Birth to Kindergarten

The Beginning

 

Catastrophic Loss

“I was born in Saginaw, Michigan.  I grew up in a house on Saginaw Bay.”  It was a song by Lefty Frizzell (1963).  That says it all, and if I stopped there it would probably be wise.  Yes, I was born in Saginaw, Michigan in October 1954; by all accounts, Michigan was having record nasty weather.

Six days later I experienced the worse loss that can happen in a persons life, I lost my mother, father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, future siblings, heritage, and history; that’s catastrophic.  I was placed for adoption with a couple living in a town on Saginaw Bay.  That’s what some people do not understand about adoption, is that there is life before the adoptive family. The adoptee, even an infant, has a history, once placed into the arms of another couple, their history is gone and in the 50s permanently closed by law.

The courts have labeled us orphans; in truth, we are not.  We have original family, and in my case, lots of family.  To many residing in the church, adoption is called a “win-win.”  The infertile get children and babies get families.  We are to be seen as charity cases.  When in fact, in many cases, we were nothing more than a financial bonanza to adoption agencies.  It’s amazing what can be hidden under the guise of closed records adoption.  The lies, the deceit, and the downright theft of babies.  We are the broken.  I wish I could tell you the number of times, I’ve been asked if I’m grateful, or if my children are grateful to have a home.  In the day of social media, there is really no excuse for this lack of total compassion.

Infertility

The reason my parents adopted was Infertility, by today’s standards a couple of pills and the problem would be solved, but in those days it wasn’t available.  My parents were both of German ancestry, so they attended the Lutheran church.  Their church had been doing volunteer work with the Lutheran Home so they went to them when it came time to adopt a family.  The Lutheran Home turned them away because they were the wrong synod of Lutherans, this really upset my parents.  They then went through social services; they waited years for an infant placement.

My parents talked about the variety of people that made my adoption happen.  They went through the usual mounds of paperwork that were required in those days to adopt a child, and many of them are still required.  One of their references accidentally got sent to the wrong woman, Mrs. Dehmel.  Mrs. Dehmel was an older woman and didn’t know what to do with it once she got it, so she gave it to her son, Arthur Dehmel who just happened to be in the Michigan State Senate.  He took the reference and did it for her.  My mother said they were shocked, but it certainly didn’t hurt to get things in motion.

jill 40001

Jill’s 4th birthday with 2 cakes.

My Parents

My father, Franklin, married Beatrice in April 1942.  They began married life in Detroit where my father and mother both worked for Ford Motor Company; they both worked there during the dangerous period of time they were unionizing.  They missed their families so they moved back home.  My dad wanted a trade so he became a plumber.  That was his profession on the day of my placement; the call came from social services. “A baby girl is available.”  There was no advance notice in those days; when I became available, they got the call.

My mother called his place of employment, and they called him at the home of this very nice gentleman where my dad was working on his plumbing.  Every time that man saw me, he always had to tell me the story, and I always enjoyed hearing it.  Of course, my dad got very excited, and went right home to shower.  Then they had to go shopping and buy baby necessities, and finally they waited at social services until Mrs. Martin arrived with me and handed me over.  In the 50s, they were closed adoptions.  The only thing that Mrs. Martin told my parents was that my birth grandmother resembled grandma Louisa, and that I had a very pretty mama, and that the situation was very sad.  In the 50s. the adoptive family had no knowledge of the birth family, so I actually came with more information than most.

Adoptive Parents Requirements

My mother was not allowed to work until I entered Kindergarten.  That was but one stipulation of adoption in the 1950s.  My beginning life was pretty typical of any child.  Very young children could care less how they enter a family, they just don’t have that prejudice as long as they are being treated with love and respect.  My parents were great.  They doted on me; they had been married for almost 13 years and really wanted children.  My mother often said that I would not have had it so good had I been born to them.  Adoption has requirements, so I had a heat register installed in my upstairs bedroom and a stay at home mother.  There were other things they had to do to the house to make it adoption ready, but I remember the heat register as the big one.

Fort Myers, Florida

At the age of 3 we went to Ft. Myers, Florida for a few months in the winter, and stayed in a trailer park for senior citizens.  My parents were only allowed to rent there if they were able to keep me quiet.  Old people don’t like little kid noises.  I remember it being a very strange place; some of the old people behaved very odd.  One of the older women would wonder off at night, and the people from the trailer park would go into the streets hunting for her. They said it didn’t do any good to call out her name, because she didn’t know who she was anyway.  During the day time, the women would all sit around making crafts, and the men would go fishing.  It was a very pleasant place to be.

My mother decided to wash my hair, and I hated it.  So I ran away.  I ran to a kindly old ladies trailer who had a wind up play dog that barked; we had visited her just the night before.  I can still remember that dog and her.  She sat on the floor and played with me.  I thought she was wonderful.  I could hear my parents running up and down the trailer park calling out my name, but Nell told me to just keep playing.  Finally, there was a knock at her door, so she had me take the little dog and go into her bedroom where she shut the door behind me.  I could hear my dad very excited and almost yelling, “Have you seen Jill?  She’s missing and no one knows where she went.”  Nell replied, “No.”  She then shut the door, and we went back to playing.  My mother was never quite sure what happened during that time with Nell, maybe she had some dementia setting in, but Nell certainly caught all of us off guard.  I admit to liking her a lot.  She was a very kind old woman.  She was actually the first person to advocate for my safety.

Great Life

Up until now, I had gone to Sunday School and church; I had a girlfriend from church.  I had also spent time with my grandparents and extended family members, and most of my extended family members had children my age.  There was always someone to play with on either side of my adoptive family. Life was grand.   If my life had ended at this point, it would have been pretty awesome.  Unfortunately, as we get older our perceptions change as do all of our relationships.  We also aren’t the cute little infants and toddlers handed to our adoptive parents.  The differences become extremely obvious and very frustrating to couples wanting clones of their own.  The differences become paramount to their extended family members when the adopted individual becomes competition rather than an object of pity.

 

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