PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – The picture of a smiling school girl always went along with a story my parents were happy to tell.
They wanted me to know that Lisa, my birth mother, was just 16 when gave me life, and she fought to find a home to give me love.
Mary and Jan Yutzy had already adopted my older brother when they moved from California's Bay area to the suburbs of Boston.
"We had been hoping to adopt again," my father, Jan Yutzy, said. "We didn't quite anticipate the way it happened so quickly, but we're delighted it did."
Late one summer night in 1980, my adoptive parents' phone rang. It was a cross-country call from a doctor colleague who knew they wanted a larger family.
"He said, 'Would you like to be a mother again?' and I said, 'Oh, yes. I'd love it,'" my mother, Mary Yutzy, said. "And I said, 'When is the baby due?' And he said, 'The baby's here.'"
An adoption agency had promised my birth mother that it had a home ready, but when the prospective parents discovered I was biracial, those people turned away. Still a child herself, Lisa knew she couldn't raise me, but she refused to leave the hospital until a family was found.
"The doctor, with the mother and you still in the hospital, called me," Mary told me. "He said to Lisa, 'I know who will be very happy to get your baby.'"
Mary was in California holding me the next day. That is where my two mothers met briefly in the hospital.
The short conversation left a lifelong impression on both of them. Mary told Lisa my name and where I would be raised. There were key details that she would never forget and that would lead her to find me.
Lisa gave my mother a photo and left knowing her son was safe.
"I can close this chapter of my life without looking back, never worrying that my son has found a good home," Mary Yutzy recalled Lisa telling her. "So I was really honored with that and, along with you, that was a great gift she gave me."
Just 48 hours after that surprise phone call, I went home to Massachusetts to be raised with the only family I ever knew, but knowing the story about my birth mother.
My parents praised her name, especially on my birthday and Mother's Day, and always supported any chance to reconnect their son with his mother.
"Welcome her into your life and, hopefully, she's going to be a precious part of your life for the rest of it," Mary Yutzy told me.