A Secret Grave 161: Separated at Birth


The one thing Betsy wanted more than anything else was a child of her own. But the problem with subterfuge, such as Betsy had set up in her life by claiming she was a white girl from Bloomfield Hills, was that you then had to stick to the story you had chosen, constantly shoring it up like a building in need of repair so you wouldn’t be caught in your lie. Betsy couldn’t risk having children for fear they would come out the wrong color. She told Malcolm she was infertile due to endometriosis and a tipped uterus and that, if he wanted another child besides Clark, they would have to adopt. She even suggested they be good citizens and adopt a baby from Africa or an inner city slum. Malcolm nixed both ideas. Clark, with his Asperger’s, was child enough.



Clark (Martijn, john.warnas2013, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)


To ensure that she wouldn’t accidentally fall pregnant, Betsy had her tubes tied. The truth was, she was highly fertile. In her freshman year in college, she conceived without knowing it and ended up having the baby, a little girl named Maxine whom she gave up for adoption. Maxine came out very dark, even though her father, whom she’d met at Hillel, was a pallid Jewish boy from St. Paul, Minnesota. It killed Betsy to part with Maxine, but she did it – handed her over to the nurse after a day of holding the baby in her arms and studying her sweet little face. She took photos and ran her hands over Maxine’s tiny body and memorized her smell and the sound of her cry. When the nurse removed Maxine from her arms, she howled so hard and loud they had to sedate her. She swore to herself she would never go through this again, but the following year she found herself in the same situation, despite birth control pills, and this time she had an abortion.


black infant

Maxine (Sebastián Colmenares (cropped), Anyul Rivas, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)


“Do you have any idea what happened to Maxine?” Janet asked.

“None,” said Betsy. “She’d be twenty-eight this year. Much as I’d like to see her, it would be a disaster. Sometimes I fantasize about her finding me – you know, the phone rings and it’s an unknown number, and this female voice says: ‘Are you Elizabeth Johnson? Did you have a baby girl on July 10, 1989? Because if you did, that’s me, your daughter, and I’d like to come and meet you.” She paused, her voice thickening, eyes growing bright with tears. Janet watched, feeling a little sorry for Betsy as she cleared her throat and delicately wiped at her face with her napkin. Finally, after she had gained some control, she said: “Okay, now I’ve told you about what happened to me and why I left New Orleans. Your turn: What do you want from me?”


To be continued…


Cover photo ~ http://www.canadaadopts.com/unplanned-pregnancy/putting-baby-adoption-canada-process/

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