Boston's Jack Williams and "Wednesday's Child"
I’m part Puerto Rican and part Irish. I like to help people. I already know what I’m going to be when I grow up — a doctor or a therapist … All I need is an adoptive home.
That day, Mary Beth Carmody came home early from her job as an attorney in the U.S. attorney’s office to her house in Framingham. She turned on the television just as Angel appeared. “I thought I was watching my kid,” she recalls. “I immediately called [the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange] and kept getting a busy signal. I ran out to get groceries and called back. They said they were getting so many calls, there would be an informational meeting in two weeks. I thought to myself, ‘They will never give this kid to a single parent.'”
At the meeting, Angel’s therapist said, “This is a kid you will want to give 110 percent. Not only is he capable of bonding, he desires it.” And then the prospective parents were told about Angel. His mother was 13 or 14 when she gave birth. When Angel was 4, his father went to prison. His mother cooked her drugs over the kitchen stove, and when Angel entered kindergarten in Chelsea, his teacher saw him snorting sugar through a straw the way he thought his mother did. By age 5, Angel roamed the streets. He climbed into garbage bins, looking for food for himself and his three younger siblings. He stole food from neighborhood stores. He’d run after the pizza truck, and the drivers let him fold boxes in exchange for slices. When he was 6, the state removed Angel and his siblings from their mother’s home.
The boy who was once called Angel is now a young man of 26. He has changed his name to Luis. He sits beside Mary Beth Carmody on a sofa in their comfortable living room; they take turns remembering how their lives intersected after she saw him on “Wednesday’s Child.”
“I remember my birth mother dressing us up. I remember the courthouse. I remember hearing the judge yell. Seeing my birth mother cry. Someone telling me I was going on a trip but my mother couldn’t go,” Luis says. “I know there’s a hell. I’ve lived it. Being in foster care was hell. In my second foster home, I was one of 14 foster kids. [Today the legal limit in Massachusetts is six children, including birth, adopted, foster, and day care children, per home at any one time.] We felt like prisoners. We were beaten. Once I was so hungry I sneaked into the kitchen and took a cookie. The foster mother grabbed me and took every cookie in the package and stuffed them in my mouth.”
The abuse in that foster home eventually led Luis to being hospitalized. “My brain would shut off and I’d black out,” he says. He remembers shaking and rocking back and forth for hours. Doctors treated him for severe depression and he was appointed a guardian ad litem to see that he was cared for. A judge ordered Luis’s foster agency to contact “Wednesday’s Child” and to come up with an adoption plan.
The first time Mary Beth met the boy called Angel, they bonded while putting together a red Lamborghini model she’d brought him. When she stood up to leave, he put out his hand and said, “So when am I going to be adopted?” This was in March 1992; Luis moved in in May, and after fulfilling the state’s six-month residency requirement, they legally became a family in November.
Mary Beth came from a large Irish-Catholic family, and suddenly Angel’s life was filled with uncles and aunts and cousins and grandparents. He struggled with schoolwork, but he never said no to the tutors and summer schools. He started catching up. But this is not a story from Disney; when Luis was 14, he got into some trouble. When the police called Mary Beth, her son was sitting in a jail cell.
“I still couldn’t completely trust her,” Luis says today. “I knew trust meant hurt. I viewed all adults as people who would hurt me and leave me and abandon me — how bad can I be before you give up on me? I was sitting in the cell and I could hear her outside the door, and I thought they must be doing papers to send me away again.”
Instead, to her son’s shock, Mary Beth walked into his cell. “I loved you yesterday,” she said. “And I’ll love you tomorrow. Have I passed all your tests? I am not going away.”
They worked together after that, a family struggling through the barriers of a past neither could control. Luis attended Curry College, where he starred in theatrical productions. On his graduation day in 2004, the commencement speaker was Jack Williams.
Williams stood on stage in cap and gown and told everyone that whenever they think life is tough, he wanted them to remember the story of a boy named Angel. When he finished he said, “That boy is here with us today.” He called Luis Carmody to receive his diploma as 5,000 people stood and cheered.
“Jack told me once,” says Mary Beth, “the hardest thing is not having a child find a home. He sees greatness. He sees potential.”
“Nobody else can really understand what it feels like to be unwanted,” Luis says. “In a strange way, all of the ‘Wednesday’s Children’ are brothers and sisters. And Jack is our father.”