At some point during the afternoon the conversation turned to how I found my way back to the family (I was placed up for adoption upon birth). As I told whoever it was who asked the question, after nearly 14 years of following every lead I could find, work got in the nation's phone books on CDROM. This was in 1994, long before the internet search engines had been invented, and having access to all those phone numbers was really quite remarkable.
My adoptive parents received a copy of the official Order of Adoption when my adoption was finalized. With one exception, every reference to me is by my new adopted name. However, I had a very good clue in that the document begins "In the matter of Angelena Maria M--"
I borrowed the CDs from work and searched for the surname in question. Examination of the entire database revealed three matches, all of which I called. The first number had been disconnected. The second number was answered by a woman who did her best to convince me that she wasn't my mother and that her husband was almost certainly not father, but promised to ask around the family and get back to me. I called the third number. It, like the first, had been disconnected.
Three nights later our phone rang. It was my mother. (The woman I'd spoken with was my mother's brother's wife.)
We then talked about my mother's efforts to find me. She'd contacted the adoption agency, but was told the building had burnt to the ground and all the records were lost in the fire. I'd heard that story too, but hadn't believed it. Mom says it was true and that the fire was electrical in origin. Personally, I suspect someone disgruntled with the agency set it. Mom also mentioned going to a lawyer to try to get the adoption records unsealed, and having been rebuffed by the court system. The only avenue left was dumb luck. Mom began looking at every child the right age who crossed her path. On the street, on television, in magazines and newspapers. She clearly recalls seeing an advertisement that she was sure contained my photo. The funny thing is, in 1962, when I was about two years old, I was one of the models in a national advertising campaign. Mom says she saw that ad everywhere and kept telling her mom that the kid in the ad looked just like her at that age. My grandmother's response? "You weren't that cute."
I know that the older I get, the fuzzier my memories become. I went looking for my copy of that advertisement, in order to show it to maddiec24. I clearly remember the image, me standing in front of a washer and dryer, looking forward into the camera. Wrong. Everything except myself is positioned exactly as I recall, except that I'm not facing forward. I'm facing the other model. Which is my way of saying that I don't actually know that the ad I was in is the same ad my mother so clearly recalls "being everywhere." Or if she's confounded me for the other older girl used in the same series.
This is the complete page:
This is what I looked like in 1962. And that's really my Raggedy Ann doll.
I got the job because my (adoptive) father was one of General Motors' staff photographers and, at the time, Frigidaire was one of their subsidiaries. It was a legitimate modeling job though, and the $250 modeling fee became the first deposit in my college savings account.