Every Monday morning, I watch Sunday’s Agape service as recorded and shared on their website. The messages from the Rev Michael Bernard Beckwith are empowering and positive. Today’s message left me wanting to share something more positive about adoption than I usually do. Don’t misunderstand. I’m am still more than less against most adoptions. A woman who regularly reads this blog, sometimes shares my essays on her blog. Our perspectives are not identical but I noticed that she had one today with the title – Why adoption can be a blessing. So I went there and found among several offerings this video and watched it.
As this video makes clear, sometimes adoption is the best answer and sometimes the coincidences (which spiritually I believe in strongly as signs) make an adoption simply feel “right” and in harmony. So in keeping with my desire today, I share this video with you, to spread a little joy about a topic that I normally do not feel all warm and fuzzy regarding.
Adoptee reunions with their birth parents happen almost daily it seems to me in the adoption related groups that I am a member of. My adoptee mom wanted such a reunion but sadly hers never happened (when she tried to get her adoption file from the state of Tennessee, while denying her that information which would have brought her so much peace, they told her that her mother had died several years earlier).
This morning I’ve been tracking down the story of the daughter that Joni Mitchell gave up for adoption because she wrote song lyrics about that experience in Little Green a song on her album Blue which is 50 years old today.
Born with the moon in cancer Choose her a name she will answer to Call her green and the winters cannot fade her Call her green for the children who’ve made her
Little green, be a gypsy dancer He went to California Hearing that everything’s warmer there So you write him a letter and say, “her eyes are blue.” He sends you a poem and she’s lost to you Little green, he’s a non-conformer
Just a little green Like the color when the spring is born There’ll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow Just a little green
Like the nights when the northern lights perform There’ll be icicles and birthday clothes And sometimes there’ll be sorrow
Child with a child pretending Weary of lies you are sending home So you sign all the papers in the family name You’re sad and you’re sorry, but you’re not ashamed
Little green, have a happy ending Just a little green Like the color when the spring is born There’ll be crocuses to bring to school tomorrow
Just a little green Like the nights when the northern lights perform There’ll be icicles and birthday clothes And sometimes there’ll be sorrow
Both mother and daughter were searching for each other when a series of coincidences finally brought the two of them together. It would be a very typical adoptee search and reunion with her birth mother if her mother had not been so famous. Most adoptees do not have to deal with that kind of media frenzy. It would be a typical adoptee reunion with her birth mother leads to a reunion with her birth father but for all of the fame involved. And it would be a typical adoptive parent anxiety about losing the child they raised if not for all the media frenzy that followed. On Joni Mitchell’s own website you can read the details in Joni’s Secret: Mother And Child Reunion and fully appreciate the complications.
My all things adoption group seeks to encourage young, unwed mothers like Joni Mitchell was to keep and raise their children. This is because, like Joni, adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Joni’s problems were poverty and the baby’s father being unready to parent and so abandoning them. Within 3 years, Mitchell had a recording contract, a house and a car, and could have raised her child but it was too late by then. The adoption was closed and so when the daughter began her search, she was only given non-identifying information, which is typical as well.
Things actually went surprisingly well considering it was way back in 1997 when the reunion occurred. Like my good luck in uncovering my own original grandparents, something of their stories and connecting with biological/genetic cousins and an aunt, it was as though one door opens and the pieces begin falling into place. And as like attracts like and as intentions seek to fully fulfill the desire that gave birth to them, sometimes in the adoption world we get lucky.
It is somewhat interesting and all too typical that the adopted person also has their own struggles that somewhat mirror their birth parent. Kilauren claims that she did not find out she was adopted until she was 27. “She knew when she was a teenager,” her adoptive mother, Ida Gibb says. “Her friends told her. But maybe the full significance didn’t sink in.” Kilauren’s adoptive father, David Gibb says, “The mistake we made was in trying to say she’s not adopted, that she’s one of us and let’s forget the whole thing and put it away somewhere, because we wanted her to be part of the family.” Then he adds: “People are born. They are a life. They belong to nobody.”
Kilauren’s biological parents, Joni Mitchell and Brad MacMath, were both art students in Calgary when she was conceived. They moved to Toronto during the pregnancy and discussed settling down but as he says, “We were not communicating.” and he moved from Canada to California. Mitchell says her main concern at the time was to conceal her pregnancy from her parents. And what would her parents have done ? Mitchell’s mother, Myrtle Anderson says, “If we had known she was expecting a baby, we would have helped. I’m sure we would have encouraged her to keep the baby, but we didn’t know anything about it until several years later when she and Chuck (Mitchell) separated and she was home and told us about it.”
Like many birth mothers, Joni Mitchell regretted losing her child for 30 years before the reunion finally occurred. Like many birth mothers, she might see a couple with a daughter about the age hers would have been at that time. Toronto music manager Bernie Fiedler who was a friend of Mitchell’s remembers being with her at the Mariposa Folk Festival about four years after Kilauren’s birth. “There was a couple with a little girl wanting to speak to Joni. We went over and talked to the girl, who must have been 4 or 5, and afterwards Joni turned to me and said: ‘That could be my daughter.’ I will never forget that. She was obviously suffering tremendously.” Kilauren (at the age of 32) ended up separated from the father of the son she is raising. Broken relationships seem more common with adoptees, and often with their biological parents as well, than within the overall population in general.
The thing about adoption is that it changes trajectories. Joni Mitchell may not have become as famous as she did had she kept and raised her daughter. Her daughter’s life would have been different had she not been raised in the well to do home that she was. Both mother and daughter suffered and that is always the case (whether acknowledged or unconscious) when that separation takes place. It is always the case as well, that no matter how loving the adoptive parents are or how good of a childhood that adopted child has, a yearning to be made whole again is universal. Not all reunions go well and this one has been bumpy like many of these are.
Typically, the adoptive parents feared this as well. Losing Kilauren to her birth mother “was our greatest fear,” her adoptive mother Ida Gibb said. “It was a nightmare that this would happen to us when she was little and when she was a teenager. Now, it is easier to take. But it’s still hard.”
The most fascinating thing for me about learning the truth of my family’s origins has been the parallels. Both of my parents were adoptees.
Both of my grandmothers lost their own mother at a young age.
Both of my grandmothers fathered my parents with a man much older, 20 years older, than they were.
Both of my grandmothers lost their children due to a lack of their family’s support and lack of paternal support.
There are contrasts as well. My maternal grandmother was actually married. Her father even signed the marriage license. Why then, did her husband leave her in her family home after only 4 months of marriage and her 4 months pregnant ? It is a question I will never be able to answer.
My paternal grandmother had an affair with a married man. I doubt that she knew he was married when she first began dating him but of course, he knew. His wife was over 20 years older than him and a private duty nurse. One can imagine he had the luxury of many nights when she was sitting at someone’s bedside. My grandmother was self-reliant and took care of the reality that she was pregnant on her own. He may have never even known . . . but she knew precisely and outed him in a photo album as a breadcrumb for me to discover many decades later.
These parallels may be a coincidence or they may somehow be part of the picture, the meanings, the reasons that things happened the way they did. I am simply grateful to be able to tell their stories now after 60+ years of not knowing about their actual existence.