Four Days to Family – “Too Many Questions, Never Enough Answers” (Chapter 2)
“In 1882 Charles Crittenton, a wealthy New Yorker, lost his 4-year-old daughter, Florence, to scarlet fever. This tragedy moved him toward philanthropic work and he started the Florence Night Mission in New York, a safe haven for “lost and fallen” women. From there the Florence Crittenton Mission was formed and Charles Crittenton traveled across the country in a railroad car donating $500 to each town willing to start a Home for young women and children in need.” ~quote from the Florence Crittenton home website
July 27, 2003
This wasn’t the first time I tried to search for my birth family. On and off for almost twenty years since I was 16, I tried repeatedly
to follow the handful of clues I had about my birth-mother, but they always led to dead ends lined by seemingly impenetrable obstacles. Letter after letter was repeatedly sent to the Cleveland Department of Social Services on a regular basis, only to be told no information could be released. Over the years I learned of adoption search groups and would send them letters explaining my circumstance and all of the clues I had of my birth-mother, only to have the letters returned, and often stamped with “no longer at his address”. There was one time that a group I found still existed, but it required that an adoptee attend at least one meeting prior to obtaining their help – which was out of the question when you are a young full-time student working forty+ hours a week to pay for school and expenses, and living a state away.
Over time, I learned how to quiet the distressing and mournful thoughts regarding the missing pieces of my birth-family and my own history. I recall the time we took a family vacation to Niagara Falls ~ the first time our family had driven through New York State. Driving up interstate 219 took on a whole new mystery to me. This road name was familiar as it took our family to most places we needed to go around our home, yet this part that extended to Northern Pennsylvania and into New York was new terrain to me. In Johnstown, I always loved riding on the highway at night, especially in the rain or snow because I would imagine the car headlights and taillights were anything but what they really were – candle flames on the church altar during Vespers, or glowing angel and demon eyes in the throes of battle for good and evil, with the white angel eyes coming toward me while the red demon eyes were fleeing in defeat.
Yet, driving 219 North in upper Pennsylvania and New York was so much more of an adventure to me than anything I could dream up in our travels at home. It wasn’t that we were heading to the great wonder of the Niagara Falls, or crossing the United States border to the Canadian side. It was so much more than that, although both of these probably added to the mystery and my excitement.
I sat up as high as I could in the back seat so that my 10-year-old frame could view the other cars they passed. Each time, I peered intensely into the other vehicle, scanning each face for some sort of familiarity, some ancient, primal connection that might give them away. I was young, and full of curiosity. Sometimes it would only be an elderly driver, and another it might be a whole family. On occasion they would look back at me, strangers passing on the highway, and smile. My heart would skip a beat. And each time that happened, the questions that rolled through my mind, car after car after car, were reminiscent of one of my Dr. Suess books that my Mom read to me when I was younger. It echoed over and over in my mind as I desperately explored each face clinging to every detail: are you my mother? Are you my father? Are you my uncle? Are you my brother or sister? Although only ten-years-old, I knew my birth mother had been from New York.
As a young child, my imagination would create whole scenarios of being a princess or aristocrat that was given up for adoption to protect my people. Perhaps even from a different country, or plane of existence. My parents were married and my location was so well concealed, they spent all their waking hours searching for me, and their lives would not be complete until their baby girl was returned to her rightful place within their family. Someday, when the time was right, they would reclaim me and we would all live happily ever after, not that I wasn’t already happy.
My teenage years were a time that my adoption seemed to haunt me the most. My father passed away when I was fourteen, leaving a black hole of a void that brought much darkness and gloom to my life, more than I thought someone could experience. My father was a remarkable and loving man, defined by his tightly knit, and large, Lebanese family. I always found (and still do) great pride in my identity with this Curry clan, but with the loss of my father, this link seemed to crack slightly, and shook how I branded myself as the blood was no longer there to bind. The echoes of my roots surged to the surface again, and with the pain I already felt at losing the most important man in my life, it all but swallowed me whole. I found solace in the one thing that was a constant in my life; a love of writing, singing, and composing music.
By sixteen, I had written several songs in memory of my father, and even more calling out to my birth-mother as well. Composition became my venue for expunging all those bottled up emotions of sadness, loss, and being alone in the world. Without it, it was as if I would have self-imploded from my emotions. I was now the age my birth-mother was when she became pregnant with me. If I were to become pregnant would I be willing to give up my baby? When I was 16, my birth-mother would have been 33. Where was she? What was she doing? Was she married? And if so, was she married to my birth-father? Did they have other children? Did she ever think about that little baby she gave away in 1968? Did she miss me too? It was very difficult to silence these ghosts once they began the barrage of questioning, and they took their toll on my spirit at times.
Major life events always seemed to give the ghosts more energy. On birthdays, I would wonder if my mother was equally haunted on this day each year. High school graduation, my wedding day, college graduations, the birth of each of my daughters, job promotions ~ the ghosts would shake their clattering chains, bringing forth all the unanswered questions and darkness that I knew full well may always remain a mystery.