I am lying in my old bedroom, under a fuzzy pink blanket, which I always hated, waiting to hear the front door bang; so that I will know my father and step mom are out of the house. Flashbacks of lying under this same blanket, and waiting for my parents to leave, are flashing in my head. This was how I used to spend Saturday morning, because I hated wasting my weekends hearing my dad’s grumpy voice, and watching my mom’s melancholy face. However it is a Thursday morning today, and I need my dad to leave, so that I can be free to try to figure out why my mom always had a melancholy expression. My step mom had offered to drive my dad to work so that I could use his car to “explore” Chicago, and I have big plans for this day.
The day before I had googled all the the Myers in Chicago, and found 10 matches. The first three people I called did not pick up the phone, and the two people after that did not have any daughters named Kelly. When I called the 6th person, an old woman picked up, I could even hear the sound of her wrinkles on the other end of the line, and when I asked if she had a daughter named Kelly, she informed me that her Kelly had died 5 years ago due to cancer. I had hung up the phone, and immediately felt foolish. What could I hope to accomplish by such juvenile behavior? I decided that I would go visit her today.
I get up, too anxious to eat, and I brush my teeth, throw on some clothes, and get in my dad’s car. As the gps leads me to the house where Kelly’s parents live, I go over in my head all the lies that I plan on telling them. The night before, after a brief talk with Mike, I had decided to tell the Myers that my mom Pamela was actually my aunt who had Alzheimer’s, and that I was doing a special project to help her memory. I hope I will be believed.
I pull my car in front of a cozy looking house, take a deep breath, straighten my hair, and get out of the car. I knock on the door, and an old man with no hair on his head answers. When I tell him my well rehearsed lie, he smiles and says, “let me get my wife.”
“Marie,” he yells, and an old lady comes to the door. “This lady here wants to know about Kelly.”
The lady looks at me sharply. “Are you the young woman who called yesterday,” she asks. “Yes,” I reply. “I’m sorry for hanging up, but you see….” I stop in mid sentence. Something about this woman’s look makes it difficult to lie. She does not look sad or annoyed, just suspicious and tired. Her face seems to say to me, “I have had a difficult life and I’m not in the mood to be lied to.” I take a deep breath and spill the entire story of my life. About how I always felt distant from my mom, about the red rose, and about how I have been trying to solve the mystery of her life. When I am finished with my monologue, the old couple’s faces have changed, and they are both looking at me with kindness and understanding. “Come in,” the old woman says, “let’s see if we can help.”
I walk in, and the old lady, whose husband calls her Marie, asks me to sit down. I sit on the couch with Danny, her husband, and Marie serves me a cup of tea. I show them the picture of my mom, and Danny and Marie are delighted to see a photo of their daughter. “I remember this girl,” Danny says. “Kelly and her were best friends for years, and she was always sleeping over at our house.”
“They were friends all through middle school,” Marie adds. “You say her name was Pamela. I had forgotten her name. They were so close. I remember how sad Kelly was when Pamela moved away. All the way across America. I remember they wrote to each other for a year or so, but it is difficult for 15 year old girls to maintain a long distance friendship, and the letters became fewer and fewer until they stopped completely.”
“You mean she moved with her foster family,” I ask. I have always thought that foster families could not move across state lines. “Oh no,” Marie answers. “She did not have a foster family. She lived with her family and like 5 or 6 younger brothers.”
“She had a lot of brothers,” Danny adds.
“Are you sure they were her parents. It was a long time ago, and if you forgot her name, perhaps you have forgotten that detail too?” Although I am aware that I have been lied to about my mom, it is hard for me to believe that the fact that my mom was a foster kid, the only concrete thing I know about her, is also a lie.
“Oh I’m definitely sure those were her real parents,” Marie continues. “ I remember that once when I was dropping her off after a sleep over, her mom invited me in. Right at the front of the house was a picture of her when she was just born, still covered in blood. ‘That my first baby’s first minute on earth,’ her mom exclaimed proudly when she saw me looking at it. I was so grossed out by that photo, that I have remembered that moment my whole life.”
“Plus she was a carbon copy of her mom,” Danny adds.
“Do you remember where she moved to,” I ask.
“It was somewhere on the east coast, New York or Jersey,” Danny replies.
“No it was Boston,” Marie replies looking as if she was deep in thought. “Remember how Kelly used to beg us to go to Boston after her friend moved, how she used to say, ‘I just want to see what Harvard looks like.'”
“She did get to see Harvard, from the inside even,” Danny adds, bragging about his deceased daughter.”However, by then she had forgotten all about her friend.”
Boston. My mom hated Boston. She told us it was because she had a bad experience when she visited that city, and I could tell by her eyes that she was disappointed when I decided to go to college there. She was always reluctant to visit me, and she would usually get sick around the time of her visit, and would spend the whole visit in my apartment, and later house, saying that she needed to be inside to avoid the cold. I always wondered what it was about Boston that my mom hated, and now her hate makes much more sense. She wanted to hide from the city of her youth.”
“Do you have any of the letters she sent Kelly,” I ask. “Anything that could give me an address or a last name.”
“I have a box of Kelly’s old things in the basement,” Marie says. “She had lots of friends, and that box is filled with letters. I”ll look through it tonight, and if you come back tomorrow, I’ll show you anything I find that could be useful.”
“Thank you so much,” I say. At this moment, if I could have amputated my arm to bring their daughter back, I would have.
The next day I come back to their house. Marie meets me at the front door, with a postcard. It not only has my mom’s maiden name, but it also has the address she used to live at. “ Thank you so much,” I repeat again, thinking that I must sound like a parrot.
“Before you go, there’s something I want to say,” Marie tells me. “ Whatever secret your mom took to her grave, she probably does not want you to know about it. If she did, she would have left you a posthumous letter, or your dad would have mentioned something to you. Your mom’s secret will not be something pleasant; you are not going to find out that you are the rightful heir to the throne of England. It will be something horrible and awful, and you are probably better off not knowing. You should not pursue this.”
‘If you feel this way, why are you giving me this postcard?”
“I have lived a long time. I also know that when a stubborn person sets their mind to something, no warning and advice will stop that person, even if the person knows his actions can ruin his life. Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do, not matter the cost.”
“Have you ever done something like this,” I ask Marie, and for the first time I think of her as a person, and not just a vessel to aid me in my search.
“Let’s just say I have lived a long time, and I have many regrets,” she says with a smile that is full of wisdom, and she wishes me luck on my search.