According to English essayist Charles Lamb (1817-1834), everyone has two birthdays: the day on which they were born and New Year's Day. Well, if this is true, then I have three birthdays. November 17th, the day on which I was born, New Year's Day, and February 27, the day on which I was adopted by Marjorie and James Melton from The Cradle in Illinois. In my book, that is certainly a day to be celebrated!
After seventeen years of marriage (my mother was 36 and my father 42), they embarked on the adoption process. Considered by many agencies to be too old to adopt a child, they found a sympathetic reception at The Cradle in Evanston, Illinois. Other celebrities had "Cradle Babies," among them most notably Bob Hope, Pat O'Brien and George Burns. I wonder if my parents' friendship with the O'Briens (during my father's short movie career) had anything to do with my advent. The process, once initiated, took almost a year. But then, suddenly on February 16, 1946, they got the call to come to Chicago. My father was on a concert tour, my mother on vacation with her mother at Hot Springs, Virginia.
Here's what my mother wrote in her journal:
"We couldn't meet - Jimmie and I - until February 27th. Ten days - of dreaming, hoping, wondering what she was like. Ten days of labor pains! As real as real ones, for I thought of nothing else, and was so tense as to be almost ill. Jimmie and I talked daily by phone, conjecturing, naming her, planning. I thought of that little life beginning and the momentous decision that would decide her future. Was she ours or wasn't she? I needed her so much that I knew she had to be."
They hadn't told anyone, not even family, that the adoption was imminent. Imagine the relatives' surprise when my father sang a lullaby on his radio program a few days later, and then announced that it was for his new baby daughter named Marjorie Linda, to be called Margo.