Charlotte Reves gave birth on Mother’s Day 1972.
This year, she finally gets to celebrate.
Reves didn’t name the 8-pound, 4-ounce boy she delivered in La Mesa, Calif. She didn’t even glance at him for fear that if she did, she couldn’t bear to give him to the adoptive couple she selected with the help of her doctor.
“I was 18, straight out of high school,” said Reves, whose husband didn’t want kids and told her to either give up the baby or have an abortion. “I was from an abusive family, and I didn’t want to carry that on.”
On Thursday, Reves’ boy came to Spokane to live with his birth mother. Thin and outgoing like Reves, James David Deuel arrived on a Greyhound bus, carrying a gift from his adoptive parents to the woman who gave them a son: a locket James’ grandmother wore until she died in 1979.
Inside the locket is a picture of James as an infant.
“It’s the only baby picture I have of him,” said Reves.
James Deuel Sr. cried when his son left home. But he did not try to stop him.
“We’ve always held him with what I would consider an open hand and at this point in time, he’s going to enjoy another part of his life,” said James Sr. in a telephone interview from Orcas Island, Wash.
James Jr. said it’s time to learn who he was before his adoptive parents made him who he is.
“There are a lot of holes in life when you don’t know where you come from,” he said. “You look at yourself in the mirror and think, ‘Which parts come from where?”’
Reves said giving up the only child she would ever have was a gut-wrenching decision, but one she’s never regretted. It’s only been in the last few years that her life has been stable enough to support somebody else, she said.
Reves’ husband told her he wanted a separation shortly after James’ birth, so Reves joined the Air Force. Stationed in Western Washington when she was discharged in 1979, she visited Spokane and decided to settle here instead of returning to Southern California.
She’s never remarried, and worked low-wage jobs until five years ago, when Boeing hired her to work in its West Plains plant.
In the 1980s, the Deuels made a parallel move, from Los Angeles to Orcas Island. An only child, James Jr., told his adoptive parents when he was 9 that someday he would find his birth parents.
The search took two years, with the help of Judy Wallace, an island friend who had helped her own adoptive children find their birth parents.
Deuel first found his birth father, Christopher Dejeda. The two talked on the telephone several times before agreeing to meet at Dejeda’s California home last December.
Dejeda had a few of Reves’ possessions, including a report card that showed Deuel the correct spelling for his mother’s name, and the names of her parents. Those were the last clues Deuel and Wallace needed to complete the search.
Wallace contacted Reves’ uncle in Lewiston, who didn’t know his niece’s whereabouts. The uncle called an aunt in California, who called a cousin, who called Reves in Spokane.
The cousin started the conversation with, “Are you sitting down?” Reves immediately asked if it was about her son.
“In the past couple months, I’ve lost three of my grandparents. My first thought should have been, someone has died,” she said. “But it wasn’t.”
As soon as the cousin hung up, the phone rang again. It was Wallace, wondering whether Reves would mind hearing from James.
“I said, ‘Honey, I want to know him. I want to meet him,”’ said Reves. “But I told her to tell him that I was going to be nervous.”
The next night, the telephone rang again, and the young man on the other end said, “Avon calling!” “He’s got my sense of humor,” said Reves.
That was Wednesday, April 18. The next day, Reves drove six hours and rode the ferry for two hours to see her son for the first time. James knows everyone in the small community; pretty soon, Reves did too.
“The first thing he did was take me to the grocery store and introduce me to people in the aisles, to people behind the meat counter,” she said.
“He introduced me to people in the streets as his mother.”
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