As those two memories go they are sharp and clear because they happened on the very same day. That is what cemented both. Into solid childhood ground. I think The Reader has, probably, had some incidents or events that they can almost smell because they’ve remembered them so well, and for so long? I’m hoping so, because when I say cemented I do mean just that. Cemented.
Event One: In a fair and honest second grade recess game of marbles, Ruben won my favourite steely marble from me, plus my lucky-lavender cats-eye. It didn’t matter, actually it did matter, because he was a much better shooter than me and I had no business risking my collection to a second-grade marble-shooting professional. Ruben’s mindset wasn’t on me, the seven-year-old girlie tom-boy wannabe. It was my huge bag of marbles he was after. He not only got my favourites…but most of the others, too. I was heart-broken and had only myself to blame. I knew that.
Knowing didn’t make it better.
What I didn’t know was that my day was only going to get worse.
The second event happened that evening while we were eating dinner. I can see the images clearly. Firm and solid. Everyone is sitting around a long, rectangular table.
The Father at one end; The Mother at the other; Little Brother next to The Father on the right; then me next to Little Brother. Across the table was Older sister next to The Father on the left, with Middle Sister next to her…which places Middle Sister directly across from me. The Mother is next to me, on the end to my left.
I can see where we all are. What I can’t hear is exactly what started the conversation that became in my mind The Lost Family. This Family I thought was mine. This Family that belonged to me and that I belonged in. I’ve recorded this memory in visual and audio cement. I can see now, not then, that losing a steely and lavender cats-eye marble seems small in comparison. But then, I was small. I was only seven when I lost my marble collection.
And, My Family.
Older Sister: Daddy is not your Father.
Me, Little Sister: What do you mean Daddy is not my father?
Older Sister: He’s not your Daddy or your real Father. He adopted you for a quarter so your last name would be the same as ours.
Which, I’m both happy and sorry to say…explained a lot.
It explained why my Older, Middle Sister and Little Brother resembled each other. It explained why the immigrant Genoan Italians at all the “family” reunions looked at the small, freckled-face reddish-blond Irish looking girl child with more curiosity than acceptance. It explained why The Mother couldn’t tell me my nationality other than “Heinz-57”. So for the longest time I figured having ketch-up in my blood wasn’t so bad.
At least it was red.
It explained (and confirmed) the feeling of being on the outside. Of not fitting. It explained why I always felt there were some pieces missing. Don’t ask me how or why I knew.
I just did.
It also explained why The Father, now The Step-father, showed me secrets and treated me so special. More special than Older and Middle Sister.
My name is Ruth.
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