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StoryCorps Flint: Daughter reflects on finding birth mother after 23 years

headshot of mother and daughter
Sharon Simeon (r) searched for 23 years before finding her birth mother Johnnie Mallett Caruthers (l). They spoke about their time apart and their reunion at the StoryCorps mobile booth in Flint.

After being born to a teenage mother, Sharon Simeon was adopted as an infant. She spent 23 years trying to find her birth mother, Johnnie Mallett Caruthers. At the StoryCorps mobile booth in Flint, Simeon and Mallett Caruthers talked about the roads that led them apart, and eventually, back together.

Sharon Simeon: I found out your name when I was eight years old. I was nosy and I was going through my parents’ papers. I was at home alone and I found these important-looking papers and I found the adoption petition and it had your name on it.  And I never forgot your name, so that was key. That was instrumental in me finding you.

Johnnie Mallett Caruthers: My mom had told me that I couldn't keep you. And when they placed me in this home in Chicago, it was with the intention for me not to see you at all. But that didn't happen because they brought you to me for two or three days. When they found out that this nurse had made that mistake is when they took you away. And I always prayed every single day that I would find you and that God would keep blessing you.

SS: Do you remember the first time that we met face-to-face? I didn't know you had been praying. I knew I had been praying and we had been.

JMC: Yeah. We both had been praying.

SS: And I remember when — because I'm taller than you are — you looked up at me and you hugged me like you're never gonna let me go. One of the most wonderful moments in my life. I will never forget that.

JMC: It was a joy. It was like, at last I have whole family together.

SS: With [your side of the family], you know I have two sisters and four brothers, so for an only child, it turned out pretty good for me.

JMC: It sure did, didn’t it?

SS: When you said about that bonding for two or three days, it was a lot of love you passed on to me, mama, because I was so driven, so driven to find you. I had to find you. And I had a wonderful [adoptive] family, wonderful upbringing and everything, but I had to find you.

JMC: And you did. That's encouraging to other ones who you know want to find their, you know, their parents and to keep searching and don't give up.

JMC: Because they don't know what's on that other line.

SS: You're absolutely right. You're absolutely right. Twenty-three years to look for you.

JMC: It wasn't too late.

After more years of searching, Simeon learned that her birth father had died. But today she’s also in touch with her many relatives in his large extended family.

This transcript was edited for length and clarity.

Michigan Radio is featuring conversations recorded at the StoryCorps mobile booth in Flint every Friday on Morning Edition during the month of September.

Lauren Talley is Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition producer. She produces and edits studio interviews and feature stories, and helps manage the “Mornings in Michigan” series. Lauren also serves as the lead substitute host for Morning Edition.
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