Bunker Mentality: Closing the Book on Finding Family

After decades of wondering and not knowing about my birth parents or possible family, the long journey was almost over with the discovery of two half-sisters, identification of my natural parents and a bit of history.

My significant other, the Yard Sale Queen, mentioned that the final chapter hadn’t been written until I visited the place that nurtured me in its nursery, conducted the background check and finally handed me over to my adoptive parents months after my birth.

I always listen to the Yard Sale Queen (wink). So, we set out this summer on a vacation with a planned visit to The Cradle in Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. The building is directly across the street from Northwestern University.

It was the adoption agency’s location that set off rumors about the identity of my birth parents. Decades ago, my adoptive father told me that he thought my natural father was a Northwestern University professor and my natural mother was a coed at the school. Wrong!

Last year, I discovered that my natural father was a travelling salesman, with a proverbial “Little Black Book,” while my birth mother worked at one of the businesses he served.

During the search for my roots, I learned through non-identifiable information The Cradle could legally release that the nurses at The Cradle nicknamed me Reed. I want you readers to remember that name.

In June, The Yard Sale Queen and I hopped in the Chevy Trax and made tracks for the Chicago area. We endured countless tolls, neglected Interstate highway in Indiana and a Sunday bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on the Interstate in downtown Chicago that made the Capital Beltway during a morning commute look like a free flowing river.

Early Monday morning, we arrived at The Cradle to receive a pre-arranged tour of the facility that has been in business since 1923. The adoption agency was founded by Florence Walrath after she helped her sister find a child to adopt due to her sister’s loss of a child. Mrs. Walrath’s success for her sister had others asking for help adopting. The rest is history.

Since its founding, The Cradle, one of the premier adoption agencies in the nation and the only one with a nursery on premises, has placed more than 15,000 children with adoptive parents. The agency provides support in all forms as well as an extensive and comprehensive process to ensure children are placed in quality homes. It also provides after adoption support as needed.

The tour explained the start-up of the adoption agency in a residence and later expansion to its current facility next to the original home. On the ground floor, there is a mini-museum, which recreates a 1950s nursery, complete with cribs and equipment.

Adoptive children are born in area hospitals and after a short stay brought to the nursery until the child leaves with its adoptive parents.

However, today’s nursery is more spacious and modern. Volunteers, called “cuddlers,” spend countless hours feeding, holding, rocking and talking to the infants during their stay in the nursery.

The agency has helped several famous celebrities adopt children. George Burns and Gracie Allen, Al Jolson, Pearl Buck and football star Gayle Sayers all adopted children. Comedian Bob Hope adopted several children from The Cradle.

When I saw one picture of a movie star on the wall of celebrity adopters, I paused. Remembering that my nickname was Reed while at The Cradle, I gazed at a photo of Donna Reed who also adopted a child. In fact she adopted about the same time I was in the nursery. Why I wasn’t the pick of the litter?

My name could have been Reed Reed.

Unless more information surfaces about other half-siblings, beside Judie and Linda, the final chapter has been written on this fascinating journey. The Yard Sale Queen closed the book.

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