Following Megan's city-map instructions Jerald drove his young family past block after block of impressive homes and country-club opulence. Obviously their birth-mother search was taking them to an affluent part of town.
Minutes later they were standing before one of those elegant mansions as Jerald summoned the nerve to ring the door bell. The woman who opened the door was sure they had the wrong address, until he produced his 'evidence.'
TANNER, OR (March, 2016)
It took Jerald and Megan only minutes to realize that Tanner Heights was not a normal, run-of-the-mill suburban subdivision. The palatial mansions and manicured grounds they passed on the street leading to the top of the “Heights” were enough to confirm that. By the time they slowed to take in the sprawling Tanner Heights Country Club complex the reality of life on “The Hill” was becoming ever more obvious.
As they passed the Club’s parking lot Jerald was ready with his own observation. “Man, just look at those fancy vehicles. You won’t find many Fords or Chevies in that bunch. I’m guessing economy cars don’t sell all that well in Tanner Heights.”
“Well, just look at these homes,” Megan added as they turned onto Tanner Heights Boulevard. “At least the ones we can see, that aren’t hidden behind a wall or a fence. Who is going to park a car like ours in front of these places?”
“I’m guessing we’ll be doing that,” he answered, squinting to read a half-hidden street number. They were getting closer. 1430 Tanner Heights Boulevard must be just ahead on the right, directly across the street from the Country Club’s long, green fairway.
“There it is,” Megan said, pointing out the rustic mail box, and the shrubbery-lined driveway leading to an unseen home.
Jerald pulled to a stop, and for a moment seemed to be doubting his own resolve. Was he ready to do what must be done? Then, with a last deep breath, he turned into the narrow driveway that wound its way up the gentle slope, through what had the look of a well-maintained park.
“Look at that,” Megan gasped as they rounded the last turn and the imposing two-story brick home stood before them. “My God, it looks like a palace.”
“Yeah, it does. I hope they won’t mind if we park our Kia in front of it.”
A moment later, while Megan unbuckled Ryan from his car seat in preparation for their Elaine Woodman introduction, Jerald sat gripping the steering wheel, reminding himself what was actually about to happen. He had moved beyond the dreaming and dreading. After a lifetime of wondering, his questions were hopefully about to be answered.
It was a decidedly timid procession that traipsed slowly to the wide, colonnaded front porch. Once there, standing before the ornate door bell, he nodded to his wife, hoping his trembling anxieties were not as obvious as they felt. Finally, with a nervous flourish, he pressed the button and listened as the multi-tone device summoned whoever was inside.
Seconds later the massive door inched open to reveal a matronly, gray-haired woman, wearing a floral house coat. “Yes?” she asked, obviously surprised to see the young family standing there on her porch. “May I help you?”
For long seconds Jerald stood expressionless, looking into the woman’s face....until Megan’s gentle nudge brought him back to the moment.
“Yes, ma’am,” he stuttered. “Yes you may. You’re Mrs. Woodman, right? Elaine Woodman?”
“That’s right,” she answered, then waited, until finally she wondered if it was time to end their mysterious stand-off. “Can you tell me what you’re about?”
For an instant he sensed the urge to turn and run away. Why was this woman, who could well be his own mother, so cold and indifferent? The reunion he remembered envisioning had never begun like that. Yet there she was, standing right in front of him, seeming to lose her patience. He must move ahead.
“You see,” he finally continued. “I am Jerald Rogers. This is my wife, Megan, and our son, Ryan.”
Was that supposed to mean something to her? It certainly did not. “I don’t understand,” she replied.
Keep going, Jerald told himself. Stick with the plan. “The thing is, my name is Jerald. But I believe you once called me 'your little angel.” There, he had said it out loud. Surely she must understand by now.
The woman’s confusion was growing by the second. There she was, on her own front porch, early on a Saturday morning, playing word games with a complete stranger. How could she put an end to that?
“I called you 'An angel'? Why in the world would I have done that? I’ve never seen you before. I think you have the wrong address.” With that she reached back for the door knob.
“Just a minute. Please.” From his jacket pocket Jerald produced a pair of folded pages, glanced at them to be sure he had the right one, and handed it to her.
“You’re Elaine Woodman aren't you?” Accepting her hesitant nod as an answer, he added, “Then I believe this will explain what I’m about.”
Unfolding the single handwritten page she read,
This little angel has been with me for nine months. Now he or she deserves a better life than I could ever give him or her. Please help this little one have the best future possible.
Elaine read his note once, and then again, before handing it back to him. “I have no idea what this is about.”
By then the truth was sinking in. The woman Jerald believed to be his own mother was unwilling to accept the fact of him in her life. Perhaps that was how it would end. Still, he had one last card to play. Without another word, he handed her a second page.
“What is this?” Studying the paper for a moment Elaine asked. “It says it is a Santa Clara County Birth Registration. What does that mean?”
“It means what it says. See the date....July 7, 1994. That’s me. That’s when I was born, in San Jose, California. You can see at the bottom of the page that my mother said her name was E. Woodman, and she lived in Tanner, Oregon. That’s what this is about. It’s about my mother.”
“Oh, my God.”
With those few emphatic words Jerald’s questions, the ones he had waited so long to ask, were put on hold. More to the point, the possibilities Elaine Woodman was weighing at that moment threatened to overwhelm her ability to carry on.
She had set that contentious bit of family history aside decades before....consigning it to some rarely-visited corner of her memory, far from the light of day. But now this young man, and the evidence he offered, could not be shunted aside. He was standing there before her, sounding quite insistent.
Finally, Elaine looked up at the young couple. “Won’t you come inside?” she asked quietly. “Please. There’s no need for us to stand out here.”
With questioning frowns Jerald and Megan stepped into the tastefully decorated entry hall, standing in awe, surrounded by perhaps the first honest-to-goodness mansion they had ever seen up close.
“Come with me,” their hostess urged, motioning them through the wide double doors into an elegantly appointed living room.
“Can you tell us what’s going on,” Jerald replied. “Why the sudden change?”
“Give me a couple minutes to put the coffee on, and make a phone call. Then perhaps we can try to solve this mystery of yours. I’ll be right back.”
In a matter of minutes the coffee maker was perking away and Elaine was leaning against the kitchen counter with her cell phone to her ear.
“Good morning, Erin. You’re still home. I’m glad I caught you.”
“I’m just getting ready to drop Susanne off at the club for her tennis lessons.”
“Good,” her mother answered. “Because I need you to come by here as soon as you can.”
“I think not. It seems like this might be something just for you.”
“What do your mean, ‘Something just for me’? I don’t understand.”
“Please hurry. You’ll see soon enough.”