5. A Miracle in Corry, Pennsylvania
Updated: Dec 23, 2019
Soon after beginning our adoption process, I witnessed a true miracle during a road trip with my mother and sister. Here's the story along with a beautiful poem about family and hope by my sister. New to the blog? Start with Choosing International Adoption.
My sister, Judy, my mother and I were meandering along quaint roads in Corry, Pennsylvania. We had driven from my sister’s home in Virginia north to Port Allegheny, Pennsylvania, the town where my great grandparents lived and then on to Corry, where my mother spent her childhood. In Port Allegheny, we had found her grandparents’ home, walked through the local graveyard locating family stones, and visited a house that had been partly built by a black sheep of the family along with Andrew Lloyd Wright. As this was my mother’s journey into her past, I had not yet mentioned our decision to adopt.
“Do you remember this road?” Judy was asking on almost every street as she slowly navigated our way with GPS.
“Of course!” Mom was saying, and her excitement reverberated. “I remember so, so much.”
“I think this is the road,” Judy said, and we inched along, staring at two-story homes painted with deep earth tone colors until we were pulling to the side, and Judy was saying, “this must be it!”
“It is it!” Mom gasped.
We all gazed at the narrow, earth-blue two-story home that seemed to peek back at us with its curtained windows. “Now what should we do?” I asked.
We looked at each other, excited and helpless; we had embarked on this journey without specific plans.
“Pull into the driveway,” Mom said. “Why not?”
“Yeah, why not?” Judy echoed.
“Should we all go to the door?” I asked.
“I can go,” Judy said, “check it out first. Maybe it’s better not to overwhelm them.”
Judy is a friendly person who easily chats with people she does not know, and the natural humility in her voice complements her tall frame and the beautiful symmetry of her features.
A moment later, she was inside!
I had just suggested going in to find her when she returned, grinning. “They thought I was someone else at first, but I told them our errand, and they’re nice people. They said sure, come on in!”
In the small foyer, we were clasping hands with a kind-looking couple in their sixties, Clancy and Kris. Mom began speaking with them about her years of growing up in this home while Judy and I glanced about ourselves.
It was a neat, well-kept space, a little small for Mom’s eight-person family by today’s standards, yet a place where people could wander from the yard to the living room to the upstairs and feel both rich with family and with home. Mom, Clancy and Kris fervently discussed knocked out walls and changes to the home while we slowly moved from the first floor to the second.
There I took several pictures of Mom in the room where she had stayed until about six years old, and also in the second room where she had spent the rest of her growing-up years. Mom’s smile was utterly enthused.
At last, we had all exited through a back door to the yard. Mom and Kris were pointing to the various plants, both present and absent, and discussing how the yard had changed when Clancy approached, tapping his foot with excitement. He had gone to relax on the front porch and had received a visitor.
“There’s a young man here to see you,” he said with an amused grimace of uncertainty. “He’s not a family friend, but he surveyed our property with a metal detector last summer and found something that might belong to your family. He found a bracelet with the initials D.B.R.”
“That’s my sister,” Mom said, “Dorris Rehnborg.”
“I thought you said your name was Rehnborg! He should come and meet you then.”
A stout, gentle young man appeared from around the corner of the house along with a redheaded young woman.
“I happened to stop by today,” he said, eying my mother incredulously. “I have been told that you are a Rehnborg. Maybe I can present you with something that I found.”
“What is it?”
The young man produced a tiny, silver baby’s bracelet from a Ziploc bag.
All of us gasped as we saw the initials D.B.R. in cursive script on the inside of the bracelet.
“Is it really hers?” I asked.
“It must be,” Mom said.
“This is such a coincidence!” Clancy said, “That all of you are here, at our house, on the same day.”
“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Judy said, smiling.
“We’d like to make a video of you accepting the bracelet,” the young man suggested.
“How did you find this property?” Judy asked him.
“It’s our mission,” he explained. “We enjoy finding people’s possessions and returning them. This area has a very rich history, so we often ask people from here. After our first few awkward experiences, we decided to stop going from door to door, and we just approached people who happened to be out on their porch or in their garden when we came by.”
“He came last summer,” Kris explained, “We gave him permission to search our yard with his detector.”
“I tried to return the bracelet to your sister,” he told my mother, “She was interested at first, but then became reluctant. Maybe she didn’t trust us.”
“How did you find her?”
“On the internet,” he said placidly. “You can investigate anything these days.”
“And how did you come here today?” I asked him.
“We just wanted to stop by. We were in the neighborhood.”
As Mom ceremoniously accepted the bracelet, the young man’s girlfriend filmed the conversation on her phone
That night, Judy met me in my hotel room to ask about our plans for the next day. We were still feeling elated about our amazing afternoon.
“Should we visit the old library that’s now a restaurant?” I suggested.
“I think we have done the most important thing,” Judy said, inspired.
We gazed at each other, shaking our heads and laughing.
“Imagine!” Judy said. “Today was the first day she had come here in forty years.”
“Kris and Clancy didn’t really know that guy, right?”
“No, they didn’t. And he stopped by—not just today, but when we were there—in that hour.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “It looks like we’ve done what we came here to do.”
Helen grew up in Corry, PA.
A small town known for manufacturing
the Climax Locomotives that rumbled through daily,
Whistling their coming and going.
Helen’s home was like the town,
Full of love and life, contradictions and strife.
It was a home and a town, where Christ was known,
in part, but not in full.
Helen’s imagination thus created
a world of joy and adventures, a world where Mom
and daughter would go cherry picking together, where
pretend Mama would lift dolly high to reach the red treat.
Mom and Dad loved their little Helen,
but were up in years and battled anxieties and wounds.
Helen was taught to be seen, but not heard, and the contradiction
was not lost on this sensitive child.
Her child heart was lonely and sometimes hurt,
But not abandoned. The train whistled the longing
within, for what she knew in part, and could never
deny. Her trusting soul grew deep in the quiet.
She held dear, her Carrots, who meowed her
delight in Helen, rubbing up against her legs,
willingly bearing bonnets and dresses to help Helen
understand the giving and receiving of unconditional love.
Mrs. Stump, of Harding School, greater than her name,
loved her students. As she helped her young pupils into coats
and hats for the winter walk home, Helen would daily remind,
“Tie it tight.” Mrs. Stump smiled, and gave hat strings a final tug of assurance.
Her brothers and sisters, most twenty years older, doted on
Helen when they were home. They carried the energy
for child noise and adventures needed. At Christmas, brother
Howard fostered wonder as he showed her reindeer hooves on the roof.
Sister Hazel, a second Mother, old enough to be so,
loved baby sister and took her on outings. Brother Gordon married
Grace, and they lived her name for Helen, showing the way.
Sister Doris, closer in age, was rivalry’s gift of deterring selfishness.
Her Dad, a proud Swede, would daily provide and oversee
the beating of steel into shapes useful. Desks, filing cabinets,
and sweet bracelets for his daughters. This, in and of itself, was a miracle,
as Dad had been beaten out of shape as a child.
Thus, Dad vowed, he would limit his shape beating to purpose.
Yet, the wounds were there, verbal anger would surface, and
Mom would run out of the door crying, for hurts deep. Still,
seeing eyes saw past, and tears were turned into prayers.
Prayers of longing and love, carried like dandelion seeds,
To the healer of those willing to open their hearts to Him. Helen
struggled during childhood years under the contradictions, yet saw,
like her Mom. Mom whose prayer seeds, took hold and pushed through the dirt.
Dad softened, dusty Bible opened, and Helen was gifted to see
and receive unhindered love take deep root and bloom. His
last earthly years, being bent back into shape and readied, for
the wedding feast of the lamb he talked often about.
Helen, now in her later years, felt a longing, a drawing to
her first home. Fear of some recollections kept the desire at
bay for a year. But prayer reassured with good memories ultimately
driving she and two of her daughters to Port Allegany and Corry, PA.
Low and behold, dandelions were everywhere. Prayer seeds
Had sprouted and blessed Helen and daughters beyond measure.
Hosts of their Foursquare home stay, gracious and caring, and history
bearing both light and love in countless ways.
Just up the road from this place of stay,
carved stones cried out in joy of love and life. It’s true
It’s true they spoke to the three, remember…remember… remember…
hidden roots and anticipated reunions captured the hearts.
Unexpected discoveries. Odd Uncle Howard, an artist, a builder?
Lynn Hall, Fallingwater, and Hall homes among Howard and brother Walter’s
legacy, and a published book, its’ title redeeming years of misunderstanding.
We Are All Well: The Letters of Nora Hall.
Bill Porter had talked with brother Gordon when purchasing the family
home in Port. Bill became its next steward and did so well. Time was gifted
to Helen through modern technology, as memories and pictures were shared. The
blessings continue to come through this photographer’s artistic eye.
“We have to visit Kinzua Dam,” we daughters had heard. Helen
Remembered it was to be built and wanted to see it. Our first stop, Kinzua Bridge
revealed the strength and power the wind carries. Then Kinzua Dam, and now
we knew why we had to see. Light and life and beauty surrounded us.
There was cost here, we were told. Sadly, a small community,
600 Seneca natives were displaced to build this supply of power and beauty,
but those displaced are never forgotten, never truly displaced, and hunger for
righteousness will be filled, in the grand scheme.
Cobblestone Inn & Suites, the trio’s place to stay in Corry,
the actual grounds of Corry Jamestown, Dad’s place of employment? Wow!
“My Dad worked there too,” we heard time and again, again and time,
seemingly, truly, coming back around just for Helen and her girls.
A knock on the door of 546 E. South Street, and
A voice calling, “Come on in!” The response being, “I
Don’t think I am who you think I am” and then laughter.
Helen’s daughter was who she was supposed to be.
Clancy and Kris welcomed we traveler’s home. Helen
beamed. Her delight was gift to all. “There was a piano
here, and I always loved looking out this stairway window.”
Clancy, a part now, had opened a wall that Dad had closed.
Standing in the lower back, Kris and Helen talked of
the old times, blessing each other with memories of the way
things were. Daughters shared meaning-filled looks and smiles,
then Clancy burst upon us, excited, the wind was blowing.
A couple of young historians, seekers of ancient
treasures came and told of a buried find. A baby bracelet,
with the initials, DBR. Doris Beverly Rehnborg. Helen’s
90 year old sister was to be blessed too. In the blue, restoration.
Blue being the skies the whole weekend. “It’s been
raining for like a hundred days” we’d heard. But not this
weekend. Pristine beauty filled our days, refreshing temperatures
and green grass, restored Helen’s soul, our knit together souls.
Our cups ran over. There are not enough lines
here to capture all that was given to Helen’s family. Surely, goodness
and mercy do follow us all the days of our lives, and
we dwell in the house of the Lord.
Corry residents are wearing t-shirts these days that say
“Bring’er Home,” speaking of the 1902 Climax A-313 in Alaska.
The parallel tracks were not lost on Helen’s daughters who heeded this call.
And so, a double portion was inherited in Helen’s land, and everlasting joy gifted.
By: Judith Pedersen Wiles