It is true that God works in mysterious ways, and his ways have been a mystery to me. I often times felt like a detective trying to unlock some of the mysteries surrounding my life.
I was given up for adoption at birth. In fact, my adoptive parents graciously babysat my two older brothers at the time of my birth. As I grew into childhood, I was told many stories of my two older brothers, Forrest and Keith. Forrest was the quiet one, and Keith was the one with a bubbly personality. I was told how precious they were and I began to love them. Pictures of them were being saved for me, but tragically, they were lost during Hurricane Betsy in 1965 when our home flooded. I never saw these pictures, which I would have treasured.
I was also told about my birth mother, a single mom, a hippie, who was quite petite and soft-spoken. She eventually moved to California, I was to learn later on not only did I have big brothers, but also a little brother and a little sister. Wow! During my early life, my thoughts drifted away many times as I wondered about this long lost family. Where were they? Did I resemble them in any way? My teachers labeled me as a “daydreamer” at school. I spent a lot of time thinking about art stuff and envisioning my long lost family.
As the years passed, subsequently my adoptive parents were blessed with four children. As a child, I would escape to my room to find quiet time to draw and paint, my most favorite pass time, my hobby.
I grew into adulthood and I married an incredible man. We were blessed with a precious son and two beautiful little girls. Yet, I felt there was a void and emptiness in my life. The stories of my lost family helped some, but they were only bits and pieces of a puzzle (the puzzle of my life), which had so many missing pieces. I had been given facts and information but because there was no memory of this past, I had empty spaces in my heart – empty, empty places crying out to be filled. I felt as though I was expected to regard my birth family as dead, non-existent – if not literally, then symbolically.
In the summer of 1990, my adoptive mom gave me enough information for me to begin my search – my search for that lost part of myself. She told me that my birth mom had wanted to meet me for many years. She would come to New Orleans occasionally and contact the family about meeting me. I was so excited to know that she wanted to know me. Without the advent of the internet and the amazing technology we now have today, my search was difficult. I spent many months making phone calls and searching records.
On January 22, 1991, I went to the genealogy department of the downtown Library in Dallas, Texas. I spoke with the librarian about my search, but was told they were quite limited with recent information. Further, census information is not made public for seventy years, which meant census information taken during my lifetime could aid my search was not available to me. My heart sank within me. “But I do have a few states on file with some current stuff,” the librarian told me, hoping to lift my spirits. The librarian left to go look up the files in another room. My heart raced with excitement, after all these years I am now closer than ever to finding my birth mom.
A short while later, the librarian somewhat reluctantly walked over to me and handed me a paper. To my absolute shock, it was something that I had never expected, nor was I prepared for. I read the words “DEATH CERTIFICATE”. It was my mother’s death certificate. Emotion overwhelmed me, this successful search gave me joy, but the finality of the word “death” washed over me like a tidal wave, I was overcome with grief and tears raced down my face.
When I regained my composure, I examined the document. Alameda County was mentioned. That evening I was able to get a telephone listing in the county stated on the certificate, for a “C. Holter” If I contacted any of my siblings would they even want to know me? Would I be rejected? Would I be accused of trying to ruin their lives by wanting to meet them, know them? What if the wonderful people I envisioned turned out to be mean and hateful? I knew that my birth mother had wanted to meet me, but I just didn’t know if anyone else would. The questions running through my mind seemed to be endless.
I nervously dialed the number.
“Hello, my name is Camille, and I live in Dallas, Texas. I’m doing some genealogy research; please tell me if you know any of these people – Forrest, Keith, Christopher, Jessica or Miriam…”
The voice on the other end responded, “Yes, I am Chris.”
“Well, do you know any of the people I just mentioned?” My heart was pounding as I
Then Chris replied, “Yes, that’s my family.”
I became choked up as I said, “I’m Camille, your sister.”
He replied, “Cool! How ya’ been doing?”
We began to talk and to share our lives. We poured out our hearts to each other for almost three hours, as if we could recapture the lost thirty years. “We were told of a sister, Camille, who lived in New Orleans. We thought it was hopeless to find you” Chris shared.
Over the next two months, I had many heartwarming conversations with my new found siblings. My sister Jessica, a journalist, was able to have a copy of a photograph of our mother made at the newspaper where she worked. She sent it to me. After opening the envelope and seeing it, all I could do was to stand there in amazement. My hands shaking, I took the picture and peered deeply into the black and white photograph. This is her! This is what she looked like. I wish it could have been a video! I wanted to hear her voice, hear her laugh, see her smile. What were her mannerisms? What kind of things would she talk about?