Amy’s story begins: “Once upon a dime…”
And then, as she says, “It just gets weirder.”
Amy, a writer and director of a small library in an Alaskan fishing village, always knew she’d been adopted. That wasn’t news. But her birth story certainly was.
Amy came into this world on November 16, 1964. Mr. and Mrs. A.T. House found her before dawn lying on the floor of the “Grover Bungalow Launderette” at Baker and 19th Street in Lawrence, Kansas. Amy had been left on an old white blanket. Near her was a pay phone with a dime left on top.
“Apparently so somebody could call the minute the child was found,” Police Lt. Dick Stanwich told the local paper at the time.
All this was news to Amy. She shared with us her unbelievable story and how she is using 23andMe to help fill in some of the blank pages in her life.
Now with children of her own, she peeked into this chapter for the first time on Christmas Eve of 2012 when she opened up a parcel that arrived that day from the Kansas State Department of Vital Statistics. This early Christmas gift was her original birth certificate.
“I had been adopted in 1965 by two wonderful people, but I had always wondered about my “real” name,” Amy said. “We stared at that envelope for quite awhile. Then I opened it. And, what I found broke my heart.”
Like a lot of adoptees, she had fantasies about her birth parents and how they might have reluctantly given up their child at the hospital with a kiss to the forehead. But seeing the birth certificate, with parents listed as “unknown,” and learning she’d been abandoned at a Laundromat pained her greatly. She immediately wanted to know more.
“I telephoned the launderette, which still exists, and left a message that began with: ‘Hi, this is going to be the weirdest phone call you’ve ever received…’”
Amy also called the local newspaper, the small but well-respected Lawrence World-Journal. She was lucky to find a helpful reporter who looked through the newspapers archive and found a few old clips that documented her arrival into this world.
Everything in those articles was news to Amy. She never knew.
“On Christmas Day, I called my parents and told them I’d received my pre-adoption birth certificate,” Amy said. “There was a prolonged silence followed by my mom’s voice. ‘Oh.’ Then, there was more silence. Then: ’And what did you find out?’”
She told her mom what she learned. There was more silence on the line.
“‘But, you knew that story,’” Amy told her mom.
Yes, her mom protested but: “I didn’t know THE NAME of the launderette!”
“’Mom!’” Amy said laughing.
“Then, I could tell she was crying,” Amy said.
Her parents had kept the name the nurses had given her and then she told Amy:
“‘We didn’t care where you came from! We never wanted you to feel unloved or unwanted because we loved you and wanted you so badly!’”
Amy knew how lucky she’d been to be adopted by her mom and dad, but she still had questions. The Lawrence World Journal reporter Chad Lawhorn had forwarded her the old articles and then wrote up her story. She hoped someone would come forward with information about her birth parents.
But the stories of her birth also gave her comfort too. She’d been surrounded by love and cared for by strangers.
“My world became a little warmer, and tragic,” she said.
Amy learned the name of the attending physician that night, Dr. Godwin, and found out he was still alive. The reporter called him. Dr. Godwin remembered Amy.
“Just a couple of months ago, I was thinking of her,” Godwin told the reporter. “I wondered what ever became of that baby. This is good because that has sort of hung over me for a while.”
Although the couple who found her had passed away, their children were still alive and they knew her story. She talked to their daughter, Debbie House. Debbie told Amy more details that left her speechless.
Amy had been found on the exact one-year anniversary of Debbie’s grandfather Wallace Grover’s death. He died in the morning of a heart attack in the exact spot where Amy was found.
“A year to the day. Maybe even to the hour,” said Amy. “And here, Wallace’s daughter walks into the Laundromat on the anniversary of her father’s death in the place and finds … a crying baby.”
The details she’d gleaned up to that point told her so much, but she decided to test for 23andMe to learn health and ancestry information that couldn’t be found in paper records.
One of her DNA Relative matches sent her an enigmatic note “nice to meet you. I may have the answer to your Lawrence connection.” That helped her find a surname that she believes will help in finding out more.
“I think I’m closer than ever to figuring out who the people in the earliest moments of my life were,” said Amy.
She also feels closer to the woman who was her birth mother.
“I would love to say thank you to her. That’s the gist of it. She had choices. The mother always has choices, and she made a great choice. I hope it got better for her. I really hope she found peace. I wouldn’t want her to go through life thinking something bad happened, because it didn’t.”
Not long ago, Amy went back to Lawrence Kansas. She met with Dr. Godwin. She wanted to see the spot where she’d been found. The laundry was closed up, but she put her hand up to the glass door and it swung open. So she went in.
“It was rundown and pretty well trashed,” Amy said. “The sign on the door states that the place is being re-plumbed and will re-open “soon.” I have my doubts … but I got to see where the phone had been … and, I know this is going to sound cheesy as all get-out, but I left a note to ‘Amy’s Mom’ and taped a dime to it. It’s just a ‘Hi, I stopped by’ kind of note, but also that I wanted to leave the offer of communication open. Yeah. And then I stuck it to the bulletin board and pulled the door shut behind me.”
23andMe provides genetic testing services for informational purposes; your results may or may not help you to search for or identify relatives or family members.