde, suaves colinas de la autopista Massachusetts Turnpike, doblando al sur justo después de Worcester a la cabeza a través de Hartford y el Merritt Parkway (cuando aún tenía las casetas de peaje – 10 centavos de dólar) a Westport. Tres horas después de salir de Dedham, me bajé del Parkway poco más allá de No Man’s Land, que cariñosamente llamado tramo de la Merritt, entre Fairfield y Westport, donde no hay salida por más de 5 millas. Debería haber habido una salida de 43 años, pero cuando se construyó la ruta verde, los residentes locales se negaron a permitir que una rampa – que lindo ver a la gente frente a la administración, y que lindo de la salida 43, que existía únicamente en los mapas, planos y permisos para la construcción de la ruta verde, para conocer la historia – aunque sea breve – de su existencia. (
Los próximos días son importantes tanto por lo que no me acuerdo en cuanto a lo que hago. Yo no recuerdo haber hablado con mi esposa, aunque obviamente lo hice (que nunca fue otra cosa que apoyo totalmente). De hecho, yo no recuerdo haber hablado con nadie, la familia o un amigo, acerca de lo que había hecho o descubierto. Mientras yo estaba tomando tragos de mi botella · Adopción de ¨ trago, me lo guardé todo tapado y fuera de la vista – en la bolsa. Pero el efecto de la simple apertura del frasco y furtivamente sorbos comenzó a extenderse. La noche después de mi regreso, nos fuimos a cenar a la casa de mis suegros en Partrick carretera. Los padres de mi esposa, su hermana menor y su hermano, así como un par de visita desde California, estaban allí. Después de la cena, mi esposa y yo nos sentamos fuera de la cocina en un paso a la orilla de la sala. A través de la alfombra blanca de mi suegra se sentó en una silla, hablando en voz baja con los invitados sentados juntos en California en el sofá. Cada rato se volvió a mirarme todos. No era tanto que estaba hablando en secreto – pude oír la mayor parte de lo que ha dicho – más bien, que estaba dando información confidencial pseudo-, que pasó a ser de mí y de lo que acababa de hacer. Yo no era parte de la conversación, sólo su objeto. Puesto que cada uno podría entienden muy bien que todo lo que ella decía, su tono silenciado parecía diseñado para mantener el mundo exterior en la bahía. Después de todo, sólo se proyectaron por la puerta delantera. Por segunda vez en dos días, tuve dos sensaciones a la vez. Para un tipo que era triunfal en distanciarse de los sentimientos, se trataba de una epidemia. Solía me describiría como un castillo, impenetrable, rodeada por un foso – como si eso fuera una buena cosa. Por lo que a mí respecta, sentimientos estaban en el otro lado del hielo de agua azul. Sólo podía estar tan cerca de mí – velar por los monstruos en el agua, y si no lo atacan, encontrará que no hay entrada del castillo.
Pero ahora, en el borde de la sala de estar, he escuchado atentamente a la madre de mi esposa contando mi historia, tratando de escuchar todo. Al mismo tiempo, se echó hacia atrás, fingiendo desinterés. Mi cabeza estaba más cerca de la cocina, donde mi padre-en-ley estaba lavando los platos de la cena. Me complace que encontré a mi historia interesante, fascinado que estaban hablando de ella, y fuera de quicio que me estaban excluidos. Al igual que el día anterior en la corte testamentaria, yo estaba más contento que herido, y tal vez lo que me molestaba era que alguien parecía estar robando mi trueno ( thunder.htm).
En los días siguientes hice dos cosas. En primer lugar, me puse en contacto Florencia Fisher, el jefe de ALMA y tema del artículo del New York Times. No estoy seguro si ya he escrito o llamado, pero cualquier cosa que hice, Florencia me llamó de inmediato. No podía haber sido más acogedora, más útil. También sabía, con ALMA, que estaba en algo. Era la primera vez en mi vida que había hablado con otra persona adoptada sobre el deseo de encontrar mi madre biológica (bueno, sin contar a llamar de lunes a Carol). Florencia me invitó a una reunión de ALMA que se llevó a cabo un sábado en el New York Presbyterian Church, en la Quinta Avenida y la calle 55. Otros adoptados estaría allí, y que iban a hablar de lo que se siente al ser adoptado. Sentí como? Yo estaba interesado, pero yo estaba interesado en la búsqueda de Virginia. También se va a estar ahí para ayudar a las personas con las búsquedas individuales. No estaba segura de I · sentía como nada ¨, pero la oportunidad de obtener ayuda con mi búsqueda era embriagadora. En tan sólo unos días que había pasado de no saber nada que no sea el guión a mis padres recitado, a la búsqueda de mi madre biológica.
También investigué contratación de una agencia de detectives de Boston. Como estudiante de segundo de Derecho con el apoyo de trabajo de enseñanza de mi esposa en Armonk, Nueva York, no era exactamente nadando en dinero de repuesto. Busqué en las páginas amarillas y encontró un anuncio para la Agencia Simmons detective. Llamé y hablé con el señor Simmons, explicando lo que había hecho y que yo estaba buscando. Dijo que podía ayudar, pero necesitaría un anticipo de $ 125.00. Dudé (aproximadamente 3 segundos) y después me dijo que lo enviaría a él durante la semana. Por $ 125.00, sin duda más de lo que podía darse el lujo (lo que si necesitaba más?), Alguien encontraría a mi madre biológica para mí! Yo no tendría que hacer cualquier cosa (excepto esperar) y sólo podría centrarse en la satisfacción de ella. Me sentí muy satisfecho. Yo iba a vencer al sistema (aunque el sistema fue el que me dio la información a tiempo).
Mientras esperaba para la Agencia Simmons detective para localizar Virginia M. Peters, empecé a pensar lo que sería. ¿Qué le digo? Más importante aún, ¿qué haría? ¿Estaría contento de verme? Claro que sería genial, siga su ejemplo. Estaba allí para obtener información, ¿no? Sólo quería saber lo que me pasó, ¿verdad? He oído las historias de muchas personas adoptadas y siempre me fascinó escuchar muchos pensaban constantemente de su madre y tenía fantasías acerca de su reunión, lo que hizo, y lo que pasó. Tuve nada de eso – sólo una vaga sensación de venir de Boston. Nunca me imaginé conscientemente mi madre, y yo no sabía por qué durante muchos años; hasta 24 de julio 1972 yo había puesto todas esas cosas en la parte exterior del castillo, lejos, al otro lado del foso.