Guideposts Classics: Mary Pickford on the Blessings of Children

In this story from 1948, movie legend Mary Pickford shares how the two children she adopted with her husband, actor and singer Buddy Rogers, enriched their lives.

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Mary Pickford

“Have girl for adoption along lines discussed,” the telegram read. Perhaps the most thrilling message in my life—it was from a Foundling Home.

Buddy and I were on a plane the next morning, excited at the thought that our search might be over. But I personally had a feeling of panic too. We had been years trying to find a child. Once before we had settled on an adorable two-weeks-old baby girl. All formalities and paper-signing had been completed, and we had even prepared a nursery for the baby in our home.

A day or so before the child was due to arrive—she died.

Since then I had often wondered, although I battled such thoughts, if God really wanted me to have a child. It had seemed like a double deprivation to have to close the door on that empty nursery. And yet why had God given me such an insistent urge for children—and an almost obsessed love for babies? My idea of the perfect home had always been four children—and it still is.

At the Foundling Home we learned somewhat to our dismay that the girl in question was eight years old. We had asked for a baby. “Does the child know we have come to see her?” I asked the woman in charge.

She shook her head. “We never build up the hopes of any child by giving advance notice.”

I looked around for my husband, but he had stepped out the door to the playground, evidently attracted by the shouts of some boys playing ball. Moving over to the window I too watched the action. One small lad with tousled hair and quick, agile movements interested me at once. He seemed to run the hardest and throw a ball the straightest.

Although the smallest boy on the field, he by his eagerness and ability was the recognized leader.

Buddy too, I could see, was engrossed in this youngster. As soon as the matron of the Home returned with the girl, I asked her about the lad. “We would be glad to have you meet him, Mrs. Rogers,” she told me.

Buddy and I had already talked with the girl when the boy was brought in and introduced. He marched straight up to us, shook hands firmly, looking us both in the eye. There was much wisdom in that 6-year-old look. I was sure that Buddy had the same feeling about him that I did, but I relied upon a little double talk in front of the boy to check my husband’s reactions.“

We ought to make some decision about closing the deal,” I said.

I’m all for it, but remember, dear, it’s a long-term investment,” he replied.“

I know, but the best one we’ll ever make.” And we smiled our joint decision.

We called our boy Ronny Rogers.

Every couple who considers adoption has some fear as to how it will work out. An infant probably absorbs an atmosphere. The older the child, people feel, the more adjustments will have to be made. These and other thoughts were in my mind as we left the Foundling Home that day with Ronny.

Yet one unmistakable fact loomed far above any other. We had gone into the Home man and wife—and had come out a family.

Once in our home Ronny belonged as if he had been there all his life. True, a small boy is at some disadvantage when he transfers from a Foundling Home environment to a large Hollywood home where he is in somewhat of a spotlight.

Yet no child has been more loved than Ronny, and he has known this from the start. This love is all that really matters to a child whether his parents live in a two-room flat, a mansion, or a house by the side of the road.

There are thousands of youngsters in institutions who are well fed and well taken care of. What they do not have—something more important almost than being well fed—is the sense of belonging, of being loved. My heart aches for these children. But it also aches for all the homes without children; for the couples who deprive themselves of the one thing it takes to make a home and a family—children to love.

I had asked for a girl and expected an infant. If I had any disappointment at finding myself with a six-year-old boy, it didn’t last long. Ronny completely assaulted our hearts. I thank God for so guiding us.

Almost everyone wants an infant, but those from six to fourteen years of age are the ones really in need of a home. So much happiness flooded our house with the arrival of Ronny—that we soon decided to enlarge the family some more.

Within ten months the Lord had sent me what my heart fancied—an infant baby. Please don’t be skeptical when I use the phrase “the Lord sent me,” because when I think of the years I had been searching for an infant to adopt... the delays, the heartbreak, the difficulties and involvements that go with adoption, you can understand why I truly felt that God meant this particular child for me.

We named the baby Roxanne and everyone in the house was completely happy —except Ronny! “She’s a nuisance,” he had said. “What’s so wonderful about her? Just another girl.”

But Ronny too was slowly to succumb to Roxanne’s baby charms. We watched the air of brother-ownership and self-appointed censor and guardian develop.

No home can be a completely happy one without God. Bible reading and prayer have been to me like the foundation of a building. With sound religious training as a basis, children can grow up to become better citizens, and I find parents themselves acquire new depth and understanding while teaching the importance of God’s teachings to their offspring.

Roxanne’s childish faith is especially appealing. The moment she overhears any discussion about religion or God, whether it be in a small family gathering or a room full of people, she interrupts with her pet phrase: “There izno spot where Godiznot.”

This remark always delights everyone except Ronny, and it really gets his little gray goat. Yet recently Ronny surprised and pleased me with a burst of youthful feeling for religion.

It was during a recent holiday when I was taking Ronny and our Belgian foster child (who had been permitted to come to this country for a visit) to the theatre. While passing along the street, we were stunned to come upon a man whose rasping voice hawked out such phrases as “Down with religion... down with God ... away with priests and ministers.” In his hands he held copies of “The Atheist.”

Other people were staring at him with as much revulsion as we. This man looked like a model of halitosis, sour linen and dark alleys. He seemed the true embodiment of the Devil himself, for I’ve always thought it absurd to portray the devil as a dashing handsome scarlet lure.

Ronny (now 12 years old) screwed up his face in disgust, and suddenly I had the notion he would break away from us and lunge at the man. I think he was ashamed that our Belgian foster child was getting such a wrong impression of America. I tightened my hold on his arm, feeling a strong sense of pride at his swift reaction.

“Let him be, Ronny,” I advised, “he’ll die of his own poison.”

I think my deepest satisfaction came one day when Ronny and I and a cousin were driving to see the newborn baby of my niece.“

Just think,” said my cousin who was driving and forgot for the moment, I suppose, that Ronny was in the back seat, “how wonderful to have a child of your own flesh and blood.”

I grew cold with horror for a moment, thinking of how Ronny would feel, and I said as casually as I could: “Yes, wonderful—but it’s a little terrifying wondering how they’re going to turn out.”

From the back Ronnie spoke up instantly: “Just think how lucky you were, Mother! I was six years old and you could tell exactly what you were getting.”

I laughed back at him, thankful that his eyes glowed with pride and importance. No sense there of not belonging; he knew he was wanted. And I was warmed inside with fresh love for my family and gratitude to God for the fulfillment of a life-long dream—a home with children.

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