Soon afterward she moved to New York City, where in the song Little Green, from her chart-topping album Blue, she memorialized the loss:
Child with a child pretending weary of lies you are sending home so you sign all the papers in the family name you are sad and you're sorry but you're not ashamed little green have a happy ending.
Thirty years later that wish came true. Last week Mitchell and her daughter, a former model and computer student named Kilauren Gibb, confirmed that they had found each other. Their reunion followed years of searching by both women--and put a new focus on the larger issue of access to adoption records.
For Mitchell, once an icon of independence and 1960s wanderlust, the little girl who was to be her only child never quite left her mind. Over the years, as her fame grew, she wondered about the child's parents, her health, her future. It was not until a Canadian tabloid published the story of her adoption four years ago that Mitchell began speaking openly about it. But she was besieged by pretenders and began to lose hope.
Kilauren, who had had a happy childhood in a middle-class Toronto suburb, began her search in 1992, after her parents, both teachers, told her she was adopted. Asked in an interview with Toronto's City TV why they waited so long, Kilauren said, "Because they loved me. They wanted me to be comfortable." Pregnant with her own child, she filed an application with a public agency to find out who her birth mother was. Then she waited. And waited. Finally, this January she received a brief "nonidentifying" description of her mother. She was a folk singer born in the prairie town of Saskatoon, of Norwegian-Scottish descent, who suffered polio as a child. Encouraged by friends who had heard of Mitchell's search and who thought that she resembled the singer, Gibb found a Joni Mitchell Website and began clicking off the biographical details she found there: blue eyes, blond hair, long limbs, Saskatchewan. "There were like 14 or 15 matches," she told newspapers last week.
Gibb called Mitchell's manager in Vancouver and sent along the adoption profile. "It was as if you were reading Joni's biography," recalled the manager, Steve Macklam. He phoned to double-check the profile and speak to Kilauren. The next call came from Mitchell herself. "Hi, it's Joni. Please call me. I'm overwhelmed." Since then Gibb, who has a young son, has seen her family circle widen almost daily. First came a call from her grandparents in Saskatoon. Then last week she met her biological father. "I was always sort of looking for her on the street, even though I didn't know it," says Brad MacMath, a Toronto photographer. "To have a grown daughter and grandson appear out of nowhere is absolutely amazing."
Mitchell's news was read at the annual meeting of the American Adoption Congress in Dallas this month, prompting a standing ovation. The congress is one of several groups seeking to overturn laws, currently in effect in most of Canada and the U.S., that protect the privacy of birth parents and prevent their children from contacting them without prior consent. In 1995 Tennessee opened its records on all adoptions before 1951, and six other states are discussing disclosure bills. An alliance including privacy advocates, adoption agencies and lawyers from Pat Robertson's organization opposes the change, arguing that many reunions are traumatic and disruptive for the parent, and that the lack of privacy will discourage adoptions and increase abortions. "If two people want to meet, we're all for it," says William Pierce of the National Council for Adoption. "But you can't have one-sided intrusions into people's lives." There are many sides to the human heart, however, as Mitchell and her daughter now know. Their reunion, says Kilauren, "made me feel complete."