During the previous weeks I had been sent copies of many wedding license applications from different counties, none of which seemed to have any significance with my genesis. But the third envelope with a return address of Putnam County stirred my attention, for the headline read, “Application is hereby made for a License for the Marriage of: Floyd Price to Betty Stewart.” As I veered downwards, the issue date was December 29, 1951–the precise wedding date mentioned in the court summary.
The shock of seeing a statistical match made me feel weak. It would be much easier to regard the incident as a hoax, I thought, but the coincidence was too obvious. Along with the lifelong habit of searching, I had become comfortable in gathering erroneous information. It was uncomfortable, however, to once again hold a document that was somehow associated with my introduction to this world.
I held the record open at arms length and viewed it like a student of abstract art. The blanks were filled with exaggerated spirals and words were slanted to the right. Because of my left-handedness, I always slanted the opposite direction. The first letter of each word was strongly accented followed by much smaller lowercase letters. Small p’s, g’s, and y’s sometimes looped down two or three lines. Further down on the Female column of the parchment it said, Signature of Applicant. I was overwhelmed from seeing my birthmother’s penmanship for the first time. The artistically styled “B” in Betty was my first glimpse into her creative past. If my search had truly come to an end, I tried to convince myself to feel fortunate in possessing an artifact that so many adoptees are denied, like the handwriting swirls of one’s birthmother that float on a piece of paper.
I looked again at the name of the future bride on the right corner. Her maiden name was Stewart. The application was divided into two columns for each applicant: left for the male, right for the female. I peered down the right column and continued reading. In the blank asking the full Christian and surname of father was written Otis Stewart. His occupation said state highway employee–my Grandfather! Until that moment I had never conceptualized another grandpa, like Mom’s dad, who died when I was a teenager. Grandma died when I was a child.
Further down, the full Christian and maiden name of mother specified Hattie Murphy, my Grandmother! My personal revelation intensified as I uncovered the identities of three relatives.