Continued from As the world turns

I spent my childhood puzzling over where I came from. I knew the official story. Mother had been married before, so Joan’s father was different than my own. That was supposed to account for our entirely different looks. But it didn’t fully account for the fact that I lived in a household of three people, not one of whom share a single feature.

I had never seen a photo of my father. In the midst of one of our epic battles while mother was out, Joan yelled something about my father. I don’t remember the details. I’d probably threatened to go find him and live with him or some such nonsense which frequently flew from my mouth in times of desperation. What I remember is spittle gathering in the corner of Joan’s mouth—a sure measure of her excitement. “You want to see what your father looked like? Huh? Huh? You just wait little sister, I’ll show you!” She dashed out of the room and returned too quickly.

 “Here, take a look. Look at your faatha!” (she had picked up the diction of aristocracy) She jammed the photo at me and despite my obscene curiosity, I clamped my eyes shut and squirmed free of her grasp, determined not to look. I sensed that if there was something Joan wanted to share while we were imitating gas and matches, then it was meant to do maximum damage. There was something about my father I shouldn’t see, at least not at that moment and in that manner. I assumed he’d been an ugly bastard and that I’d inherited his looks, the way mom sometimes accused me of having inherited his “god-damned stubborn streak.” It was either believe that or wonder if I’d been adopted. But that didn’t fly either. Why in hell would anyone willingly take on a miserable kid like me?

 Family resemblances unsettled me, a reminder of my own aberrance. My best childhood friend was the twin of both her younger sisters. Even my junior and senior high school best friend resembled her dark-haired, dark-eyed sister, despite her own white-blond hair and slate-blue eyes. But I looked like I’d been dropped into my family as an afterthought. At least that was the way I felt until I finally met other members of my family during a visit to Germany with Yry when I was 27.

Mother had asked me to join her on this epic journey to the old country, her first since she’d left Europe at the age of 11—my first ever. Finally the names on aerograms and greeting cards metamorphosed into warm bodies. We were gathered at Tante Nelly’s flat in Duisberg, Germany for a celebration of Yry’s arrival. Cousin Lore and her mother lived comfortably together in this little flat. We spent the day sight-seeing with Lore, while Tante Nelly spent the day cooking. In the evening Cousin Hermann and his wife arrived and we six sat around a large, round table to feast on Nelly’s cooking. She’d been to the market and purchased fresh white asparagus, a fine delicacy in Germany, and had prepared the most divine homemade chocolate pudding I’d ever tasted.