My Grandma Laura was adopted as an infant during the Great Depression in Texas. For many years, she was the only other adopted person I knew. I decided I wanted to interview her to better understand her perspective on being a fellow adoptee. Here’s how it went.
Tell me about yourself.
I am a mother, Grandmother, Great Grandma, and Christian. All these roles afford about as much adventure as this 84-year-old widow can handle. As for hobbies, I read a lot, watch more television than I should, do a little writing, study my Bible, and have recently started studying Spanish. I also do a lot of phone counseling with friends and family.
My large family, (four kids, 18 grandchildren, and 29 great-grandchildren) keeps me busy with family events throughout the year. My health is good other than the aches and pains that come with age, so I can enjoy my life and family. I am, and always have been, since the moment of my birth, a very blessed woman. And because of this, I am filled with gratitude to God and the people in my life.
Grandma and her crew
When and where were you born?
I was born in Texas in 1938. Just at the end of the Great Depression, an event that steered the entire direction of my life.
Grandma as a toddler
Tell me about your adoptive parents. Who were they and how long had they been married? Tell me about their families and where they came from.
My parents were Willie and Pete. They were married very young. She was 16 and he was 21. They began their married life on a small central Texas farm. He was from east Texas, very close to the Louisiana line and she was from a town just 15 miles from Waco.
Shortly after they married, my mother became pregnant but lost the baby at full term. I’m not sure what the problem was, but she had to have a complete hysterectomy, leaving her barren. It was a very sad time in their lives and I remember visiting the grave of that baby all my growing up years.
Sometime later, my dad got a job with the Gulf Oil Corporation. Gulf sent them to Kilgore, Texas and gave them a home in a small camp where I lived in my first home. Daddy never really stopped being a farmer. He always had a large vegetable garden, animals, chickens, a cow, a pig, and sometimes a horse. My mother was a homemaker and housewife. She cooked, cleaned, canned, and chased me all over the place. They were happy there. They reminisced about it often for the rest of their lives. They were hardworking, salt-of-the-earth people.
Grandma’s adoptive parents, Willie and Buel
Why did they settle on adoption?
My mother was unable to have another baby, and they longed for one. So they began looking for one. It was the Great Depression and many people were placing their children for adoption just so they could survive. They told their family doctor that they wanted to adopt, it wasn’t long until he found a family. He set up the whole thing for them, and my adoption was finalized in court when I was 1 hour old.
Tell me about your biological parents. Who were they, and how long had they been married? Tell me about their families and where they came from.
My biological father was June and my biological mother was Jessica.
They were both from Texas. They met in high school and, after dating for a short time, she became pregnant. I think his family was fairly prominent in the community and she was a little girl from Oklahoma. So a shotgun wedding quickly ensued. He got a job as a night watchman and an apartment above a local bank for $75 a week. That was a good job during the Depression.
So the newlyweds settled in to wait for their baby. That was November of 1937. I was due the following June. In February, he lost his job. There was nothing for them to do but go back to their separate paternal homes. In my (birth) dad’s home, an older sister had been supporting them. She was a school teacher and had fairly good job security. Their father had gone west looking for work. All of the kids worked part-time jobs and brought their money to their mom. The situation in my biological mom’s home was much the same: father gone seeking work and all the kids working. She also had a disabled sister, so her mother couldn’t work outside the home. In her family, children were suffering from malnutrition. So, just before my due date, they called both families together to decide what to do with the baby (me). They all voted to place me for adoption.
Grandma’s biological parents, Jessica, and June
Grandma’s biological mother, Jessica
How old were you when you were adopted?
Everything was finalized in court when I was 1 hour old.
When did you find out you were adopted? And how was that experience for you?
I knew from a very early age. Not because my parents told me, but from the careless talk from my cousins. I never told them I knew. When I was 18, just before I got married, through many tears, my mother sat me down and told me. I said, “It’s okay, Mother. I have known it for years. It doesn’t matter. I just want to know two things, what is my nationality and is there any sickness in my biological family I should know about?” She told me all she knew (which was very little). I was amazingly incurious about the whole thing and put it out of my mind. I had a wedding to plan and parties and showers to go to. It was probably the perfect time to tell me.
What was your childhood and family life like?
I had a wonderful childhood. I was a cherished child and I knew it. I wasn’t indulged, probably because they had grown up poor, and my Mom was a strict disciplinarian. She believed in the Biblical admonition, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”
When I was 5, Gulf Oil moved us to Southeast New Mexico and there I spent my growing up years. There I went through 12 years of school. We had family vacations back to Texas every summer where I could have the blessings of two large extended families, my mom’s in central Texas and my Dad’s in east Texas.
My dad taught me to hunt, fish, ride a horse, and drive a car. My mother taught me how to bake, and made sure I did my schoolwork. We lived mostly in small (6-home) oil camps where I developed lifelong close friendships. My parents were busy and faithful in church, so I was too.
Grandma as a young child
What was your favorite childhood memory?
Dinners at my Grandma Stanley’s when all the Aunts, Uncles, and cousins came home in the summertime was my favorite. That long dining room table was full of fresh vegetables from her garden and platters of fried chicken and pork chops. Lots of eating, conversation, and laughter.
How was your relationship with your parents?
Very close. They were my world.
Grandma and her adoptive father
Did you meet your biological parents? What was that experience like?
Yes, I did, later in my life. I don’t know if I can describe it. It has taken me years to absorb. It answered lots of questions. It gave me a sister and her family. It taught me a lot about understanding and forgiveness and added to my history.
Did you ever consider adoption to grow your family?
Not really. I had all I could handle the biological way. If someone had asked me to raise their baby, I would have been happy to do so.
What are some experiences you had with adoption in your life, besides your own?
My biological sister had one adopted child. My daughter has 5. I believe that it is one of the most biblical things we can do on this earth. The payback is love for both parents and children. It has made me understand the heart of God, probably more than anything else in my life. I think He is behind every adoption.
Grandma and me
What was the worst part about being adopted?
I can’t think of anything bad about it.
What was the best part about being adopted?
All of the LOVE.
If you could tell expectant parents considering placing their child for adoption one thing, what would it be?
If you can’t give your child what they need and deserve to become the person God meant them to be, then the most loving thing you can do for them is to place them in a home with parents who can.
If you could tell hopeful adoptive parents one thing, what would it be?
Once you adopt a baby, life is no longer about you. It’s all about that child.
If you could tell adoptees one thing, what would it be?
I believe you have been rescued. You may not see it now, but it will unfold for you as life goes on. You were wanted. You were loved. You were preferred. As a little girl, when kids teased me about being adopted, I would say to them, “My parents picked me. Yours had to take you whether they wanted you or not!”
In summary, how do you think adoption has impacted your life?
It has made me the person that I am.
Logistically, adoption looked a lot different 84 years ago. But like many adoption stories today, My Grandma Laura Jane’s story is one of love. Her biological parents parted with her to protect her out of love. Her adoptive parents adopted and raised her with love. She is the matriarch of our big, crazy family. She is a wonderful and wise influence on all of us. The choice of adoption redirected her entire life, therefore redirecting all of ours. And I am blessed to be her granddaughter and her namesake, Margaret Jane. And now my sweet baby girl, Eliza Jane, carries the same name as our beloved Grandma.
Laura Jane, Margaret Jane, and Eliza Jane