In the summer of 1964, a willowy but pregnant 20-year-old singer named Joan Anderson arrived in Toronto from her native province of Saskatchewan to face a painful decision. Penniless and afraid to tell her parents, she gave birth as a charity patient at a local hospital to a blue-eyed baby girl she named Kelly Dale. The father, a student who had accompanied her to Toronto, was out of the picture, so Joni hastily married folk singer Chuck Mitchell, hoping to make a home for her baby. “I kept trying to find some kind of circumstance where I could stay with her,” she would later tell the Los Angeles Times. But when that relationship foundered, Mitchell reluctantly put the baby up for adoption.
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’re 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.
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.