While it was comforting to know the name of my biological father, I was also frustrated. Jack Green is a fairly common name. Furthermore, the way my birthmother described Jack left me wondering what kind of person he was. After all, he did vanish without a trace from that small town in Vermont. Her description painted him as a caricature of a black man: shiftless, shady, and irresponsible at best.
So I decided that, instead of searching for him, I would reconnect with the Elizabeth Lund Home, the place where my birthmother went to deliver me and the place where my parents adopted me. I contacted the volunteer coordinator there, Kitty Bartlett, and talked with her about ways that I could support the organization. The Lund Home had changed a lot since 1972. The organization is now called the Lund Family Center, and while it still oversees adoptions, the focus is mainly to support young mothers in becoming healthier, stable, and effective parents. There is even a high school and childcare center for these young mothers. We decided that my family would collect books and send them for use in the childcare center, the high school, and in the apartments where the Center’s residents live. Together, along with several friends and former students, we raised 127 books to send to Lund.
When Kitty spoke with me to tell me she received the books, she also told me she’d recently found 8 boxes of archival materials, some of which were from the early days of Lund (the organization was founded in 1890 as “The Home for Friendless Women”), and I immediately asked permission to do research in the archives. After we agreed on the terms, I drove to Burlington.
On the second return to Burlington, I took Nigel and the kids with me to an Alice in Wonderland themed fundraising event. While there, a reporter approached me — we kind of stood out up there in the green mountain state — and asked me to share my connection with Lund. I told her a short version of the story and she took a photograph of me and Logan. A few days later, Jen Wool from Lund contacted me to let me know about the story:
A few months later, I was attending an event at the Holderness School in Plymouth, New Hampshire when a parent of a former student approached me and told me he saw the article. He lives in Vermont and has all his life. Turns out his sister got pregnant when she was a teenager and she delivered her child and relinquished her rights to Lund. As an adult, he has supported Lund because he appreciates how the organization helped his sister. We talked about what I knew of my story. At the end of our conversation, he told me that he knew people in the town my birthmother is from and that, if I gave him all the information I had, he’d see if he could find out anything about my birthfather.
Long before, I had decided not to search for my birthfather. But now, with this offer, I was too curious to let this pass. I gave him all the information I had. I heard from him about 6 months later; he wasn’t able to learn anything. But, he did say that everyone he talked to seemed to know something but did not want to talk about it. I thanked him for trying.
4 months later, I received an email from this parent urging me to call him immediately. I did and he explained that, since the last time I spoke with him, he had found a different way to search for my birthfather and had found several contact persons and addresses of his relatives. There were quite a few PO Boxes belonging to Jack Green and the last known address of what we believed were my paternal grandparents. He suggested I contact the person at that address and that I not contact Jack Green directly. He thought that all the PO Boxes could suggest that Jack wasn’t stable or that he was unsavory, especially given how Sarah had described him years before.
I took the information he gave me and I put it away. Until the day this past November when I called Vanessa Green, who is actually Jack’s sister-in-law. Once it became clear that I was who I said I was and she was who she said she was (based on the info I’d gotten over the past 20 years), Vanessa said, “I’ve been waiting for this call for 40 years.” Her tone was a combination of relieve and disbelief.
Vanessa then started to tell me about the time Jack dated Sarah. From Vanessa’s perspective, he loved her and when she got pregnant, they both decided to keep the pregnancy a secret until it would be too late for her parents to make her get an abortion. When they told his parents, Jack’s mother decided that she would adopt the baby and consulted a lawyer to do just that. When Sarah’s parents found out she was pregnant and who the father was, they went to Jack’s parents and told them that, if they ever learned that they had the baby and was raising it, they would have Jack imprisoned (Sarah was 15 when she gave birth to me; Jack was 18 by that time). The Green family felt trapped. They wanted the unborn me, but they were afraid of what Sarah’s family would do to Jack. Remember that this is 1972. The Green’s are an African-American family in rural Vermont. The entire relationship between Jack and Sarah was taboo.
Sarah’s parents sent her to the Lund Home to have me and would not tell Jack where Sarah was. The Green family had wondered openly for almost 40 years who I was, where I was, and if I would ever try to find them. Vanessa was surprised to hear that I’d been in touch with Sarah. In a bizarre, surreal twist, Vanessa works with Sophie (Sarah’s twin sister). They see each other every day. And they’ve known each other for over 40 years. But that’s another story.
I learned that my paternal grandparents had passed away, but my birthfather was still living. I already knew that when I was born, I was named Christina. What I didn’t know, what I learned from Vanessa, was that Sarah and Jack decided on that name together. Vanessa let me know that she was going to call Jack right away and tell him to call me.
The next blog post will be about that phone call.