|Tony and Lorraine, at our 25th wedding anniversary party|
It was rather quite easy to tell him because the information came in response to his question, What had my recent book been about?
We were at a Sunday brunch on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where liberal writers and artists and publishing types who can afford to live in Manhattan live. (The bankers and titans of industry on are the East Side--of course I'm generalizing here but that is the general consensus.) Birthmark had come out two years earlier and that precluded me ever hiding the fact that that I was a woman who gave up a child. There had been a big ad in the New York Times book review with my photo, and a quite a bit of media coverage, but that didn't mean that the average Joe immediately associated my name with adoption. Yet what was I going to say when he asked what my book was about? I'd rather not say?
Of course, it was and still is imminently easier to "come out" in public--on a TV show, on the radio, in a magazine piece--than it is to spill the beans to a new acquaintance or an old neighbor, or anyone close to you. In revealing publicly that you are a first mother (birth mother), you do not have to deal with the almost certain amazement that follows such a revelation in a personal way. On TV, or in print, the audience is out there somewhere, but not up close and personal, and even if you are going to be attacked and criticized (as I was in '79-'80), it is by a stranger you do not know, not someone intimately involved in your life. Like many issues that are controversial, it's easier to be global rather than personal.
But here I was, at a Sunday brunch on a February afternoon, and answering the question: What is your book about? and with the man in front of me it was immediately personal. I remember the moment he asked the question, and I thought: Oh boy, I wonder how he will take this. But the writers I'd met did not seem shocked or horrified, and so told him in plain language: My book was about giving up a daughter for adoption.
His reaction was so cool I almost thought he might not have understood. But he did.
Three days later, at lunch in a bar on Second Avenue , the subject came up again and Tony told me about his cousin Joan. She had gotten pregnant in high school in the late Forties, and came to live with his family from upstate New York (Elmira) during the pregnancy. He talked how his mother kept her indoors except for trips to the doctor. He said that his aunt and uncle had gone to see the family of the her boyfriend, but they wanted nothing to do with the pregnancy. A few friends of the boyfriend lied and said that she had slept with them also--that she was just the high school slut. An abortion was nearly impossible to get at the time, and the family, and his cousin, were deeply shamed.
|Our house on High Street|
Tony was largely responsible for my finding my daughter when I did--she was fifteen at the time, and he encouraged me not to wait, and I have been forever glad that I did not. He has been a rock throughout the years, not only during the ups and downs of my tumultuous relationship with my daughter Jane, but also as I continued to crusade for adoption reform through the years. Of course there has been the occasional clash over the time spent when I could have been writing something more remunerative--we have a comfortble life yet money always been tight--but in general but he's always understood why I had to do what I did, and supported me every step of the way.
I wouldn't be the same person today without him standing by my side.
Today, the half-sister of the girl given up in a private adoption in Westfield, New Jersey, in 1947 or '48 would very much like to find her sister, whoever she is. --lorraine