“Cast Off” exposes the roots of adoption reform and offers a blueprint for the wings that adoption reform still needs.
“Cast Off” also offers a personal postscript. My work in adoption reform revealed the real Lee Campbell’s thirst for knowledge. After I earned a doctorate, I taught social sciences at the college level for 30 years. When I retired, I returned to CUB as its Curator. I reassembled CUB’s history.
Now, here’s something else you may not know: “Cast Off” and its prequel “Stow Away: They told me to forget. And I did. Now my memory has mutiny in mind” are far more than memoirs. They narrate my collection of CUB history. And after 2015 — drum roll —my books and the CUB collection will become permanent fixtures of history . . . at Harvard University! More good news is, you won’t have to travel to Cambridge to appreciate these works. CUB has advanced a chunk of change to digitize 4,000 pages of the collection for its website (www.cubirthparents.org). As for my two books, both of these are now available, too.
For print copies, visit www.createspace.com/406829 (“Cast Off”) and www.createspace.com/4147943 (“Stow Away”).
During a freezing winter rain in 1963, adoption banned me from my baby. He needed to go to a “better” family and I needed to get lost. If I didn’t “do the right thing” and surrender Michael, I was told I would owe a shitload of money to a list of people my social worker, Carole, rattled off. But if I “let him go,” all those costs would disappear. At the same time — and on my own, without help from Carole or anyone else — I needed to find a job (Fine! I learn fast! Sign me up!). I would also need to somehow find housing and someone to watch my child while I worked (there was no such thing as daycare then). But I balked. I couldn't grasp that Carole and my family were really going to allow me to give up my son. I kept hoping they would give me a jumpstart in the right direction, if I waited them out. Meanwhile, my social worker put her “convincing” machine on “high.” It was like the drip, drip, drip of water torture. After three months, I was as eroded as a dune after a hurricane. Then Carole told me Michael’s new family had already seen him and loved him. I was in the way. With the ink of my signature still wet on my Surrender, I woodenly turned away from my social worker. Only then did she offer me some advice: “Forget,” she told me. “Make a new life.” I grabbed her lifeline. I stuffed my memories deep in the core of the innermost atom of my smallest toe. By coiling my memories teeny-tiny, somehow I made them fit, like a circus tent in a duffle bag. The drone of “Forget. Move on” was a new kind of relentless drip – like anesthesia into a carotid artery.
After ten years, the prescription petered out. Then my memories began to unfurl, taking up more and more space in my mind. They threatened my new life, my only compensation for my loss. My husband, our two boys, our standing in our small Cape Cod village — all were at the mercy of my memories. But my memories won their mutiny. I decided to fight the real culprits. A retort and a comeback were overdue. Defying the mandate to cross the street if I ever came face-to-face with any other mother like me, I began to search and find them. I invited them to trust my vision. In there was a mission, an organization, a movement — the first of its kind in the world. My first steps were tentative. I used a phony name and was in shadow for my first TV show. I called myself a biological (ugh) mother, even though I now knew there was so much more to me than bones, organs and DNA.
Nine months later, I finally gave birth to the real "Lee Campbell." My unique band of mothers began to use our words, our stories, and our emerging research to do our own convincing. Some professionals began to “get it,” some even crossing the dark side of adoption to do the real right thing for us and with us. Along the way, I invented honorable language and new ways of being “Lee Campbell.” I became a presidential appointee. My amazing mothers, our supporters and I were interviewed on local and national television. Countless and varied print media carried news of our work. Together, we battered the gates of closed adoption. Of course, the keepers-of-the-way-things-are recruited more money and might to turn us away. We gained and lost ground.
After thirty-seven years, the fight goes on. Meanwhile, I returned to the educational system that had kicked me out when I was pregnant. I made up for the interruption. After earning a doctorate, I taught social sciences at the college level for thirty years. And . . . Michael and I recently celebrated 35 years of reunion. This is my story of triumph after surrender. If I could make a difference, so can you.
My books “Stow Away” and, now “Cast off,” are ready. Let them reveal how, you too, can do what you “have to do.”