#33: Claudia and the Great Search

Claudia attends an award ceremony at Stoneybrook High School, where Janine receives a major award (which comes with a plaque and a $250 check). Claudia, with her parents and her uncle Russ and aunt Peaches, feels completely out of things. People keep commenting that they can’t believe she and Janine are sisters. Claudia’s just like, “NO SHIT.” The rest of the day is an endless parade of everyone congratulating Janine, and several newspapers interviewing her and wanting to follow her around for a “Day in the Life of a Genius” feature. Claud’s parents even get a Congratulations Janine cake for after dinner. Claudia feels like chopped liver. Which is disgusting. 

She goes into the den and looks through old family photo albums. She finds tons of baby pictures of Janine but barely any of herself. She also notices that, even as a baby, she didn’t look like anyone in her family. She goes to her father’s desk and snoops through it. She doesn’t find anything incriminating except a lockbox with no key in sight. Claudia is convinced that she’s adopted – it would explain so much! – and that her adoption papers must be in that lockbox.

Claudia eventually tells Stacey about her suspicions and, even though Stacey is doubtful, she thinks the only way for Claud to feel better is to search for her birth parents. Claudia agrees. Claudia has begun to feel a special kinship with Kristy’s adopted little sister Emily Michelle, so she uses what she knows about Emily’s adoption to try to learn more about her own. She calls Stoneybrook’s only adoption agency, but they haven’t been around long enough to have handled Claudia’s adoption; she goes to the safety deposit box at the bank to look at her birth certificate, but she doesn’t have the necessary key; she goes to her pediatrician to ask about her birth, but it turns out she didn’t start seeing her pediatrician until she was two years old. Claudia is frustrated and confused and more convinced than ever that she’s adopted.

Claudia’s bond with Emily Michelle strengthens when she decides she’s going to try to teach Emily about colors and matching. She comes up with a teaching activity while she’s baby-sitting Emily and it works! Emily begins matching colors and shapes. Mrs. Brewer is impressed and asks if Claudia would like to tutor Emily a couple of times a week. Claudia is flattered and of course says yes! She also continues her own search by going to the library and using the microfiche machine to look through the birth announcements for the week she was born (and a few weeks surrounding it). She doesn’t see a birth announcement for a Claudia Kishi. She writes down the names and addresses of the three baby girls that were born the same week as her – she thinks maybe she was one of them, and her parents changed her name after she was adopted.

She contacts two of the families, who confirm that their daughters are still with them and part of their family. She can’t contact the third family (surname Ho), because they were visiting from Wyoming when their baby was born and therefore she doesn’t have an address or phone number. She wonders if they were really in town for a private adoption and if she came into the world as a Ho. (No pun intended. 😉 )

It finally gets to the point where Claudia has run out of leads and is super emotional about everything. Stacey convinces her to just ask her parents about it, so she does. She lays out all of her evidence, and her parents are shocked. Then they tell her, definitively, that she is not adopted. They explain that there are almost never as many baby photos of the second kid because the parents have been through it before and are busier with two kids now. They tell her that, while she doesn’t necessarily look like either of her parents, she does look like a young Mimi. Mrs. Kishi points out that Claudia is a lot like her aunt Peaches. Her birth announcement was in a different newspaper. And her father opens the lockbox to reveal it contains $500 in emergency money – and nothing else. Claudia believes her parents and is relieved. She wasn’t lied to. She may be different from her family, but they are her blood-related family.

Claudia’s tutoring of Emily is also successful – Emily is on track to start pre-school in the fall (as long as she gets potty-trained) and Mrs. Brewer wants Claudia to keep helping Emily prepare. Looks like Janine isn’t the only genius in the Kishi family.


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