Growing up in Bowie, Texas, Ronna Quimby Huckaby knew she had been adopted as a baby. When she was old enough to know that meant, she was curious about the people who gave her life.
But the parents who raised her Frances and Evert Quimby were so loving and her large extended family so close that she didn't think about her biological parents that much. She was popular, pretty, outgoing and had a happy childhood. But every year on her birthday, she'd wonder if somewhere out there, her biological mother remembered her birthday, too.
Years later, the adult Huckaby attended a reunion of children who had been adopted out of The Homestead Maternity Home in Fort Worth. After that she considered tracking down her birth mother.
When I left there I didn't realize I was searching, Huckaby recalled in an interview. But I was interested in getting medical records. I thought it would be so nice to have a family history.
That search led to a daughter's journey of love and understanding that Huckaby has chronicled in her first book, Somewhere Out There: My Experience of Adoption and Search for Understanding, published by Wild Horse Press in Walnut Springs. She and her husband, Billy Huckaby, rodeo announcer and head of the Glen Rose Convention & Visitors Bureau, founded the publishing company and print or market a long list of titles. The Huckabys live outside Walnut Springs.
Ronna will be signing books this Saturday at Storiebook Cafe during Girls Night Out. She is planning other book signings in Bowie, Austin and Fort Worth, where she works as chief operation officer of Recovery Resource Council and is also a licensed professional counselor.
Her book's title comes from the song "Somewhere Out There," with lyrics by James Horner, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil:
Somewhere out there someone's saying a prayer
That we'll find one another
in that big somewhere out there.
When Huckaby's parents adopted the six-day-old baby girl, she didn't even have a name. She was listed as "Baby Girl Lamb." Years later Huckaby was looking through the drawer of her mother's cedar chest when she came across letters and other documents from her adoption. They included an itemized bill. It had cost her parents $872.10 to adopt her.
"It is strange looking at a statement, invoice, or receipt that documents a transaction for a baby," Huckaby writes. She had not only been given away, she had been sold. Or so it seemed at the time.
Huckaby began writing letters to her birth mother and birth father. They were unsent, of course, because she did not know either one's identity. She only had a last name for the mother that she had gotten from Frances.
Everything changed in November 2001. A woman who helped adoptees track down their birthparents a so-called "search angel" agreed to help Huckaby find her birth mother. Then she learned her birth mother's first name Betsy, short for Elizabeth. Huckaby got on the Internet and found a woman who had been gone to high school in Pennsylvania. The dates seemed right. Huckaby passed the information on to the searcher. Then she started composing a real letter to the woman she had come from but had not known.
"What does one write to encourage someone to be a part of your life, to let them know you are not a sick, crazy lunatic out to disrupt their life," Huckaby recalls in the book. Would she be perceived as a disruption or an "unwanted weed springing up in the garden?"
In January 2002 Huckaby received a short letter from her biological mother. It wasn't exactly a rejection, but her birth mother expressed a mixture of shock, confusion and gladness. But no mention of a reunion. A medical history was attached. The family had an extensive history of breast cancer. That knowledge later would help Huckaby make a lifesaving decision.
Huckaby ended up e-mailing her mother, thinking that might be a "safer" way to communicate. This time she responded. Huckaby sent her photographs.
Meanwhile, Huckaby had not told her parents that she was even searching for her birth mother. Her father was quiet at first, worried that his daughter would get hurt, but both he and Frances were supportive. Frances even began gathering more photographs for Betsy to help fill in the blanks of the missing years.
When Huckaby and her birth mother, who was living in New Jersey, finally met, the first thing she noticed was Betsy's hands they were exactly like hers.
"When I met her, it like icing in my life," Huckaby said.
Huckaby learned her birth mother had been a flight attendant for the old Braniff Airlines. During a layover in Hawaii on the way to Hong Kong, she met a good-looking surfer and was entranced. They spent three weeks together. Then she had to leave. They never saw each other again, but when Betsy returned to Dallas she discovered she was pregnant.
On the visit to meet Betsy, Huckaby also met aunts, uncles and cousins and saw photographs of her grandmother, with whom she shares a remarkable resemblance. She also connected with her birth father's family. He had died young, at age 44, of kidney cancer.
In 2005 and 2006, Huckaby lost her parents, Frances and Evert. She and Betsy stay in touch, but their relationship is more like close family friends than mother-daughter.
"Maybe that is because I was able to share a fulfilling relationship with my mother, Frances, and even after the void of her death, I don't need someone else to step in and be a mother to me," Huckaby writes.
She and Billy Huckaby married in 2005 and Ronna is step-mother to her two "bonus daughters," Cindy, who works with Ronna, and Stacy, who attends junior high in Godley.
"I know that being a bonus mom differs from being an adoptive mother, but there are some similarities," Huckaby writes in her last chapter. "We both are given an opportunity to influence children who are not born to us.
When a mammogram and subsequent tests revealed that Huckaby had the genetic "breeding ground" for breast cancer and given the new knowledge of her family history, last year she decided to undergo a double masectomy. She recovered and this month finishes what, hopefully, will be the last of her reconstructive surgery. Finding her birth mother not only have given Huckaby a more complete identity with the blanks filled in, but also her life.
Huckaby said she wrote the book to "honor my parents and their legacy." But it's also about realizing that the search for missing links to the past and their discovery don't necessarily change the person you've become.
"You have to be whole on the inside and realize we're not made up of others," Huckaby said. "And that you can rise above anything."
Huckaby's book will be on sale in Glen Rose at Storiebook Cafe, on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com and on www.ronnahuckaby.com.