Earth Day is 50 years old today–first celebrated on April 22, 1970. Two weeks prior to the first Earth Day, I had turned 21. Paul and I were married in January 1970, and, yes, I was only 20 years old when we got married! It was the middle of the last semester of our senior year at UMass Amherst. Amherst was a politically active town during the Vietnam War. As stated by The Resistance Center—
“In winter, 1966, Amherst, Massachusetts became the first town in the United States to form a weekly vigil protesting the Vietnam War. Standing at the northwest corner of the town common on Sundays from 12 to 1 p.m., participants sought to publicly record their political and moral objections to government policies. The vigil continued until the war’s end in 1973.” www.theresistancecenter.org
But on April 22, 1970, folks gathered to celebrate the first Earth Day. I was in town for some reason, walking up Main Street toward North Pleasant–the main intersection in town! Suddenly, how exciting to come upon the Earth Day festivities. Every year since then, it is a favorite memory from a very busy year!
“The First Earth Day
We only have one earth, so we need to take care of her. That’s what Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin believed. He was disturbed that an issue as important as our environment was not addressed in politics or by the media, so he created the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970. An estimated 20 million people nationwide attended festivities that day. It was a truly astonishing grassroots explosion, leading eventually to national legislation such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.” http://www.americaslibrary.gov
April 22nd is special to me for another couple of reasons. My birthmother, Joan, was born on April 22, 1929. Twenty years later in 1949, I was three weeks old and in her care on her 20th birthday. Four years later, April 22, 1953, on her 24th birthday, she gave birth to her second child, a baby boy. (Eventually, she relinquished four babies.)
Joan was required to care for her son and me for our first six weeks of life. Today, I wish him a Happy Birthday and hope we meet some day. We were both relinquished into closed adoptions. After years of searching for understanding how she was able to make these decisions, I have developed a deep empathy for Joan. I listened to other birthmothers in books and blogs and support groups. Relinquishing us was painfully traumatic. Relinquishing caused grief and suffering, illness and death too soon. Empathy is the key to understanding.
Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir takes you through my search for my birthparents, for my identity, and for an understanding of the heartbreak experienced by unwed women forced to lose their infants into closed adoptions.