Thursday, December 05, 2019

The Kid’s Table of Yore

Merry Christmas

I was officially orphaned in 1999. Since then, my Christmas spirit has been spiked with the bittersweet taste of melancholy. While I celebrate the season with fervor, I can’t seem to quell the emptiness I feel in the pit of my stomach. I believe it to be caused by “the sense of family” that seems to have lessened since my parents have moved on to a better place. 
My sister and I 

My sister and I both admit we don’t cut the mustard in the family unity department. We barely graduated from the kid’s table before we were thrust into the position of matriarchs.  In our defense, we are geographically challenged. We have sisters, brothers, daughters, granddaughters, and cousins living all the way from Baltimore, Maryland to San Diego, California.
Mom and Dad with my daughters Kirby and Dustan 

I miss my parents, the glue that held the family together. Every Christmas, my thoughts always drift back Omaha, Nebraska, a time when all seemed right in my world. (Mom and Dad always bragged they made life-long friends in Nebraska. We all agreed that was the place we were happiest as a family.)  My lips curl up at the edges and my heart pangs with a combination of angst and joy when I think of the Christmas mornings of yore spent in our happy Nebraskan home.
     Every year, Dad made my sister and I wait impatiently at the top of the stairs holding back the dog while he set up his Super 8 camera. (Thank you, Dad, we still have the movies.) When he finally gave the word, we would run down stairs, tear open our bounty of gifts, and then hit the streets to compare toys with our many friends. 
     Feeling nostalgic as usual, and longing to open a window into the past when my family was intact, and Christmases were magical and my dreams were boundless, I hit the internet in search of one Nebraskan family that held a special place in my heart.

The T’s lived directly across the street. Mr. and Mrs. T had three children. I was eight-years-old when the twins, two adorable towheaded girls with ice blue eyes, were born, and nine-years-old when their equally adorable, sandy, brown haired sister Nanny came along.  I patiently waited for them to walk, and then dressed them in ballet costumes and taught them to dance.

     I took them trick-or-treating every Halloween. I snapped many photos, for which they eagerly posed. I starred them in my Super 8 movies and many, many theatrical basement plays. They were smart little girls, willing actors, and always adorable. (I still have the movies and the pictures.)

     I enjoyed the twins and Nanny’s company as much as they enjoyed mine. When I was twelve, I talked their mother into allowing me to babysit while she ran errands. And by the time I was 13, I was the T’s regular babysitter. Though, I’m sure Mr. and Mrs. T were comforted knowing Mom was right across the street. 

     The last time I saw the T girls, as I called them, the twins were 7 and Nanny was 6. I remember that cold day in November of 1974 as if it were yesterday. The early morning sun glistened off the dusting of the new fallen snow. I stood in my front yard knee deep, with a smile on my face and a lump in my throat, staring at the house I had loved for six years—a lifetime in my young eyes. 

    I felt emotions ranging from excitement to remorse as the moving men loaded the last box on the truck. I crossed the street to say goodbye one last time to the little girls I wished were my own. I still remember their smiling faces as they waved good-bye, them too young and me too naive to understand the finality of our words. And then, my family drove off, in our blue Chevrolet station wagon with woodgrain paneling, never to return.  

     My parents kept in touch with the T’s over the years. I believe I wrote a letter or two, but boys and teenage things got in the way and I moved on with my life. We all did. Although the three little girls, that I once wished were mine, were ingrained in the back of my mind.

      I began my Christmas Google soul-searches several years ago, locating one friend after another, but the T family remained a mystery. I almost gave up, when, like a Christmas miracle, two of the names of the little girls I once wished were my own, popped up on Facebook. 

      I consulted my sister, prior to pushing that friend request button. 

     She said, “You should definitely try, but don’t be upset if they don’t respond. You were older and you really loved them, but they were so young when we moved away they may not remember you.” 

      With butterflies in my stomach, I left a little note, enclosed a vintage picture, and sent out two friendship requests. Within a day, my requests had been accepted, and I received a message of acknowledgement from both. 

      And now, not only do I have the peace of knowing their family is well and intact, but to paraphrase Nancy, I also have this: “I remember you dressing me like a mouse for a Christmas movie. You had the moms come to see it, and you made cookie cutter sandwiches. I did that for my kids because of that memory.” 

    After reading Nancy's words, just like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes. My mouth bowed into a smile, and something warm rolled down my cheek. I had forgotten about my basement production of “Santa Mouse” starring Nanny, and the cookie cutter sandwiches Mom taught me how to make.  Nancy's memory is one of my greatest Christmas gifts.

    I am elated we have reconnected, but there is one thing I am finding hard to fathom. The precious little girls that I once wished were mine, who have been frozen in time for forty-four years, are now beautiful adults with children of their own. I am slowly, but surely, getting used to the idea. 

     Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and peace and love to all!

Susan Antony

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