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From P.D.Eastman’s “Are You my Mother?”

Are all adult adoptees desperately seeking family, or is it just me? A week ago, my older son left home, fell in love and married, and just “left the nest” with his new bride. It was a second marriage for both these 30-somethings, and it seemed to happen too fast. Who am I, however, to doubt love at first sight or not welcome a beautiful new daughter-in-law? The two were born in Iran just a mile from one another, and they appeared to be well-matched and deliriously happy. I had all of two days to get to know Nazanin, the new d-i-l before they motored north to Seattle for jobs and a place to live.

After a whirlwind of activity, my house is quiet and the guest room is once again empty. The vacuum after so much bustle allowed in powerful reflections about the importance of roots, belonging to people that—while they may not be “nuclear” or “original”—comprise FAMILY. Now that my biological and adoptive parents have passed away, I realize how much I need to love and appreciate them all, to keep the bonds alive in my heart.

Thus it was that I began reading through my adoptive mom’s WWII letters for clues as to what was in her heart as she, who could not bear children of her own, tried to adopt a child. My future adoptive dad was serving as a clinical psychologist at the 142nd General Hospital in the Alipore district of Calcutta. She, like other wives and sweethearts, was living at home with her family, “standing by and making do.”

World War II had taken my father-to-be to Calcutta, India.What strikes me is that my mother longed for children so much that she spent the wartime separation visiting agencies and writing letters. Her search continued for the 18 months that must have seemed an eternity.

On June 24, 1944, when I was 17 months old, my mother wrote to my dad:
My Dearest,
I wrote to the Family and Children’s Bureau in Columbus and asked them to consider our application, if not now under these circumstances, then at the end of the war.
Five days later, on June 29, 1944, the theme is continued: “I received a letter from the Children’s Bureau in Columbus,” writes my mother, “and as I suspected, they want both the father and mother in the home…They said they would keep us on the active list and to let them know when we return to Columbus. So I doubt they will do us much good if we don’t return to Columbus. I think I’ll contact the Chicago agencies…”
On October 22, 1945 my mother wrote about hearing “that a lot of adoption agencies are being crowded with children of wives of servicemen who have had children by someone other than their husbands.” Who knew! It confirms my suspicions that a lot of my generation were a byproduct of World War II.

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Read more WWII letters by Elaine’s adoptive parents in From Calcutta with Love-The WWII Letters of Richard and Reva Beard.

I’m profoundly grateful that as she searched, the mother who raised me, to paraphrase the words of Winston Churchill, “never, never, never gave up.”

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