What's I'd like to know, and what I wonder about an acquaintance who is 68 and stopped a search midway through...is what Ellen Ullman would do if her records were suddenly available? (Ms.Ullman wrote the piece, My Secret Life in the New York Times on Jan. 2, o8, professing her desire not to find out what her heritage is, to live a mysterious, romantic life in the dark.) Would she say, I don't care, I don't want to know? Or would she say, Hmmm, that's interesting, let's see who I was at birth? Whose DNA I carry? What is my story, my unique heritage?
If the world at large was not so interested in roots, Salem, Massachusetts, as a historic cottage industry would not be booming. If the world at large were not fascinated by origins, the US government would not have posted on line the manifestos of ships who carried our ancestors across from Europe, and find traffic on the site booming. If the world were not interested, people would not bother with family trees, the Mormons would not keep such meticulous records, we would not have had shows such as The Locator and the single-episode of the cheesy Who's My Daddy?
The point is, the world is interested. But people like Ellen Ullman who profess to be just fine and dandy with a halfhistory, with NO medical history, with zero knowledge of their forebears make it difficult for us to push for open records and say the instinct to know is basic, is universal. Ms. Ullman at this point in her life is a person who chooses to live an unexamined life. She is like a slave who is comfortable with her chains. Her fear of the unknown prevents her from living a full life, with complete knowledge of who she is. It is a life yes, but one lived with blinkers, one lived with the past shrouded.
Those who make this decision must do so because a) the way is closed and b) they are encumbered with an overwhelming feeling of guilt that to search is to be disloyal to their other parents. Or they are just afraid of going there.
Florence Fisher called me the morning the piece ran--upset and of course angry with adoptees who celebrate their desire not to know as Ms. Ullmann. What she said was: It's because of adoptees like her that we will never get the records open. They are so damn grateful for being adopted they can't see past that.
The reminds me of my daughter's older brother, also adopted. He professed to be not interested in his roots. However after he married and planned to have children, he initiated a search. As far as I know, he did not succeed.
So I wonder, will Ms. Ullman change her mind one day? And come smack-dab up against sealed records?
Our job--both as mothers and adopted people--is to make the world understand that whether or not this group of blinkered people exist, and they do--is to make clear that they still should and must have the right to the information, should they chose to want it. Everyone has the right to know the truth of her origins, and birth mothers have an equal right to find out what happened to the child they gave up.
To agree to anything less is to choose to remain enslaved to an unjust system.