Danville woman gets her 'greatest Christmas gift' - her birth mother

January 09, 2004|HERB BROCK

In early December Tara Johnson went to her mailbox outside her Smith Street home in Danville and found an envelope from a state far away. She expected to find a Christmas card inside. What she found was much better.

It was not just season's greetings. It was salutations spanning many seasons. It was from a person she never knew but had desperately wanted to know. It was from the woman who gave birth to her three decades earlier.

Christmas 2003 had come early for Johnson.

"When I opened that letter, it was like opening the greatest Christmas gift ever," said Johnson, 30. "It was an answer to a wish I had had for years and years."

The early Christmas gift and the answer to the longtime wish came from Debbie Terziu, 47, of Auburndale, Fla. She had written Johnson to give her two bits of good news: first, Terziu was her birth mother; and, second, she wanted to meet Johnson.


That meeting came earlier this week at Johnson's home. Terziu's church, Free Will Baptist of Auburndale, knowing that she lives on a modest income, raised money to pay for the gas she would need to drive from Florida to Danville for the mother-daughter re-union and then return home.

On a couch in Johnson's small living room earlier this week, she and Terziu brought each other up to date about their lives, often dabbing tears on each other's cheeks and giving each other long hugs. They also let their family members and guests in on the extraordinary way they were finally able to come in contact with each other. They were connected by computer after blind, shot-in-the-dark, fingertip trips over the Internet.

First, they told of the disconnection.

Terziu, who grew up in Indianapolis and also lived in California, had moved with her family to Louisville when she was a teenager. At 15 she became pregnant. She and her parents didn't consider abortion and also ruled out keeping the baby. Adoption was their only option.

"We knew what had to be done. The decision about what to do with the baby was easy," said Terziu, who was 16 when she gave birth to Tara in the summer of 1973. "But the closer it got to giving birth, the idea of giving up something, someone, a life that was a part of me, wasn't easy. And it become real tough when (Tara) was born."

The adoption, arranged through Catholic Charities, was closed. Terziu was not given any information about the couple that had adopted her baby, and Johnson was not to be told anything about her birth mother.

After the birth and adoption, Terziu went on to marry twice, both unions ending in divorce. Often on her own, she raised the products of those two marriages - four boys and a girl.

She has lived in several states and tried to put food on her children's tables and roofs over their heads through low-income jobs and welfare checks. She now cleans houses, babysits and does other odd jobs to pay her bills, but the income she gets can be stretched a little farther with most of her children now grown and out of the house.

In the meantime, Johnson lived with her adoptive parents in the Louisville area until she was 12. There were problems in the home, and her parents decided to put her up for adoption.

"We weren't getting along with each other. Everything was tense. Nothing ever seemed to be settled," Johnson said. "So the people who originally adopted me thought I could have a better life with another family."

Meanwhile, she also spent time at the Christian Children's Campus in Danville in a program for troubled children.

Her second adoption was by a Danville couple

Johnson then was adopted a second time - and she did find that "better life." After living in a family with problems and in a facility for children with problems, she was welcomed to a home with few problems and a "lot of love."

That home belongs to Duane and Rosalind Campbell of Danville. The welcome from her new parents came when Johnson was 14. She became their only child.

"For the first time in my life, I was with people who really wanted me," she said. "I didn't realize people could be so kind, caring and understanding, but also offer structure and rules, until I came to be with Duane and Roz. I am - I will always be - so grateful to them."

Johnson is trying to provide the same "kind, caring and understanding" home with structure for her own children, two boys ages 9 and 6. And she will need at least moral support from the Campbells because she is going through a divorce.

But Johnson, a graduate of Boyle County High School, hopes to be able to handle her household on her own in the near future. She currently is attending the National College of Business and Technology in Danville and hopes to parlay the education she is getting there into a career as a medical assistant.

Central Kentucky News Articles