Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land my sophomore year in high school, and for a few years before that, abortion was legal in New York. In my young adulthood, I knew lots of women who got abortions, a few who elected to become single mothers, but none who bore children and gave them up for adoption. It’s possible there were some who spent extended vacations with Aunt Jane in Kansas and came home with stretch marks, but if so, they never talked about it.
For women of my generation, giving up a baby for adoption was something that mainly happened in weepy movies of the week or, later, in nightmare scenarios like the Baby M surrogacy case or — dare we mention it? — the Baby Richard case in Chicago. (A moment of silence, please. OK, that’s enough.)
Around the same time the adoptees’ rights movement began to gather steam. I recall reading many, many an internet posting by people who’d been adopted under the old systems of Secrecy Unto Death, advocating and sometimes suing for access to their files, demanding information about their birth parents. And I read an equal number of personal stories by all involved, most of which worked out but a few that didn’t. There was one about a woman who’d conceived as a result of rape, and opened her door one day to find a young man there, informing her he was her son. The happy endings were bolstered by a changing cultural environment that had stripped the shame from unwed pregnancies, and the coverage was almost always on the mother-and-child reunion, the adoptive parents relegated to paragraph five, sometimes with an indirect quote: “Samantha said her adoptive parents have been ‘totally supportive’ through the process.”
All of which I mention only because I’d forgotten how rife with drama the whole process was — is — until I read this fascinating story about the secret love child of Loretta Young and Clark Gable. Judy Lewis died last week at 76. I’d never heard of her, and the story of how she came to be — borne in secrecy, shuttled around to foster homes and institutions until she was a year and a half old, at which point Young “adopted” her publicly. She was kept in the dark, despite volumes of Hollywood gossip, until she was 31, when she confronted her mother and heard the truth.
The photo is arresting; Lewis is the spitting image of Gable, and even had his protruding ears — until they were surgically altered at age 7, probably to tamp down the snickering about their resemblance to you-know-who’s.
I’m not much for genetics, even as accumulating science tells me I’m wrong. It treats people like show dogs, and, medical issues aside, implicitly disparages the extraordinary bonds forged between non-genetically related people. But I have come to understand people’s deep need to know who they are and where they came from. And I feel for Lewis, who was apparently the last person in Hollywood to know who her real parents were.
So, it’s an office-hours day, and time for bloggage:
The Publishers Weekly blog has named the latest winner of Worst Book Ever — “Microwave for One,” a 144-page cookbook by Sonia Allison. Whatever harm has been done by the book is entirely redeemed by that burgeoning new art form, Amazon customer reviews:
It used to be that I got home from work and the only thing I’d want to put in my mouth was the cold barrel of my grandfather’s shotgun. Then I discovered Sonia Allison’s Chicken Tetrazzini, and now there are two things.
I don’t watch much local TV news, so those of you who do have to school me on this. Is this sort of thing, a report by former Detroit News reporter Charlie LeDuff, the way it’s done nowadays?
This is the second piece I’ve seen by LeDuff, and he actively cultivates this NewzKlown act. The hip waders, the smirks and asides, all of it. Is this TV news now? If so, I’m glad I don’t watch.
My, but time is fleeting. Must run. Thursday already! You lose a day to electricity failure, and the week gets shorter.