Was it Synchronicity?

Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir Chapter 7–from My First Memoir, April 6, 1988

“My birthday was the next day and I was feeling desperate to connect with my birth family. I finally decided to call the Verdun number and ask if I could talk to one of Joan’s sisters. I felt more comfortable with the idea of talking to another woman, and I knew Grandma Williamson wasn’t ready or she would have called Phyllis at the adoption agency.

“I can’t remember a time when I’ve been more nervous. I had a pad ready for note-taking. At the top, I wrote “Don’t Hang Up…” a favorite song by the Orlons in the 1950s. I just prayed they wouldn’t hang up on me.

“I spoke briefly to Grandma Williamson and then Joan’s brother, John, realized that he should get on the phone. I didn’t know they had two phones. Before I knew it, John said, “Hang up the phone,” in a firm voice. My life passed before my eyes and I almost hung up in despair. Then he started talking to me, and I realized that he had the extension and had been speaking to Grandma. As it turned out, John couldn’t have been kinder to me!

“I was still nervous beyond reason, but he was calm and caring. We talked for about twenty-five minutes. I learned a lot about Joan, and John said I could write to him and send pictures of us. That phone call was my first direct contact with my original family since infancy. I had actually talked to someone who knew Joan!

“I know this is silly, but didn’t Joan work for the phone company? That call never appeared on my bill! Oh, how I wanted to see that phone call on my bill. It would be the written proof that I had talked to Joan’s family. I was dying to see it and pay it! I even called the phone company. They had no record of the call. John told me that Joan worked for Northern Electric for thirty-four years. She was a hard worker, well respected, and active in the Northern Electric service organization, the Pioneers Club.”

When something occurs that seems to be more than a coincidence, it can take our breath away. It’s highly personal, but without apparent cause. It is baffling and mystifying. Carl Jung studied this phenomenon and created a term for these meaningful coincidences: synchronicity. I have become more aware of synchronicity during my years searching for my birthparents and families.

It is not surprising that synchronicity is a common topic in adoption stories. My search angels, as well as the Ville Marie adoption caseworkers, have reported to me that they see highly meaningful coincidences frequently in searches and reunions. In July of 1983, I felt stressed and anxious. I felt an urgency to know more about my birthmother. In Toronto, we discovered that she died on July 21, 1983.

Synchronistic and paranormal events share one critical ingredient, and that is love. Even though it is difficult to prove with scientific study, love is what makes a meaningful coincidence meaningful. Is it possible that Joan’s love was with me on that day when I spoke with her brother? I believe it was.

In Carl Jung’s acausal connection, love is the intangible cause. When we lose a loved one, the love is not lost. We continue to love and adore, and we can feel love in return. My mom and Joan both died from breast cancer. This card represents all the love that will be with us forever.

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Early Memories

“The Place Where Lost Things Go” Mary Poppins Returns                      favorite verses:

Memories you’ve shed, Gone for good you feared, They’re all around you still, Though they’ve disappeared, Nothing’s really left, Or lost without a trace, Nothing’s gone forever, Only out of place

Time to close your eyes, So sleep can come around, For when you dream you’ll find, All that’s lost is found, Maybe on the moon, Or maybe somewhere new, Maybe all you’re missing lives inside of you

Songwriters: Scott Wittman / Marc Shaiman,“The Place Where Lost Things Go” lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company  

In “Mary Poppins Returns,” Mary sings this soulful ballad as a lullaby to the children who are grieving the loss of their mother. The lyrics help them keep her memory alive. I heard this song on the Oscars the other night while I was planning to write about early memories.

Throughout my memoir, I question my ability to remember my birthmother. There is a sense of loss experienced in an adoption. A mother and infant are separated, seemingly forever. As an infant, I was too young to use language. So I wonder, Where are my memories? How are they stored without words?

Infants remember sounds from before they were born. They can identify their mother’s scent. Heather Turgeon, a psychotherapist who writes about child development and parenting,  calls it “our emotional memory.” Early memories are coded by our feelings and relationships around us. She further states, “This is why early childhood has such a powerful effect on us, even though we remember so little of it. Our first years are when we build our emotional blueprint of the world, and we take that understanding with us through the rest of our lives.” 

Heather Turgeon, “Kids and Memory: What Do Babies Remember?” Daily Beast, November 9, 2010.

Maybe all you’re missing lives inside of you. I am confident now that I have an emotional memory of my earliest experiences with my birthmother. I describe in the book times when I felt her presence. Searching has led to so much more than simply finding my birthparents’ names!

Learning about emotional memory has brought me back to my toddler years. Some favorite memories are bolstered by family stories and old photos. My mom loved to tell the story of my 2nd birthday party. My brother invited all the neighborhood kids—Mom found out when they all arrived! My daughter has a wonderful memory—people, colors, events! She remembers many things from around the age of 3—playing in our backyard, family holiday dinners, and her purple jelly shoes. Sometimes, it’s the little things in life that count!

Baby Congratulatory / Baptism Card