NOTE: This post was originally published last year. Adoptee Elaine Pinkerton is visiting her grandchildren (who turn four and seven this month), and she is happily immersed in family matters. In the midst of a new “family tree,” she feels the question of “roots” is more relevant than ever. Dear readers, adopted or not: please comment on what your family origins mean to you.
What does an adoptee do about the Ancestry Question and matter of ROOTS? While
others can trace their family trees, the adoptee has to choose between the birth family and the adoptive family. Do we adoptees even have a family tree? If you’ve grown up with adoptive parents, is THEIR family tree yours? If you’ve been lucky (or unlucky) enough to meet your biological parents and learn about that family, do you BELONG to IT? Could their family tree be yours? How does one claim ancestors?
These are questions I’m no longer willing to sweep under the rug. I’ve decided that instead of a family tree, I’ll settle for family records, those of my adoptive mom and dad. The letters they exchanged (before they became my parents) during their long WWII separation reveal their search for me. In 2005, I gathered these letters together for a book: From Calcutta with Love-The WWII Letters of Richard and Reva Beard.
Richard and Reva Beard were separated by 6,000 miles and 18 months during WWII.
Richard served as a clinical psychologist in the China-Burma-Theater (CBI). To imagine my mother’s search, I re-read the letters that deal with adopting a child. One of my favorites …
August 1, 1944
My Darling, We chose what turned out to be a very warm day to go to Toledo. I was very warm
and perspiring all day — to my amazement the big stores there aren’t air-conditioned. I got a purplish wine shade. I thought a red would be too bright. This is really a
pretty color but I’m afraid you won’t approve of the style. I couldn’t’ find a pattern that I liked in a fitted coat to use my fur to an advantage. So I got a tuxedo on the strength that you will like it when you see it. The fur will be down the front you know. I hesitated, knowing you don’t care so much for them but if it is really made to fit me maybe you will change your mind. I visited “The Child and Family Agency” 1035 Superior St. Toledo. They feel that they have to supply Toledo people first but said that their number is increasing so that they may be able to go outside of the city. I had a nice interview and they gave me an application blank to fill in which requires both our signatures. The first part is data concerning our religion, finances and references. I have copied the last two paragraphs which I think necessitates your signature. I suggest you sign it and send it to the agency, providing you agree. Of course they would probably like a letter from you too. I will sign the application and return it to the agency. Most of their children come from the Crittenton home. So naturally most of them are
young babies. (You have them 1 year before adoption is competed.) … I’m watching for the mail man these days.
These days certainly will make me appreciate days of common ordinary living. Goodnight My Darling and
Loads of Love and Kisses,
It turned out that my mother’s queries at various Ohio adoption agencies came to
naught. They waited until after the war ended and my professor dad started a teaching job. Amazingly, and lucky for me, my soon-to-be parents found me through a student (my birthmother Velma) at Iowa Teachers College. I was five years old and my brother Johnny was seventeen months. Products of a short-lived wartime wedding, we had lived in a series of foster homes. Our biological father had disappeared. During this drama, as revealed in this and many other letters, my adoptive mom-to-be was working hard to find a child. As it turned out, parents and children did not come together until after the war ended. The fact that we did was a miracle, one for which I will always be grateful.
Trying to find a family tree no longer, I’m settling for a grove of wartime letters.