BY DANNY MOGLE | PHOTOS BY ANDREW D. BROSIG | Nov/Dec 2016
Boo Marshall grew up asking a lot of questions.
When she was a child, her parents told her she was adopted. Even though she loved her father and mother, Boo wanted to know about her birth parents.
Questions haunted her. Who were they? Where did they come from? Why did they give her up? What traits did she inherit from them? Why did she often feel insecure?
“I was told that I was adopted at a very young age and that my natural mother couldn’t keep me,” shares Boo. “I asked repeatedly who and where was my real mother. Mother said, ‘The woman (she never used the word mother) that had you couldn’t keep you, so she had you for me.’
“For some reason, that story always sounded sort of lame, but I had no choice but to go along with it. I asked the same questions for years, but my parents stuck with the same story.”
Boo had trouble truly bonding with her adoptive mother. She began to better understand her feelings when she later read “The Primal Wound,” a book which asserts that abandonment issues adoptees feel toward their biological mother can hinder their ability to bond with others. The book says the need to find one’s birth mother is part of a natural longing to heal “an aching sense of loss.”
Despite loving adoptive parents, Boo couldn’t escape issues involving rejection, trust, intimacy and loyalty. As a young adult, Boo embarked on what became a 30-year odyssey to resolve her inner conflicts and find the answers that eluded her.
She shares her emotional journey in “A Different Bus: Journey of a Long Lost Heart.” She says the autobiographical book is a story about “life’s challenges, healing, forgiveness and love.”
UNWED AND PREGNANT
The title comes from a story Boo tells early the book about her mother, Marguerite, and her aunt, Lillie, who as young women in rural Georgia in 1939 were unwed and pregnant. Because of the shame and public scorn associated with giving birth out of wedlock, their parents sent them away to different homes for unwed girls to have their babies and put them up for adoption.
The heartbroken Marguerite gave up her baby girl, who she named Iris, to an adoption agency in New Orleans. However, Lillie did not give up her baby. Ironically both sisters arrived back on the same day but on a different bus.
At the adoption agency in New Orleans, Iris was renamed Clara. Dot and Hooley Maxwell, a couple from Texas adopted baby Clara who they nicknamed Boo. The Maxwells had aborted a previous pregnancy and adopted to help fill a void in their lives.
Boo spent most of her childhood living in Texas. She eventually married Fred Maxwell and moved to Tyler. The Maxwells have three grown children.
Boo launched the search for her birth parents in 1965.
“I began consulting adoption and government agencies, private investigators and many others,” she writes in the preface. “The internet and personal computers were not even in existence during most of the time. I also found the Adoption Liberty Movement Association where I learned that an invisible bond connected all of us (who are adopted): the need to know who we were.”
Boo quickly learned that Louisiana had some of the mostly tightly closed adoption records. With very little initial information to go on, Boo’s inquiries and time-consuming searches through the few records she could get her hands own led to one heartbreak and disappointment after another.
“In almost 30 years of searching I had investigated and exhausted all leads with few positive results — actually none,” she says.
She did not begin to make headway until 1995 when a woman with access to a Louisiana adoption registry who had helped other adoptees sent her documents that contained the full name and the hometown of her birth mother.
Using available databases and information accessible through the internet, Boo was at long last able to track down and call her elderly birth mother, who, although hesitant, agreed to meet her.
“When I hung up the telephone, I was trembling,” she writes in the book. “Oh my God, what just happened? My head was spinning with the many emotions I was feeling: total disbelief that my search was over, happiness that I had finally found her, utter exhaustion having gone through the process.
“But I also felt a letdown. There were still so many unanswered questions, questions that would take time and patience to get answered … Would she be able to forget the past and accept me?”
Boo was able to forge a relationship with her birth mother and help her let go of the long-held grief and bitterness for having to give up a baby long ago.
“I feel that good fortune blessed me when my natural mother, Marguerite, opened the door she closed many years ago, giving me the opportunity to thank her for giving me life. In finding her, we both experienced closure, an end to a secret life and time to finally heal.
“I was doubly blessed to have been given a home, guidance and love by my wonderful adoptive parents. … They adopted me, and in doing so, helped my birth mother who wasn’t able to keep me, but also so they could heal and reconcile their past that haunted them.”
WRITING THE BOOK
At first, Boo had no plans to write a book.
“So many people were excited about my story,” she says. “They would tell me, ‘You need to write a book.’ And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would bring closure.”
Boo says she is overjoyed when people tell her that “A Different Bus” is helping them confront the difficult and deep emotions involved with adoption
“Many people have difficulty dealing with the pain of having to give up a child for adoption or facing questions concerning why their birth parents did not keep them. When I talk (to groups) about the book, I always have people who come up to me and want to tell me their story. Everyone has a story about adoption. By reading the book and hearing me share my story they are willing to discuss their private thoughts.”
“A Different Bus” can be ordered through its website, a differentbus.com, and in Tyler at Potpourri House, Sweet Gourmet and Hastings.