E. Woodman. E. Woodman. For the umpteenth time Jerald Rogers assured himself that cryptic inscription had to be a name, perhaps a viable clue to the identity of his own birth mother. In a matter of days, as her apparently caring note washed away layers of encrusted resentment, a new and unfamiliar notion of looking for her had won a place in his thoughts.
With his parents’ approval and Megan’s continuing encouragement, his long-held reasons for not acting were losing their power and fading into the background. The urge to act was growing. Perhaps it was time.
“Do you want to go looking with me?” Jerald asked, looking up from his mac and cheese dinner to address Megan, who at that moment was trying to coax their son to accept his bottle.
Shifting Ryan in her lap, she answered, “Looking for what?”
“To find out if that E. Woodman name is really a lead or not. I was thinking we could start with a Google search for State records under that name. Assuming I was born in California, that is. If that doesn’t work, and I can’t believe it will be that easy, I don’t know where we might go next.”
“We won’t know ‘til we try, will we?” Megan replied. “I’m just glad you’ve decided it’s time for that. When I get Ryan in bed, let’s see what we can find.”
What could they find? That was the question. In the rapidly evolving internet age, where exhaustive Google searches might be just a click or two away, where would 'E. Woodman' take them?
“Your folks adopted you through an agency in San Jose. Right?” Megan asked later that evening as the two of them settled down in front of the computer. “That’s what your Mom said. If you call up Google, and enter California Birth Records, that might get us started. If we could find a record of your birth, that would give us something to go on.”
A moment later a page labeled California Birth Index 1905-1995 appeared on the screen. “I was a 1994 baby, so the record ought to be here,” Jerald said. “Except look at the fine print at the bottom of the page. You have to be a member to access the index....and that’s twenty bucks a month.”
“But it says we can sign up for a free one-month trial subscription. That’s all we should need. If we’re lucky, a ten minute trial would be enough.”
In a matter of minutes Jerald had filled out the appropriate form, supplied the required credit card information, and was ready to follow the bold-faced prompts that would take him to the Birth Index.
“Don’t let me forget to cancel this when we’re done,” he reminded Megan. “If I don’t I’m on the hook for a twelve-month subscription. You can bet we’ve got better uses for two-hundred forty bucks.”
“We won’t forget. Now let’s see where E Woodman leads us.”
Ah yes, the wonders of today’s internet. How had mankind managed so long without it? As new, and very temporary, members of the highly-touted search service, calling up their California Birth Index listings took all of ten seconds.
Then, entering the now ubiquitous 'E Woodman' in the search line, along with a qualifying “1994” date, Jerald clicked once more and a new screen offered an eleven-line listing of 1994 records that include the name - E. Woodman.
“There we are,” Megan nodded. She was standing behind him now, looking over his shoulder. “If this index is complete, you and your mother ought to be right there in front of us. So which of these fit the timeline of your July eighth birthday?”
It took only a quick cursory glance to earn Jerald’s emphatic “Damn. We’re right back where we started.”
“What does that mean?” She was squinting to read the small computer print.
“Just look. There’s a July third entry that lists Everett Woodman as the father. I'm guessing he didn't have that "little angel" with him for nine months.
"The next line, for a July seventh birth, just lists E. Woodman, the same as we already have. But even if that’s the right record, chances are it doesn’t have anything new.”
“Let’s call it up and be sure.” Megan pulled her chair closer to better see the screen. “Maybe it has some other details.”
A single click and a few seconds wait for the file to load produced a facsimile of an original birth record, which earned Jerald’s disgusted, “See what I mean?
“It’s the same E. Woodman. She had a son on July seventh. That’s a day before what the folks thought it was. But there is no father listed. The entry is from Santa Clara County, which I didn’t know before, but that doesn’t matter either. It’s another dead-end. There’s nothing here that gives us a clue about where to go next.”
“That is a bummer.” Megan too seemed ready to admit defeat. In fact, it was hard to know why she even noticed the last receding lines of print as Jerald clicked back to the index listing.
“Wait,” she blurted. “Go back for a second.”
“Just do it. I thought I saw something that didn’t fit at all.”
A second later, with the E. Woodman file back on the screen, she was pointing to the lower right corner. “There, on the “Residence” line. See? She was having a baby in Santa Clara County. But she gives her residence as Tanner, Oregon. What the heck is that about?”
“I don’t know. But an 'Oregon' baby in California doesn't make any sense. Seems like we've got more looking to do.”
Jerald closed his eyes and his chin sank to his chest. They had caught a hopeful and altogether unexpected break with his mother’s ‘E. Woodman’ note. Now it seemed they were watching that intriguing possibility go bad. With that weighty disappointment washing over him, it seemed like a good time to step back and consider a new approach.
Sadly, that ‘new approach,’ whatever it might be, had still not made itself known the next morning when the two of them sat down for a coffee and toast breakfast. By then, though Jerald showed little interest in discussing the matter, Megan could tell the wheels were turning.
“Do you have any new ideas?” she asked when he finally set the morning paper aside. “We’re not going to give up are we?”
“No” was the extent of his unenthusiastic reply.
“So what are you going to do.”
“I’m not sure," Megan answered. "I’ve tried to imagine how we could use our new temporary membership to search the Oregon records. But we wouldn’t know what to look for. Besides, how would we tell if we found the right someone? The latest census records are from 1940. That’s before you came along."
“The lady we’re looking for could have been just fifteen when I was born....or she could have been forty. I don’t think it’s practical to check out every Woodman in the state.”
Megan stood to clear away the few dishes. then stopped short, hijacked by a new and different possibility. “I’ll be right back,” she said as she hurried off to the family room.
A couple minutes later, as Jerald started to the bedroom to dress for work, Megan was calling for him to join her at the computer.
Her mischievous grin had him wondering as he pulled a chair up beside her. “It was my turn to spend some big bucks,” she explained. “It cost us a dollar ninety-nine to look up this phone book listing. Take a look at what I’ve found.”
There, midway down a page from the Tanner, Oregon telephone white pages was the single bold-print line.
Elaine Woodman, 1430 Tanner Hgts Blvd--followed by a 503 area code phone number.
By the time he had read and reread that phone-book line, from a town he had scarcely heard of, Jerald Rogers sensed that he might be late for work that morning. There was, of course, no way of knowing for sure that it was the right E Woodman ....the elusive connection they were looking for. The name was a fit, and place matched the reference from the Birth Index. Right or wrong, it felt as though he had never been so close.
There was no way he could explain his impulsive response to that new bit of information. It was eight o’clock in the morning....hardly the time for a social call. Yet by the time Megan returned to the kitchen she found Jerald sitting at the breakfast bar, with the wireless phone to his ear. She waited silently, listening as his call was answered and a mechanical sounding voice said, “Hello.”
For an instant Jerald was not sure he could reply, or what he would say if he could. Twice he started to form his words, and twice he came up short.
“Hello?” the feminine voice asked again. “Is anyone there?”
The possibility that she might hang up was enough to spur the young man into action. “Is this Elaine Woodman? Is that you?”
Though Elaine Woodman had no way of knowing, their abbreviated conversation was over. With a deliberate poke at the ‘End’ button Jerald set the phone on the counter, bowed his head into his hands, and shed the soft tears his wife had not seen coming.