My Book “One of One”
Memoir into my life
This is a “chapter of sorts in my book. The difference is that I have written in blog format so instead of chapter 8 it is blog #8. Please go to My book on the right and start fromt the beginning if you haven’t read the rest of the chapters.
My sister, my beautiful, talented, quiet sister had been living in a vacuum of shame and embarrassment. Undiagnosed, she had been tormented with a psychological disorder at an early age. In the 70′s families weren’t educated in regards to mental illness. You didn’t look for signs for ADD or Asperbergers or OCD. If Johnny fidgeted in his chair and disrupted the dinner, he got a kick in the ass. The moments that were noticed were hidden, swept under the bed, where they were not to be discussed with anyone outside of the family.
How sad that a child couldn’t diagnose a disability. If anyone knew about her sickness it would have been me. I watched everything she did. Ten years my senior, she was my idol. One day, I thought, I will grow up to be as pretty, and as cool as my sister Patty. A gentle soul, she loved animals, worked with Greenpeace, and played her guitar quietly in her room. Coming home from swimming, she would eat dinner, and retreat to her bedroom where I could here The Who playing through the walls.
Listning to you, I get the music
Gazing at you, I get the heat
Following you, I climb the mountain
I get excitement at your feet
She and my mom never talked much. They were two different people. Mom wore her emotions on her sleeve. She would talk to anyone and everyone. My mom grew up crusine USA’s Poodle Palace in Bobby socks and saddle shoes. She danced to songs like “At the Hop” and Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.” Every week when I was little, there would be a party at our house for The Chorale Society or their gang.My mom was interested in cooking, entertaining, and working hard for the family to get ahead.
My sister on the other hand grew up in a hippie culture dominated by peace movements and Woodstock. She was quiet, and flet that the less said, the better. You never knew what she was thinking. When she would allow me, I would sit with her and listen to her play guitar to the soundtract of Jesus Christ Superstar, absorbing scattered moments of conversations where she would share what was on her mind. My sister’s idea of getting ahead was by changing the world one cause at a time. Me, I was in the center. I understood and related to both worlds. I was more like Mom but was willing to be just like Patty so she would love me.
Most nights I slept with my sister, although not by her choice. It became mechanical. My eyes would pop open and I would look around the room. Where am I? What time is it? The glow of the roman numerals on my pink circular round clock would read 2am, the house dark and silent. A pit was in my stomach. Would someone try to break in?They took Patty Hearst and kept her in a closet for two months, why wouldn’t they take me? In my mind I was an heiress. The reality was that after 24 hours of chatter and incessant demands, they would have offered my parents money to take me back.
Quietly, I would take my pillow and creep down the hall fallowing the path that had been worn on the orange and green shag rug carpet into my sister’s room. For fear she would wake up, I held my breath, inching from the bottom of the bed toward the pillows. With the slighest movement I would freeze and wait until I heard her snore to make my next move. Lying in the dark, I could hear her breath. I was safe. My mom used to tell me that when I was born, my sister thought I was her child.
Patty never slept in her pajamas. I knew this because as I made my way into bed I could smell the suade, the fringe from her jacket hanging loose over the blankets. Lying on her side on the edge of the bed, she was fully dressed for the next day. As a seven year old, I just assumed that people dressed for school the night before, although I didn’t understand the coat. I wasn’t aware of how long and arduous it was for her to dress, following the same sequence of events.
When the sun peeked through the shade, I would grab my pillow and b-line it for my bedroom. I could hear her alarm clock, the familiar footsteps as she made her way past my room toward the bathroom to brush her teeth. I would pretend I had been asleep for hours, squinting my eyes to make them look shut.
When she left for school, I watched her from my bedroom.
“Touch the railing at the top, one two three…touch the railing again, four, five, six, another touch, seven, eight, made it to the bottom. Touch the bottom railing, ok down the hallway for breakfast.”
Mimicking her decent, I would t0uch the same railings when I would go down the stairs wondering if she knew about a secret button underneath.
“Maybe” I would think to myself. “There will be a switch with a light and I will win a prize.”
The odd thing was that the routine would get progressively longer and with every passing week she had to incorporate a new railing to touch.
On the days when Patty took me for ice cream I can remember getting into the car and seeing our iron.
“Patty are you planning on doing some ironing in the back seat?” I giggled.
“I have to have the iron with me.”
“Why? Do you think Mom will make you do extra ironing this week?”
“If I don’t” she would answer, “ the house might catch on fire and how will I know that the house is on fire?”
Years later I found out that the rituals were helping to control the anxiety she was feeling when she was having obsessive thoughts. Once she would touch something in her home, she would have to touch it every time she passed it. The next day she would touch the object and then touch another object. The next day it was three objects until she couldn’t bear to live there anymore and she would move. Later she explained to me that she lived in fear that something bad would happen if she didn’t perform the same rituals. Then after it got overwhelming, she would move to the next home where the chain would begin again.
Later in life she often huddled in the corner, in a dark spot where she burrowed deeper in to her despair. Eventually diagnosed with OCD, the medication released her from her pain. Her last step in therapy was to face my mom, and heal her heart. My mother agreed to join her in therapy.
“Mom,I always felt your love for Wendy was different.”
As my mom began to answer, the psychiatrist interrupted her.
“Before you answer this, think long and hard. There is a depression in your daughters heart and your answer is pivotal in helping her to find peace.”
My sister wasn’t sure she could do it.
“Mom” she said, as her tears unrolled.
“I need to know” she caught her breath.
“I need to know….. if you always treated Wendy differently because she belonged to the man you really loved?”
What seemed to be an eternity passed before my mother answered.
“Yes Patty, I always treated your sister differently because she belongs to Ted. I felt I had to protect her.”
Each looked away. Abruptly my mom grabbed her purse and quickly made her way down the hall and out the door. She began to perspire, her head felt heavy. Vomiting in the parking lot, she was sure that the poison that had tainted her soul for 35 years was spewing from her stomach. The day she feared was here. She held her hand on to her heart as the chest pains radiated up her arm. Weeping, she buckled at the waist and prayed to Mary. She had to be strong or she wouldn’t live to see another day.
The story continues………
That is a night that will never leave me. Thank God my husband Jared was out of town and the kids were sleeping. I remember shoving a wad of cash into the babysitter’s hand. I am sure she thought I had been out gambling and wanted to share my windfall. I swooshed her out the door, promising to ring her the following day.
My mom sat at my kitchen table. I took out two shot glasses and a bottle of whiskey. When my dad Max was alive this was his cure-all for anything, colds, depression, happiness, or insomnia. Whatever the event, it called for a shot and a beer. I knew that this would be a long night.
We drank our shot neither one of us uttering a sound. For an animated family that had never had a quiet minute to get a word in, this was the most silence we had shared in 35 years. Mom kept gesturing with her hand as if to say what was I going to do? Her eyebrows began to cross and the woman, who was the family pillar of strength, gently bent her head into her hands and began to rock back and forth with 35 years of accumulated tears covering my table.
She was afraid of losing me, of how angry I would be. My then 61 year old mother crumbled with the weight of her life and the decisions she had made.
I sat not knowing what to say. It many ways I felt that I was at someone’s funeral. I wrapped my arms around the woman that I had loved more than any other human being. I said the only thing left to say.
“Mom, how could you have held this in all those years?”
Once she was able to speak she went on with her story. I had so many questions. How long did she continue to see him? Did my father Max know? Did anyone else know?
“We continued to love each other and love you knowing in our hearts that eventually we couldn’t be.”
“What about Dad, did he know?” I asked.
“Yes and no. I am sure he must have known. It didn’t matter. Your father fought to win me back and Ted and I knew that we couldn’t break two families up. He had 4 children and I had two others. So eventually we parted ways and things got better and better with Max. We learned to love each other all over again.”
I realized after that night that the truth may have saved her life. She had been suffering from heart pains and stress. What I didn’t realize was that she had been confronted by my sister at a therapy session where she had been forced to reveal the truth and in her mind she knew that it was just a matter of time before I found out.
Here was the missing piece of my puzzle. This was why I never looked like anyone else. This was why I was different. The thoughts started flowing through my head. The night before when I put my head on the pillow, I closed my eyes knowing that I had 2 siblings, 2 full siblings. In just 24 hours I realized that I was one of seven children born to two sets of parents. I wasn’t one of any group. I was set apart because I had two different parents.
I was one of one.
The story continues……………….
Occasionally through my life my sister who was 8 years older would bring it up. “Who do you look like Wendy? I think you must belong to Ted” she would say. Then there would be 3 seconds of awkward silence and we would laugh.
Tonight, all of her comments throughout my life became a brick wall. Having no other choice, I knew what I had to do.
It was cold when we got into the car. The window was fogged. I turned the heat. We sat a moment in silence, my mom rubbing her hands together to keep them warm. I turned on the wipers, put the car in reverse and drew in a deep breath. It was now or never.
“So what did you think?” my mom asked.
I turned my head to look out the window. I could feel the tears welling up in my throat. Turning toward her, the tears running down my face I started.
“Why have you held this from me all my life?”
She looked at me with a puzzled expression, one that told a thousand tales. She moved to the left in her seat and then quickly moved over again to the right, shifting her weight.
“I’m not getting you.” she said.
“Don’t do this to me anymore.” My face was red. The air in the car was dissolving as the fog covered the front windshield.
“It has gone on entirely too long and I am not going to live this one more day. Every single day of my life I have looked into the mirror and wondered who I resembled. Today for the first time I looked at someone besides you and knew I had found a match. We couldn’t have looked any more alike. “
“Oh come on Wendy. What are you talking about? You look just like your grandfather.”
“Right and Aunt Mattie. I know your lines Mom. You have to stop this. Do you think I am stupid? Do you think I don’t remember Ted and the way he looked at me? The way he loved me? It haunts me Mom. All these years the memories were like a rotten habit that you can’t break, no matter how badly you try. It has always been there. I have chosen to ignore it. Then tonight I meet Ted’s cousin who coincidentally looks exactly like me? Are you fucking kidding me? I know and you can’t fool me any longer.”
An awkward silence filled the car. I continued to drive without a word being said.
In a small voice my mom said “we don’t know… definitely.”
“What!” I screamed. “How could you not know?”
At once everything started to come out of my mom. She was very nervous and I scared her with my anger.
“There was a point Wendy where I didn’t love your father. I loved Max when I married him but I was young. I was 17 and he was 18. Then I met Ted. It was a mature love for me. Then Max and I started working it out. I didn’t want to break up the family and things were getting better. Then there was the one night I couldn’t resist. I had been out for drinks with the girls when the call came in. I couldn’t stay away from him. I told myself that if I just saw him, I would look at him and know that I loved Max and it was over. It was a hot summer night and we met in his office. I knew the moment I walked in I had made a mistake. Something told me to turn and run and then a louder voice told me I had to stay. One thing led to another and our hearts Wendy, our hearts were connected.”
My brain was working hard to process the information. I wasn’t sure if I was able to hear any more.
She looked me straight in the eye.
“I don’t regret it. If I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t have you.”
“I can’t hear any more Mom. Let’s just get home. Let me just sit with this. It is an awful lot in one night.”
It didn’t take long for the first person to ask a question.
“Yes over there, the girl in the middle with the pink shirt.” Beverly opened the audience for questions.
“I am writing a book now with cartoon characters and I am wondering what it would take to get it published?”
“Sure, would you mind standing up?”
When the girl stood up and spoke she had an air of authority. Her shoulders were back, her voice projected across the room.
“I would like to know how to get an agent for a book?”
Gutsy question, I thought. As I looked at her, my heart dropped, a shiver went up my spine, and my palm began to sweat. An odd sense of recognition went through my mind although I couldn’t remember where I had met her. She was about 5 ft 5 inches tall, had dark straight hair, and almond shaped brown eyes.
She must look like someone else I know. It haunted me throughout the question and answer part of the evening.
“Mom do you know that woman?”
My mom shook her head.
“I don’t remember having ever met her before but she does look familiar.”
Racking my brain, I let it go. After the show, I scanned the crowd for my friend Kelly and her sister to say hello. I saw the blonde hair in the center of the room by the signing table. Standing next to her carrying on a conversation was the brunette who had stood up in the audience. This would be good. I would say hello and then find out how I knew that woman.
“Hey Wendy come on over” Kelly waved me over with her hand.
“I want you to meet someone. This is Reva, my first husband Ted’s cousin. You remember Ted, from high school?”
I made eye contact with her wondering if she had the same feeling about me that I had about her.
“I do remember Ted. Ted Caruso? I searched for my mom.
“Mom come over here. Remember when I was a little girl you had that friend Mr. Caruso? His son Ted Jr. was married to Kim and this is Ted’s niece Reva.”
I looked at Reva.
”I used to love Mr. Caruso as a little girl. He was my mom’s good friend. I used to call him my honey.”
Looking back, how could I have been so stupid? She knew. My mother knew. My friend Kelly probably put it together.
That was the moment that had changed my life. The memories of my Mom’s friend Ted, my honey, all came back to me. I felt the burning sensation of tears as I closed my eyes. The images flashed through my mind, one after another. I remembered the warmth and the love this man gave me. I remembered the smell of his hair as he held me, snuggling me in the crook of his neck, kissing my face.
Reva looked just like her Uncle Ted. I knew why she was familiar to me. I looked just like Ted and looking at her, I looked just like Reva.
February 9, 2007
I am officially sick of winter. It is February and the only thing good to look forward to is Valentine’s Day. Tonight I fulfilled my promise and went to Barnes and Noble to meet this author and hear about a book that I had no interest in. The first thing I did was ring my mother. She would be good for a few laughs. I was thinking of asking her to babysit but if she found out where I was going, and that I wasn’t planning on taking her, it wouldn’t bode well.
“You always ask me to babysit. You never think of me to go and spend time. I have to wait in line before I get your attention.” I could hear it now. Besides, Mary was my mom’s patron saint. Any time she, or anyone else had problems, no matter what the issue, she would say “Pray to the Blessed Mother.”
“Mom I lost something.”
“Pray to the Blessed Mother.”
“No Mom I want to tell you that I lost…..”
“I’m telling you she will hear your prayers.”
“Mom I LOST MY VIRGINITY. Mary can’t help me with that.”
“WHAT!” Just kidding.
At least I had a night out with my blessed mother and knowing Cathy, a nice cold cocktail would be in my future.
When I called my mom she hesitated which made me surprised. She was always up for a night out. She told me she wasn’t feeling good.
“Not feeling good how? Did you hear what I said…Our Mother Mary…a cold cocktail?”
“I’m afraid Wendy I have been having these heart palpitations and it could be that my heart is giving out.”
I would have been more concerned if it hadn’t been for my mom’s brother, Uncle Roger, who frequently made his wife drive him to the Emergency Room suffering from stress attacks.
“Go fast; this could be my last breath.”
My aunt was a notoriously slow driver. My uncle, complete type A, would holler all the way there.
“Jesus Nelly, I said speed it up not slow it down, what the hell are you trying to do kill me?”
He would lean over and put his hand on the accelerator to gun the motor. When he got to the hospital it was no surprise to anyone when they diagnosed him with high blood pressure and “stress attacks.”
In the end, after talking her through it, she came. I knew she would never miss a night out.
When we got there I was presently surprised with the number of people in the crowd. Beverly was a big name in town now that her movie was being cast by Penny Marshall. I always wondered what it was like to write a book exposing every personal item about your life. Did people in her family talk to her again?
“Welcome everyone; it is nice to see the turn out.”
I looked over and waved to an old friend Kelly. Her sister sitting next to her was an old buddy of Beverly’s from high school that used to raise hell with her. Apparently Beverly had written her character into the book.
“ I am sure you are very interested in hearing about Riding in Cars with the movie being cast, but first I would like to take a few minutes to talk about my new book Looking for Mary.”
Ok, I thought let me set my watch. Sixty minutes until cocktail hour.
What I had anticipated to be painful turned out to be a riveting speech. It was as if she was talking directly to me. I had gone there as a way of doing penance, reluctantly, so she would agree to be a guest on my show. Instead I joined Beverly’s love affair with Our Lady. Bev spoke personally about her own life journey, and how as a single parent she felt she had neglected her child. She spoke about a deep depression; the pain and suffering of being forty and alone, suffering from addictions and a broken heart. She read from her book.
“In the backseat of the cab, I doubled over. My chest felt like a vacuum, a sucking hole in the middle of me. I hugged my arms to stop the terrible emptying; I dropped my head to my knees and wailed. The cab stopped at my door, and I stumbled out, choking on my saliva, wobbling up the stairs to bed.”
Beverly built a shrine to Mary in her home collecting paintings and statues. She prayed to Mary to help her see the light. She traveled around the world to the different places where Mary had appeared.
“The first person to give me a personal message from Mary was Gianna Sullivan, a pharmacologist in Maryland, who receives a message from Mary every Thursday night in her local church. She was dressed like a Catholic-Schoolgirl, kelly-green sweater, white Peter Pan collar, long tartan-plaid pleated skirt. During the apparition she smiled and nodded up at the air where Mary was supposedly standing, then pulled out a yellow legal pad and took dictation. She told me she had a message from Our Lady. She told me that Our Lady said I was a beautiful person and that my work was just beginning.”
She also talked about her pilgrimage to holy city of Medjugorje, the Bosnian village where for over 20 year six trustworthy witnesses, testified firmly under oath that since the 24thof June 1981, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or “Gospa”, as she was affectionately known as appeared to them every day up to the present.
My mom and I were so stunned with the talk that we decided to forgo the cocktail. Beverly opened the session for questions and answers.
January 20, 1997
Now that I have sold my business I am home. I have to be happy that I am not divided into several spaces. I can do one thing now, and do it well. As my husband Jared likes to say, “the pressure is off.” Oh and he also says if you say something three times you believe it. My challenge is that I am having a hard time turning down the volume on my ambition and reprogramming my brain. I have been trained for the last 10 years to research and understand buying decisions.
As a result of my under stimulated environment, every financial transaction made in my home has now become a consumer purchasing study. It’s like Sudoku for the ex-public relations executive. A normal shopper puts the stuff in the cart, purchases at the register, and goes on with his or her day. I on the other hand, go in to purchase everything from clothes to hardware and come out as a new potential partner with the owner. Selling plumbing pipes could be fun, couldn’t it? I always had the ideas, the follow through was another issue. If only I had more hours in the day.
Another way I am managing to stimulate my brain is to surround myself with other moms that had left their former life. Ok, truth be told, I just needed out of the house so…..I joined a book club promising my husband that I would just keep it as a simple one night a month way to keep active, even if it meant compromising my liver.
The book club was a group of ten women who were all bright and entertaining. We would read a book; someone would volunteer to host a dinner/drinking party that centered on the dramas that were unfolding inside the book and outside the book in our small town of Haddam. Next month is my turn to host Book Club so I headed out to Barnes and Noble to find a good read. I wanted something heart wrenching and relatable, a book that would evoke great personal discussions and entice the girls to share their innermost thoughts after their second tequila.
As I approached the Best Seller Isle my mind began to wander.
Oprah was having great success with hosting book reviews. She had authors as guests, a full dinner table which composed a reading panel, and not only was she getting the American public to read again, she was stimulating the economy by blowing these books right off the shelf. Why couldn’t my book club do that?
You can just guess where this is all going.
It would be great for Barnes and Noble. They could sponsor the show, help us line up the authors, provide free books for the discussion group, and sell through on their best sellers from all the great public relations they would get.
JUST BUY THE BOOK WENDY chimed in my head over and over again. THE REGISTER IS STRAIGHT AHEAD.
It was all too good to pass up.
“Excuse me, are you the store manager? I would like to talk to you about an idea that I have for marketing your books.”
I didn’t come out owning my own Barnes and Noble franchise, but I did come out as the host of a local book group sponsored by Barnes and Noble where I would invite six friends to have their makeup done for free and spend an hour discussing life on TV. Every month in conjunction with Barnes and Noble we would invite different authors to come as guests and give them real feedback from everyday women who made up their target audience. This sounded logical I thought to myself, but how would I explain the extra night I needed the sitter when I got home?
The name of our show was “Between the Pages.” We discussed books that dealt with everything from growing old, to relationships with our spouses, to our feelings toward the Catholic Church when they discovered how many young boys had been molested as priests. Viewers ok not many of them, would be invited to call in and give their interpretations of the story. This way we could get an idea of what kind of audience we had. The first time the phone line it up we could hardly contain our excitement. Yes! There were people watching our show.
“Hello Mommy. Daddy says I have to go to bed but you said I could stay up late to watch your show. Jake pooped in his diaper again. I told him to go on the potty but he wouldn’t listen.”
“Honey..honey you need to listen to mommy. Is your father there? No I don’t want to talk to him. Please just tell him I will have a long talk with him when I get home.”
With six women on our panel, and 13 children collectively, it was easy to identify with characters such as Delia Grinstead in Anne Tyler’s book Ladder Years. Delia was a sad, angry, overwhelmed character that walked out on her family during a beach vacation. A stay at home mom, she leaves in an attempt to find out who she really is. The inside joke between the girls on the panel became “it’s one of those days. I am going to the beach.”
Our big break on local CPTV was when Beverly Donofrio agreed to appear on our show. A local author, her first book Riding in Cars With Boys was made into a feature film.
“She did it! She agreed to come on the show with us peons” I enthusiastically reported to my group of panelists.
“All we have to do is show up for her book signing at Barnes and Noble for her second book Looking For Mary. If we attend and agree to talk about the book, she said she would make an appearance on our show. It’s as easy as that.”
They say that the succession of events in your life changes your life. For example you could decide to vacation in Florida or decide to vacation in New York, both experiences would change your life but each would take you in different directions, meeting different people, and opening completely different doors in your life. That night I was heading toward door number three: New Haven CT, which took my life on a roller coaster ride.
On a fun separate note, right after our show last Tuesday Debbie suggested that we (the panelists) meet once a month with our husbands and call it a Mystery Night. Each month one couple would take a turn planning an event and make it a surprise! We just show up at a certain spot at a certain time. I can’t wait. She told us that she wasn’t taking any new applications for friends but I don’t believe her. New applications are a good thing.
How It All Started
December 12, 1996
Staying home and leaving your career is not an easy task. I can’t say I don’t empathize with men or women who miss out on their children’s lives because they have to work, but couldn’t there be a middle ground? Each sex has its drawbacks. Let’s talk about what it’s like to be a woman. First of all, you get fat for nine months and have to lose all your vices, i.e.; smoking, drinking, staying up late to watch Letterman, and most importantly sex, because there isn’t a man on earth who is excited about giving it to a woman who has just gained 50 pounds. It doesn’t matter how many times they tell you that you are beautiful pregnant. Husbands like to tell you that if it weren’t for the loooong exhausting day of work, they would be up for it. Don’t believe them. It’s a lie. They are all secretly afraid that their penis is going to poke their unborn child in the head and cause irreversible brain damage. Let’s face it we have an opening in our vagina’s that enables us to pump out a 9 pound human being and feel more pain than humanly possible. After your man witnesses someone else jumping through the magic curtain, he realizes that there really is something other than a hole on the other side. Unfortunately, sex is never the same again.
So, out pops this baby and the next thing you know you are stuck at home with a screaming infant and spending more time than not, covered with regurgitated baby food. Excuse me but I don’t find anything magical about that. The biggest issue I face being a mother with a newborn is that I NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE WHO SPEAKS ABOVE A MONOSYLLABLE. My tits are sagging to my knees and if challenged to a round of jumping jacks….forget about it because the mere thought of jumping causes me to wet my pants.
I thought I could semi have it all by keeping my company and working from home while the kids were destroying the house. After all, how much stimulation does a three year old need? I could feed them breakfast, put on Barney which was good for about 2 hours, play a little bit, feed them lunch, and then it was nap time which I could nurse for at least 3 hours. The trick was three fold. First I had to make sure I got the baby out of the crib before my husband pulled into the driveway, next I had to pull my hair into several different directions before he walked in, and finally I needed to make sure the house looked like a Mac truck came rolling through the living room.
“Honey you wouldn’t believe how busy I have been with these kids all day! I am exhausted. Here you take them so I can catch a little break.”
Well it wasn’t quite so easy and today I f#@$d up. I should have known that multitasking was not my forte.
I was on the phone talking with a client when my daughter Molly came zipping around the corner going at least 60 mph, and in a dash headed down the basement stairs like she was auditioning to be the next Super Woman. It wasn’t my fault that the basement door was left open, or so I reasoned to my husband Jared.
“Who else would it be Wendy, the dog?” he asked with his face turning several shades of crimson.
“Ok, do we have to yell?”
Needless to say, Mother of the Year was not in my cards.
It was time to sell the company. Let’s be real. I can’t chew gum and tie my shoe at the same time never mind run a company and watch two toddlers and one infant. I just have to hope to God that my brain doesn’t shrink to the size of a raisin.
Life is full of choices. Some, we make. Others are made for us, often, even before we are born. Little did I know that this morning, I was embarking on a different path. It would lead me to the one I was supposed to be on from the very beginning.
One of One. That’s me.
I have never understood what that meant, until five years ago. At the age of thirty eight, I discovered by accident that I was an only child to two parents with no full siblings, despite the fact that I was brought up with a brother and a sister that I was led to believe were my full siblings. I was one person unique unto herself. It was like fitting in the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle where you can’t quite see the whole picture. You study the box for colors and background, but without putting the last piece in place, you can’t see the entire picture.
Looking back at my family pictures, there I was, the little girl with black hair and black eyes mixed into a family of blondes. I can also go to my baby book to see the copious patch of dark hair that appeared at birth. Funny, my siblings didn’t have that.
“It’s my father’s side of the family” my mother would say defensively.
“She looks exactly like my Aunt Mattie. You remember her, the one with the dark hair and dark eyes.”
Throughout my life, the memories would appear, like shadows that were hidden in the closet. Remembering a handsome man with broad shoulders and deep brown eyes, the way he would gather me into his arms and kiss me, nuzzling his nose into my neck. Were these real memories or were they thoughts that had been realigned and reinvented with the passage of time? I didn’t want to know because it was a door that I had decided never to open. Although I suspected it, despite the number of times I denied it, in the end I didn’t fit in. Yet, all I wanted was to belong. Besides, admitting that I remembered, would jeopardize all the times I had gone out of my way to forget.
I always wondered why God made me different. What did I do I would ask myself, beside come into this world looking and acting differently from everyone else in my family….come into this world looking like I was undeniably one-of-one.