CHARLOTTE LAWS - DREAM AND ACHIEVE TOGETHER
of an Adopted Child
By Charlotte Laws
was born in the backseat of an Oldsmobile. My mother was in labor for 15
minutes, not long enough for my father to drive us to Grady Hospital in
downtown Atlanta. I popped out during the Drifters’ song “There Goes
My Baby;” and moments later, there I went. In the emergency room parking
lot, I was whisked away by a nurse, complying with a pre-arranged adoption
pact and who was under the assumption—as were most adoption
“experts” in 1960--that cutting ties should be done in an abrupt and
swift fashion like pulling off an old Band-Aid. I would never see my
natural parents again. At least that’s what everyone thought.
adoptive family always had the appropriate number of cars, boats,
housekeepers and country club parties; they were skilled at complying with
“old money” standards. Those who had “new money”--such as show
business folk or overnight get-rich schemers--were naturally inferior to
us, or so I was told. By adopting me, my parents were on track for
procuring a suitable number of children for a respectable family: two. My
brother was adopted a couple of years later.
the neighbors, everything looked primed and painted, but I was well
acquainted with the wood filler and industrious termites beneath the
surface. Partly, my negativity stemmed from a perception that I was an
outsider with an entirely different value system. I did not qualify as the
black sheep of the family for only one reason: sheep tend to be followers.
I was more like the independent, black cat, who went my own way.
grade school to high school, my classmates regularly criticized me for
supporting the civil rights movement, for rejecting communism conspiracy
theories, for failing to be enamored with all Republican candidates, and
for not accepting Jesus as my Redeemer, despite the fact that I attended
religious services six days a week.
galled my friends when I lusted over the flashy, sequined evening gowns
that the “new money” movie stars would wear to the latest premiere.
Then I’d show up at the school dance wearing one and watch the whispers
percolate throughout the room.
felt ideologically out of place regardless of whether I was at home,
school or the local mall and wondered why. Many studies point to a
connection between biology and criminal behavior, but what about biology
in relation to simple, run-of-the-mill beliefs? Could a person have a
genetic predisposition towards particular moral values and favored
activities? Could “nature” make a person more likely to support
universal healthcare, gay marriage, educational vouchers or the National
Rifle Association? Could DNA be a factor in a person’s distaste for
vintage automobiles or her attraction to sports?
answer seems to be yes. British and Australian researchers determined that
twins who are reared apart think similarly on subjects ranging from sex,
religion, politics, divorce, apartheid and tough-mindedness; and twin
research at the University of Minnesota confirmed the finding.
“Nurture” has little influence on a child’s personality. In The
Blank Slate, Steven Pinker makes the case that as much as 70% of the
variation between individuals, in areas such as political leanings,
personal philosophy, intelligence and personality, are derived from genes.
to the Washington Monthly, a study conducted by Bruce Sacerdote
found that biology rather than environment correlates with income. He
learned that “being raised (as an adoptee) in a high-earning family
doesn’t seem to have much effect (on the income of the child when she
grows up), while being born (as a natural child) to a high-earning family
does.” Did this mean I might have to give up those big-ticket gowns and
go from being “old money” to “no money?”
children often seek out their natural parents in order to address health
concerns, such as to determine whether cancer or heart disease runs in the
family; but I wondered if it could help a person better understand
herself? I aimed to find out and started the search for my natural parents
at the age of 25.
process was jammed with roadblocks. Adoption records were closed; in other
words, I was not supposed to gain access to names or identifying
information. Although the bulk of my detective work took place by phone
from my home in Los Angeles, at one point I traveled to the Atlanta
adoption agency that had placed me and persuaded an employee to divulge
the names of my mother and father.
I was told “Wilson,” I anticipated a needle-in-the-haystack search and
realized I had not even arrived at the farm. Today, there are two and a
half million listings on Google with my father’s exact first and last
I sleuthed after data, I picked up helpers along the way. Amiable
strangers in Georgia, Maryland and Virginia—most of who lived in
residences that were once occupied by my mother or father--volunteered to
devote investigative hours and legwork to my pressing mission. I made
calls. They made calls. In the end, I found my father’s former college
and got his contact number from alumni records. I located my mother via a
Baltimore school that had employed my grandmother.
learned one parent is a university professor and author, and the other
works for the U.S. Government in Washington D.C. They gave me up for
adoption because they were in graduate school and did not plan to stay
together. They didn’t.
the end, I found parents—as well as aunts, cousins and a
grandmother—who have values and interests akin to my own. They study
philosophy, are environmental advocates, teach aerobics, have similar
taste in art and suffer from the migraine headaches that have plagued me
since I was a child.
mother’s religious path detoured in the same way as mine. We were both
raised Christian, then attended a Unitarian church for a while, and
eventually converted to Reform Judaism.
my natural family is rich in heart, their pockets are not totally bare; so
genetically speaking, it looks like I may be able to feed my “frock
habit” for a few more years.
The ongoing connection with my kin has taught me why I am the way I am, and why I am unlike those who raised me. I appreciate my adoptive parents’ efforts, but have learned that one can never have too many parents.
Simon on August 13, 2007
Published in Opinion Editorials on August 14, 2007
Published on San Francisco Bay Area Wire on August 15, 2007.
Published on LA Wire on August 15, 2007.
Published in OpEd News on August 15, 2007
Published in American Chronicle on August 15, 2007
Published in LA Voice on August 16, 2007.
Published in Buzzle on August 16, 2007.