|Celebrating our 25th anniversary|
We met at a Sunday brunch in February, introduced by a mutual friend, Gael McCarthy. We had both been on The Daily Collegian at Wayne State University in Detroit, and we both ended up in
New York City. My winter rental in Sag Harbor at the time had frozen and burst pipes, I was temporarily staying with Gael in Manhattan. She dragged me along to a brunch with friends, and then made sure I met this writer who was also there, someone named Anthony Brandt, because, as she said, she thought he was a nice guy and she also knew he was not connected to anyone at the time. In fact, his ex was at the same brunch.
A STORY SHARED AND UNDERSTOOD
We were both writers and when he asked me what I wrote, I told him unabashedly about Birthmark, my memoir about giving up my daughter. It had come out a little more than a year before, in 1979, and I had taken my share of grief about it--You wrote what? Who gave you the right!!!--but I didn't expect that from him. Writers, after all, write about what they know. And most are quite accepting of other writer's lives and subjects. At the time, he had a cover story in The Atlantic about his grandmother's dementia and how difficult it had been as a boy to see his loving grandmother deteriorate.
But his reaction was so casual I might as well said I had written a cook book. He didn't ask any questions, he didn't seem shocked. Hmm, I thought, that's interesting. Tony and I had lunch a few days later, and he told me about his favorite cousin: she had gotten pregnant at fifteen, came to live with his family from upstate New York in deepest secrecy, was hurried in and out of the house to see the doctor under a bulky winter coat so even the neighbors--who didn't know the teenager--would not see her--that's how shameful it was. Her boy friend's parents placed all the blame on her, and enlisted other boys from the football team to say they also had slept with her, though she insisted that was not true.
|Tony and Lorraine 33 years ago|
Tony and I--both divorced, both older, me in my late 30s, he in his 40s--wasted no time once we decided we were good together. Within a month we were living together, and that fall on a cloudy but warm September day got married at the huge mansion of a friend's grandparents in Westhampton Beach. The house is so magnificent it has a name--Kinkora--rather than a number address, and was designed by Henry Bacon, who also designed the Lincoln Memorial. My "best woman" was a friend who was also a first mother, a fact that came out as our friendship was budding. She is also a writer and we are still close today. Our wedding announcement in The New York Times included mention of my memoir--thus included the fact that I was one of "those women" who had given up a child. I had hidden once, but I was done with that. I would never hide again.
I SET THE WHEELS IN MOTION TO FIND HER
By the time of our wedding rolled around that September day, I had set in motion a search to find my daughter. I had been involved with Florence Fisher's ALMA, attended meetings regularly, had already written stories about the inhumanity of sealed records and adoptee/natural mother (birth mother wasn't a term in use yet) reunion for Town & Country, Cosmopolitan, New Woman, even Parent's magazine--but felt that I couldn't search for her because she was too young. I'd actually hoped that since the data of her birth was in Birthmark, her parents would contact me, but that had not happened. Born in 1966, she was only fifteen in 1981. I'd heard in whispers at ALMA meetings that you could hire "the searcher" and he could find anybody. Yet I hesitated.
But not knowing where she was, or how she was, and having the innate but inchoate feeling that she needed me, tore me up. I'd written three letters to the agency through which she had been adopted in Rochester, New York, and only heard back that she was "fine and happy" with her new family and that I needed to get on with my life. One evening, a few weeks before we married, Tony and I had dinner with a friend, Peter McCabe, a magazine editor. He asked what was so magical about waiting until my daughter was 18--I wasn't going to steal her, now was I? I just needed to know. Why not now?
Indeed, why not now? Tony joined the chorus of why not now? and the next morning I called someone who knew someone who could reach the mysterious searcher. The cost would be $1,200, a princely sum in 1981 to me, but I had money from Birthmark and said: Do it. Find her.
As secret "quality control inspectors" for the Intercontinental chain of hotels, Tony and I spent five weeks in the Caribbean and all over South America on a working honeymoon, if you can call checking out hotel rooms and restaurants and services on the sly as guests for the corporate office "working." When we got back there was a letter waiting for me among the piles of mail--a letter that said my daughter had been found.
It is nearly impossible to tell you the relief that washed over me. Always I had worried that I would never be able to find her, that she was lost forever, that I would spend all my days looking at the faces of young girls, adolescents/teenagers/young women/middle aged women and wondering: Is that her? What does she look like? Who is she? Where is she? How is she? Now that horror was over.
She is found! I remember shouting to Tony. She is found!
|Jane and I in 1982|
No one would ever chose to have their life take the turn that mind did, but here I am today, and I've survived. Tony, my partner and deep love of my life, has made the journey so much easier. We worry about the future financially, we sometimes get on each other nerves, we do many things differently, but we have a good life and we recognize that we have been good partners for each other. And today, 33 years after he sang Sweet Lorraine in front of our wedding band, I can't imagine my life without him in it.--lorraine
PS: My best woman used the same searcher and found her daughter shortly after I found Jane.
ALSO FROM FMF:
Family Reunions: Missing the one lost to adoption
Secrecy in reunion: How can I tell my adoptive parents? Or my other family?
Who Should Search--Adoptee or birth mother?
Family Reunions: Distorted by Adoption