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Together at last for the holidays

Lake Oswego teen will sit down with both her adoptive and birth families for Thanksgiving
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Nancy Grochowski, left, meets her biological daughter, Gen Speck, for the first time when their families got together in Jantzen Beach. Grochowski replied to Speck’s “missed connections” Craigslist ad only three hours after it was posted on the Web site.

One evening not too long ago, Genevieve Speck sat down at her computer and typed out pieces of her life story.

'I am 18 years old and I was adopted as a newborn,' she wrote. 'I am looking for my birth mother. Her name is Nancy Grochowski. She has three children. If you know her, please let her know her daughter is searching for her.'

With a click, she posted her words under the 'missed connections' category on Craigslist, turned off the computer and went to bed.

For Genevieve, a Lakeridge High School student who goes by 'Gen ,' the posting was a last-ditch effort to find a mother she never knew.

Three hours later, a stranger came across a Craigslist ad that included the name of her best friend, Nancy Grochowski. She quickly forward it on to the Grochowski family in Amboy, Wash.

Nancy, unemployed and struggling to pay her bills, prayed for a miracle that night before falling asleep.

'My daughter woke me up and said, 'Mom, you've got to come see this (e-mail),'' Nancy said. 'I was totally flabbergasted. I couldn't get back to sleep because I was so excited.'

The next morning, Gen found a reply from her birth mother in her inbox. It was 7 a.m. but she couldn't help herself. She picked up the phone and made the call.

'We immediately started crying,' Gen said. 'I had waited my whole life for it and it finally happened.'

This Thanksgiving, Gen will sit down in her Lake Oswego home for dinner with two families - the one she came from and the one that raised her from a newborn into a young woman.

Both families agree that, this year, they have a lot to be thankful for.

'It was a miracle,' Nancy said. 'I was wishing for a job or to win the lottery but this is the best miracle I could have had in my life.'

It will be the second big get-together for Nancy and Gen, who reunited at a Denny's restaurant in Jantzen Beach the night of their first phone call.

For both women, there were a lot of unanswered questions.

With the help of her adopted parents, Fred Speck and Cynthia Ferrier, Gen sent letters and pictures to Nancy over the years and posted ads on the Oregon Adoption Registry. They hoped for a reply, but it never came.

'I thought she might be angry,' Gen said. 'It had kind of always been an empty space. I always thought 'I wonder what my mom is doing right now.''

Meanwhile, Fred and Cynthia, now divorced, were nervous about the reunion. They didn't know what they would say to Nancy, whom they had never met. But they knew this moment was important for Gen, who always knew she was adopted.

The diner door opened and Nancy rushed in. There were hugs and tears all around.

'It was overwhelming in the beginning,' Cynthia said.

Soon, everyone settled down to talk. Gen found out she had two older sisters Dawn and Samantha, an older brother Brian and four nieces. The women compared hereditary characteristics - and tattoos.

'I have her eyes and nose and I look just like my sister Samantha,' Gen said.

Then, Nancy - who was also adopted - started telling Gen why she gave her up for adoption. At that time, she was a single mom, working as a bus driver to raise three kids under the age of 10.

She got pregnant and, because she didn't believe in abortion, she chose adoption.

'Giving her to a family that would take care of her would have been better than trying to raise four kids myself,' Nancy said.

She met one set of parents but wasn't impressed. Then, her attorney told her about a couple that had been trying to conceive for five years without success.

The attorney said that the couple, Fred and Cynthia, led stable lives and wanted a baby more than anything. It felt like a good fit, Nancy said.

'We were right down to the deadline,' Nancy recalled. 'If I took her home there was no way I would give her back up.'

When Gen was born a few days later, Nancy said a private goodbye and handed her over to an attorney. The attorney brought Gen out to the waiting room to Fred and Cynthia.

'She was as light as a feather,' Cynthia recalled.

Nancy went home to her kids and moved on with her life. Gen went to live in a house in Lake Oswego that had been covered in pink balloons by the neighbors.

The new parents weren't very prepared. They had a borrowed bassinet, a case of formula and a bag of diapers for their new addition.

'It was all a big shock to us … a big change,' Cynthia said.

A few years later, they also adopted a baby girl from China. Julia now attends Waluga Junior High School.

From the start, Nancy wanted the adoption to be left open so Gen could contact her at any time.

'I didn't want her to grow up in a lie and have resentment,' Nancy said.

However, Fred and Cynthia were told that Gen could write letters to Nancy through their attorney but, by law, she could not meet Nancy until she turned 18. They never questioned what they were told.

Gen and Nancy exchanged letters and photos until Gen was about 9 years old. At that point, Nancy's attorney stopped forwarding the letters.

'We lost 10 years of a relationship we could have had,' Nancy said.

Nancy moved her family to Arizona, then to Colorado and back to Southwest Washington in 1997.

'Every year on her birthday we would tell her happy birthday,' Nancy said. 'She was still considered part of our lives.'

She wondered why Gen stopped sending letters but decided the girl would contact her again when she was ready. When Gen turned 18 this summer, she opened up her adoption file for the first time and discovered new information about her birth family.

Now reunited, Gen and Nancy believe they will be part of each others' lives forever.

'I bawled when she said, 'Mom you must have really have loved me to give me up the way you did,'' Nancy said. 'And I said, 'I did love you and that's why I did it.' I'm glad I made the decision I made because (Fred and Cynthia) are really super people.'

And according to Fred and Cynthia, the feeling is mutual.

'We've known for 18 years that this would happen,' Fred said. 'We were thrilled to find out (Nancy) missed Gen and loved her as much as she did.'

Nancy looks forward to watching Gen graduate from Lakeridge and possibly go on to study ceramics in college.

Thanksgiving dinner will be a good start.

'This is the beginning of a new life,' Nancy said.

'We've been calling each other every day,' Gen said. 'We have a lot of catching up to do.'