How far would you go to discover your origin? A recent AP story tells the fascinating and moving tale of Diane Bell, who was abandoned as a three-month-old on an Amish farmhouse porch:
Forty years ago, a widowed Amish woman and her daughter watched from their window late one night as someone in dark clothing walked up to their farmhouse near Gordonville, Lancaster County, and left a basket on the porch.
The frightened widow summoned her son from the attached house next door. They saw movement in the basket and assumed it was kittens.
Then they saw a pair of tiny, fluttering hands and knew someone had left them a baby.
The widow, 65-year-old Annie Lantz, sent her son, David, more than a mile on foot to a neighbor with a horse and buggy. From there he rode to a Mennonite home, which had a phone to call police.
Meanwhile, the baby waited contentedly on the porch, swaddled in a blanket and sucking her thumb. The widow and her daughter watched from inside, afraid to approach the basket until police arrived.
Diane was adopted by a local non-Amish family, and decades later, is now seeking her birth family. The pull to discover her roots is strong:
“It’s unbelievable,” Bell says. “Everybody has somewhere they came from. Everybody has family trees. People can say if breast cancer runs in their family, or if it doesn’t. People can say their family has certain dispositions. I have none of that.”
Bell knows her love of music comes from her adopted mom, and her fondness for trains comes from her dad. But where, she asks, did she inherit artistic tendencies?
There have been sightings of Diane’s supposed double, lending intrigue to the story:
Her desire to find her natural family — if not her birth parents, she says, maybe a sibling — has waxed and waned over the years. The desire was reinvigorated last week when Bell made a delivery in York to a woman who confused her with someone that, apparently, looks identical to her.
It’s happened before, Bell says. Years ago, an ex-boyfriend’s mother thought she saw Bell walking hand-in-hand with another boy. Even Bell’s own father swore he saw her at a pancake breakfast, but she insists she wasn’t there.
“There’s someone walking around who looks a lot like me,” she says. “I know, I sound crazy saying that.”
Unfortunately, no one has ever approached or been able to identify the blue-eyed, blond-haired doppleganger to give Bell a place to start on her quest for family.
And what if the Amish family who found the abandoned baby had been the ones to adopt her? For Diane, who has worked as an artist and pastry chef, life would probably be very different today:
Annie Lantz and her daughter, Rebecca, are dead, Bell says. David Lantz, now 75, lives in the same house on Musser School Road with his wife and children, and he clearly recalls the night of Bell’s discovery.
The family, he told Bell, has long regretted not keeping her themselves. Lantz said the Amish community gave his mother a hard time for giving the baby up, Bell says, “but she didn’t feel it was right. She cried a lot about it afterward.”
Surrounded by people who, with a slight twist of fate, could have been her siblings, nieces and nephews gave Bell an odd feeling.
“How could you possibly put into words how different a life that would be?” she asks.
She spent time with several Lantz youngsters who were excited to learn that Bell enjoys baking and painting.
“Some of the granddaughters want me to teach them to paint,” she says.
“We’re going to have a giant get-together. We’re going to have a picnic,” she adds. “Apparently there are a lot of people in the Amish community who want to meet me. Who’d have thought, after all this time, it’s still being talked about.”
Read Diane’s story in full here.