Claiborne & Surmay, P.C.’s senior paralegal, Toni Treadway, tells the story of how she encountered an adoption reunion while at the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys annual meeting, which took place May 4-7, 2011 in Savannah, Georgia:
On the second date of the conference, I was presented with a “thank you” gift by my paralegal co-chair of a beautiful silver necklace with an adoption-inspired pendant of a triangle (representing the adoption triad of the connection between the child, the birth family, and the adoptive family), and a flower with a baby pearl (representing the growing of a family through adoption).
One evening, my husband, Daniel, and I decided drive to Tybee Island for a quiet dinner. Within the course of more than an hour, we stopped at four different restaurants, each time sitting down, ordering drinks and looking over the menu. However, each time I had a sense that we were not at the right place and so we continued our restaurant hop, at the growing frustration of my very tired and hungry husband. The last restaurant we found was a quaint pizza place named “The Lighthouse Pizza”, which was located just a block from the beach and pier. The restaurant was almost completely empty, but for 3 people sitting together at a table across the aisle from where we sat down.
We struck up a friendly conversation with the two men and one woman at the table across from us, making pleasantries about the weather and the food. The group was finishing their dinner and having an international beer tasting. We all talked and joked about the various drinks. During the course of us eating our appetizers and their finishing their tasting, we came to the point in conversation where they asked us if we lived in the area and we told them that we were in town for an adoption conference. Almost instantly upon hearing the word “adoption”, the woman at the table began to tear up and the older man quickly said he didn’t want to talk about it but that adoption was near and dear to their hearts. I understood completely, having worked in the adoption field for almost 15 years, and just responded to them that adoption was near and dear to my heart and well and I wished them the best.
Daniel and I withdrew a bit from the group conversation and continued enjoying our meal, the smell and sounds of the ocean, and the relaxing atmosphere. As we were getting ready to leave, the woman came up to me and told me that she and the older gentleman had dated when she was just 17 years old and that she had gotten pregnant and placed a baby for adoption. She pointed at the younger man at the table and said that he was their biological son, having located each other through the Adoption Reunion Registry some time ago, and that this evening they were meeting all together for the very first time. We had stumbled upon their birth family reunion after more than 33 years. At that point, we all began to tear up, I thanked her for sharing her story with me and I wished them all the best. Daniel and I then left the restaurant to give them private time alone.
As we were leaving the restaurant, I walked down the street and thought about the new adoption necklace around my neck. I immediately stopped and told Daniel that we needed to go back. I went inside the restaurant and the family was still there talking. I took off the necklace and approached the woman and explained to her how I received the necklace and what the pendant meant, and said it would be my honor and privilege if she would accept it as a gift as she deserved it far more than I did. We all cried and hugged and the woman and I exchanged emails and have continued to communicate regularly. It was a truly amazing experience that I will cherish always as it reminds me of how blessed I am to have chosen this career path.