Thanksgivings Past


[Grammy Nadeau, Mammy, and Terry]

The Wednesday nights
before Thanksgiving
were glorious
and full of some
of the most
memorable and
happy moments
I’ve ever known.

We were always so
frantically but
ecstatically happy
preparing for
our day of thanks.

My grandmother
Mammy would be
baking pies like
mincemeat,
rhubarb, cherry
and pumpkin.

My great grandmother
Grammy Nadeau
would rest quietly
in an old armchair
while I sat next to
her, reading the
newspaper aloud.

Mommy would play
records, and there
was always dancing.

And then came
the day of.

I would wake up
to the smell of
sauteed vegetables
and garlic.

We would roast
chestnuts in the
oven, and eat them
all day.

We cracked walnuts
and filberts with the
lobster cracker.

And no Thanksgiving
was complete without
Mammy’s famous
deviled eggs.

The turkey was
always the
crowned jewel.

Packed to capacity
with the most
heavenly stuffing.

But it was the love.

That big humongous
love that stretched
from Wednesday
through Thursday.

A love that I will
forever cherish
and recall.

Being Barbie


I flew to Florida last week for a girls-only Barbie Party.

And I’m so happy I did. The camaraderie was infectious, and I hadn’t felt that carefree in years.

We all wore Barbie name tags and enjoyed many “Hi Barbie” moments, just like in the movie. I thought the movie was going to be flimsy and transparent, but oh, no, it wasn’t. The summer blockbuster actually moved me to tears.

In between watching the film, we toasted to sisterhood and hugged each other a little harder than usual. I was also reminded of how huge of a part Barbie played in my younger life.

We playfully bestowed upon each other Barbie nicknames because, bottom line, girls just want to have fun.

There was Black Barbie, Hall Monitor Barbie, Lesbian Barbie, Divorcing Barbie, Hostess with the Mostess Barbie, Rock Star Barbie, Workout Barbie, and Party Hardy Barbie, to name a few.

I was Bat Mitzvah Barbie because the last time I wore my bubble gum pink suit and matching kitten heels was at my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah — in 2001!

We were all glued to the part in the film when America Ferrera’s character Gloria, a Mattel employee and mother, delivered a powerful monologue to Margot Robbie Barbie, who was going through a crisis after the Kens turned Barbie Land into Ken Land.

Every word in that monologue hit me hard and reminded me of my resilience, my inner strength, my courage, my silent triumphs, and the incredible journey that I’ve been on:

“You are so beautiful and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. It is literally impossible to be a woman. We have to always be extraordinary, but somehow, we’re always doing it wrong.

You have to be thin but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy. But also, you have to be thin.

You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass.

You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas.

You’re supposed to love being a mother but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time.

You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people.

You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. 

You’re supposed to stay pretty for men but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood.

But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged, so find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful.

You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line.

It’s too hard. It’s too contradictory, and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you.”

As the mom of a daughter, Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie (played by Rhea Perlman), said something to Margot Robbie’s Barbie that will stay with me for a long time: “We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back to see how far they’ve come.”

By the night’s end, I felt like 20 instead of my still-trying-to-come-to-terms-with-my-age-of 70.

And I couldn’t wait to call my husband to tell him I love him and that I appreciate and miss him.

And the moral of the Barbie Movie for me?

Women must embrace their empowerment while respecting men’s struggles and never disregarding their feelings. No Barbie or Ken should live in anyone’s shadow; everyone has value — extremes of masculinity and femininity damage everyone.

The real world can be challenging and complicated, so we men and women need each other while never forgetting the power of motherhood and sisterhood.

I Am Who I Am

Whenever I get anxious or triggered, the best way to quiet the disquiet is to write it out of me.

It works every time, and today is one of those days.

On May 26, 2013, I received a Facebook message from someone I used to love, ordering me to remove my maiden name from Facebook. I felt outraged. I felt sadness.

And I also felt shame.

The hurtful demand may have been sent to me over ten years ago, but I still feel the sting of it. And the shame.

I angrily responded that I earned that stupid name, although I failed to elaborate on the gory details. I wish I would have.

Instead, I gave this cold-hearted faux family member a crushing piece of my mind — so word-crushing that I haven’t heard one peep since. Let’s just say Bridgeport “Terry” was unleashed.

It took years for the emotional anguish of that Facebook message to fade, but the shame never really went away. It hid just below the Teri surface.

Then, in December of 2022, one of my closest friends suggested that maybe I shouldn’t share so much about my life. That, perhaps, my oversharing makes people uncomfortable, or worse — makes people feel sorrow for me.

And just like that, the shame seeped out of all my tenuously glued-together surface cracks.

I disagree that what I do is overshare. What I do is uninhibited truth-telling. And my truth-telling takes courage, my friends.

My truth through words helps to quell the mental chaos. Isn’t that a good thing?

Every word I write comes from the introspection of self: rejection, failure, loneliness, depression, divorce, death, betrayal, sexual assault, despair, alienation, trauma, poverty, bullying, fear, not having, and then having.

I’ve tried to write about the giddy, lighthearted, silly things, but there is no written urgency in blissful contentment.

It’s the struggle, the regret, the doubt, the unspeakable — that’s where the heart of the written matter lies. That’s what compels me to write it all out.

Maybe one day I’ll write about the happy, peaceful events in my life. Maybe one day I will. But not today.

I have said this countless times and will say it again: I don’t write the words; the words write themselves.

To be clear, I don’t need or want anyone’s sorrow, and I could write so much more — but all in good time.

If my revealing and divulging words make some people uncomfortable, then so be it.

How about the thousands of people who have sent me the kindest of messages lauding me for having the guts to speak out about the life stuff most find uncomfortably unspeakable?

What about those who bless me for helping them to heal?

What about the endless numbers of women who thank me because they are terrified, unable, or unwilling to speak up for themselves for fear of being unbelieved or shamed? Or worse, punished?

Don’t they count for anything?

So, whatever — some will say I overshare. I really don’t care.

It’s the shame I care about — those flashes of shame get to me every damn time.

Sadly, on July 21, 2023, someone I would take an actual bullet for — came for me and my blog with a word-riddled bullet and told me my writings were a stain on their family and suggested that if I wanted to continue to write, I should change my last name.

More shame.

My first tearful thought was, “Change my last name? Again, with that?” Then I wiped away the tears, and my reply was swift, deadly, and meaner than mean.

Shame be damned.

Ordering me to change my last name is a sore point for me. It has now happened three shameful times in my life, and I am fed up.

And how else can I cope with my exasperated, shameful self but to write it out, aka overshare?

So, here you go.

In 1967, at fourteen, I was forced to change the last name on my birth certificate. To be clear, I did NOT want to change my last name.

I put “Terry” in quotations in paragraph seven of this blog post because the spelling of my first name was also changed when I was fourteen — also against my wishes.

In so many words, it was explained to me that “Teri” was way more Westporty chic than Bridgeporty hood “Terry,” so the spelling of my first name was eradicated.

Shame.

Additionally, as if changing my first name wasn’t shameful enough, it was further explained to me that I was being legally adopted, which is why I needed to change my last name.

I was matter-of-factly informed that my father gave me up, so I couldn’t use his last name any longer — it would be illegal for me to do so.

Shame.

Seemingly effortlessly — to everyone but me — my first and last names were changed.

I felt despondent. I felt heartbreak. I felt abandoned by a father I didn’t even know.

And I felt knife-like pangs of unrelenting shame.

Unbeknownst to me, and something I didn’t find out until six shameful years later — my last name was changed ILLEGALLY without my father’s permission, which resulted in me being unable to get a passport for over ten years.

I honestly don’t even know how I was able to get a driver’s license since the first and last name on my birth certificate and social security card was different from the last name on my high school records, with no legal adoption documentation to back it up. I guess I got lucky for a change.

As a Flight Attendant in 1973, during the thick of my dealing with an illegal last name, Delta Airlines made an unusual exception and provided me with a written passport exemption letter, which I used for all the years I flew for them — a shameful and daily workplace reminder of my illegality.

In 1983, I happily got rid of that illegal last name — when I married the father of my children. I thought by finally ridding myself of my illegal maiden name, I could also get rid of the shame.

Getting rid of the name was easy, but the shame, well…

And then, when Facebook came along, what choice did I have but to bring back that illegal maiden name so people from my past would know how to find me? So, I unhappily, reluctantly, and shamefully brought my illegal maiden name back into my life.

Now, let’s move on to my legal and current last name.

And I don’t need to explain myself to anyone, but I will anyway because that’s what I do.

Professionally speaking, I made a name for myself under the auspices of my married moniker. Like it or not, I’m stuck with it.

So, NO. I’m not getting rid of my last name(s) — the legal one or the illegal one.

You can try to shame me all you want — those names will be written on my grave. (Oh wait, I’m getting cremated, so make that my proverbial grave.)

But to be honest, the hateful July 2023 name-change request spewed out so vitriolically from someone I loved more than life itself slammed me hard.

The stinging, callous request shamed me so grievously that I decided to take a break from writing and rethink the whole blog thing. And I literally and agonizingly thought through the logistics of what it would take to change my last name.

FOR LIKE ONE TEARFUL DAY.

Then, I picked my shameful self up and convinced myself to stop letting others shame me.

I am who I am.

I expose my heart and soul through my words despite the criticism. And as far as I’m concerned, nothing is more courageous than that.

It took me until today to realize that they may have been able to take “Terry” out of Bridgeport, but they can never take Bridgeport out of “Teri.”

Yours shamelessly and always, Teri Gatti Schure

My Stolen Diaries — Chapter 25: The Tony Telling

CHAPTER 25

 THE TONY TELLING

 March 3, 1966

Now that Roberto is back, Mom’s dirty little secret — me — is finally out. I told Mem it was time for Mom to admit to everybody that she has a daughter and to stop telling lies about me. Well, okay, maybe she shouldn’t tell the truth to St. Ambrose School and Church.

Mem responded that the truth always comes out, for good or bad.

But when I asked her about the lies we told to St. Ambrose, she explained that nothing good would come out of telling the Catholic Church that Mem and Mom were excommunicated sinners.

From what I heard, when Roberto told his family about me, the “Tony telling” created an enormous problem, so I’m sure nothing good will come out of that either. Should anyone be surprised?

Mom said Roberto’s mother, Bella, was hopping mad and told Roberto that Mom needed to figure out a way to get back into the good graces of the Catholic Church, or he needed to part ways with her. Is there such a thing as getting un-excommunicated?

Oh, and also, according to Mom, Bella wants to meet me and have a talk. A talk with me? What kind of talk could she possibly want to have with me? I don’t have a say in my life. I don’t have a say in anything. I’m invisible, remember?

I overheard Mom tell Mem that Roberto has two sisters, and Babs, the youngest in the family, refuses to have anything to do with him now that she knows that Mom is divorced and has a twelve-year-old kid.

His older sister, Gia, adores Roberto and loves Mom. And it turns out that Gia has a daughter, Patrice, who’s my age, so Mom said maybe that’s why she’s open to meeting me and giving me a chance.

I told Mom that Gia’s daughter might be the same age as me, but the difference is that she has a dad, she’s nobody’s secret, and maybe I should be the one to give them a chance, and not the other way around. Mom told me to shut my trap.

Mom also informed me that we are all having dinner at Bella’s house soon. I’m scared to death. What if Roberto’s family hates me? Then what?

When I asked Mom what was going to happen to Nick, she just glared at me. But I know for a fact that she’s still going out with him because Mem told Mere Germaine that she was “stringing Nick along just in case.”

Since Roberto got back with her, Mom’s been pretty sneaky about where she goes these past few weeks. And I know Nick calls because I hear them on the phone together.

I still had hope for Nick until today when Mom came home from somewhere secret. It wasn’t that much of a secret because I saw Roberto’s fancy black car drop Mom off.

Speaking of fancy black cars, I was riding my bike on the sidewalk by Court D yesterday when I noticed a black car driving slowly past me. I figured it was loser Roberto.

But when I looked up and into the car, I could see it was my father. I’ve certainly seen enough pictures of him in the local newspapers to recognize him.

I saw his handsome face, and I felt pride, but I also felt his pain. And I could see from his dark, beautiful eyes that he saw me, too. And for a second, it seemed like our pain was something we could share.

But then, just like that, he quickly drove right past me. I chased after his car, hoping he would see me riding my bike behind him and stop.

The whole time I was peddling to catch up with his car, I kept praying, “Please see me, please see me, please see me.”

But he didn’t see me, or if he did, maybe he got scared and decided stopping would only cause everyone trouble.

I knew he was trouble — double trouble — but I didn’t care. I rode that bike as fast as humanly possible. As I watched his car fade into the distance, I had no choice but to give up trying to catch my troubled but handsome dad.

Maybe he saw me, and maybe he didn’t. I’ll probably never know.

I rode my bike back to our apartment and felt crushed — while Mom was in an unusually happy-go-lucky mood.

“Roberto’s mother is making a huge Italian feast, and the whole family will be there,” Mom kept repeating herself over and over again like a broken record.

Also on repeat: “And if you embarrass me, I’ll kill you.”

I was still hurting from failing to catch up with my dad, and I was thinking about all the different ways that I could try to find him. And for the record, he also has a big nose, which fits his beautiful face perfectly, giving me new hope for myself and my nose.

Mom broke into my thoughts with, “HELLO. Anyone in there?”

I burst into tears and ran upstairs while Mom asked Mem and Mere Germaine, “What’s her problem?”

What’s my problem? I miss Steve. I miss Adam. I miss Yolanda. I miss Nick. I even miss White Street, but not the rats and cockroaches. And I miss my dad, even though I don’t know him.

Mom should be able to see that I’m hurting.  And yet, all she cares about is that I shouldn’t embarrass her so that Roberto’s family will accept me. It seems to me that I don’t have any control over whether  Roberto’s family accepts me or not.

How can I possibly know what NOT to do or say so as NOT to embarrass Mom? Why is the pressure on me? Mom is the one who brought me into the world, so she should be the one they need to accept, not me.

I didn’t ask to be born, and yet I’m the one everyone’s blaming — and my acceptance or rejection is all up to them and completely out of my control.

I hope they hate everything about me. Then maybe Roberto will kiss us all goodbye, for good this time.

And who knows? If Roberto’s family rejects me and refuses to accept me, then maybe Nick just might have a chance.

Or maybe even my dad.

Mem came upstairs, ruffled my hair, and asked me why I felt so blue. I lied and told her I was sad and afraid for Mom and there was nothing I could do to save her from making the biggest mistake of her life — when, in truth, I was sad and afraid for myself. How much more should I have to suffer for Mom’s irresponsible decisions?

Then Mem said something that will stay with me for a long time. “It seems to me that with your Mom and Roberto, it’s all about the chase. For both of them. Once the chase is over, who knows what?” I nodded in agreement because I just had a chase of my own.

I collapsed into Mem’s arms and tried to cry it all out. I accused Mem and Mom of keeping me in the dark about everything. “I’m not a baby. I need to be heard. I need to be seen. I’m strong. I can take the truth,” I whimpered through my tears.

Mem hugged me tight and kept apologizing for stuff I wasn’t even crying about. “Go ahead. Ask me any questions you want. I’ll answer you truthfully.”

I sat on our bed, dead silent. The only question I had was buried deep inside my scrambled-up brain:

Dad, did you see me?

Click here for Chapter 26: The Tony Show

The First

First apprehension,

then euphoria.

The one today

is your second

but you were

the first.

A sizable first,

but oh, so

vulnerably

fragile.

The surgeries,

the disquiet,

the…

other things.

It was a lot.

The wound

in my heart

was worth

the flashes

of rhapsody

though.

I’m not sure

what else to say,

so better to say

nothing at all.

That’s all we have left.

Nothing

My Stolen Diaries — Chapter 24: He’s Baack!

CHAPTER 24

HE’S BAACK!

February 1966

The phone rang yesterday, and when I answered it, a man was on the other end asking, “Is Natalie there?” When I replied that Natalie wasn’t home, he asked me to tell her Roberto called!

Roberto? Oh no, not again.

I wanted to tell him off, but what good would that have done? I also wanted to say, “Do you know who this is? THIS IS NATALIE’S TWELVE-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER!” But, of course, I didn’t.

I ran outside and told Mem, who was hanging sheets on the clothesline. She put her bag of clothespins on the ground, gave me a worried look, and we both sat down on the stoop.

“What now?” I asked Mem, but she didn’t answer me. Then Mem went into the house and told Mere Germaine about the phone call, and the three of us sat at the kitchen table in silent shock. Even Rib was upset, letting out tiny, high-pitched cries. “What now?” I asked again. This time, neither one of them answered me.

When Mom came home, and I told her that Roberto had called, she lifted me off my feet and kissed me all over my face while laughing like a hyena. I liked the attention, so I forced myself to look happy for her, even though I felt pure misery inside.

Mem and Mere Germaine warned Mom to think carefully about what to do next. But she knew exactly what she wanted to do and called Roberto, whispering to him from inside the closet next to the phone.

When Mom got off the call, she was the happiest I’d ever seen her and told us that Roberto was coming to the apartment to pick her up and take her out to dinner at some fancy Country Club in Westport called Longshore.

She group-hugged me, Mem, and Mere Germaine and then ran upstairs to get dressed while we stood there dumbfounded.

About an hour later, Roberto showed up at our front door. I was sitting at the kitchen table with Mem. Mere Germaine was boiling water for tea at the stove, and Mom was still upstairs getting “all dolled up,” as Mem called it.

Mem asked me to answer the door, but I said a big fat NO. Mere Germaine took off her apron and opened the front door. Mem stood up and walked into the living room, but I sat at the table with my back turned toward Roberto, and I refused to turn around unless asked to. It was no surprise to me that nobody cared to ask me anything because, as usual, I am invisible. Or maybe I’m visible, but no one takes the time to hear what I have to say.

And unfortunately, I couldn’t see anything because I was facing in the opposite direction. I heard Roberto say “Nice to meet you” to Mem and Mere Germaine, but nobody said anything to or about me. I’m sure they were all nervous about what I might do or what I might say. Rib, who barked non-stop, had plenty to say.

Mom ran down the stairs, and Mere Germaine blurted out that she looked like a movie star. Mom always looked like a movie star. I quickly turned my head around just in time to see the two of them kiss, which made me want to puke.

Mom and Roberto said goodbye to no one in particular, and from a side eye, I could see that the two of them made it a point not to look in my direction.

After they left, I ran to the front window and peeked through the blinds. They walked hand in hand to the parking lot and then drove away in his fancy black car. Mom looked especially beautiful in a green velvet mini dress that Mem always thought was too tight and too short for her. But I thought Mom looked perfect. I just wish it was for Nick and not Roberto.

Mem said she was upset that Roberto never looked over at me in the kitchen. I told Mem I was upset that Roberto didn’t open Mom’s car door for her like Nick always does.

At breakfast this morning, while Mom was still sleeping, Mem accused them of being out until the wee hours of the morning. Even Mere Germaine complained about Mom carousing around all night and made it loud and clear that she planned to speak to her about it.

The only loud and clear thing I know is that Westport Roberto and his fancy black car are back, which means poor Bridgeport Nick and his old, beat-up used car are most definitely getting the boot.

Click here for Chapter 25: The Tony Telling

My Daughter Dream


As a young kid living
in Bridgeport in that
crummy tenement
on Huron Street,
I would play house
with my precious Barbies,
and dream of having a
beautiful baby girl one day.

She was going to be fiercely
courageous, and a fearless
female warrior, who
unlike me, would laugh off
all the scary stuff.

From the moment I held your tiny hands
on that wondrous 2/24 morning,
I thanked God for your beauty and
the warmth and security
you provided me.

But I also prayed that one day
those munchkin hands
would hold power and might.

And also, on that February day,
I must confess
I had it in my head
that I would mold you
into my image.

A mini-me.  A mini-Teri.

That’s how I pictured you
in my head, full of dreams.

You, the fierce one
who hated Barbies
and pulled their heads off
sometimes using and gluing
their cut-up hair as ground cover
for the Seven Dwarfs.

Snow White was
nowhere to be found.

Or the time you ate an entire week
of birth control pills at 6 am
and when I called Dr. Hain’s answering
service, the operator couldn’t stop laughing.

And when I yelled out your name
you hid behind that ginormous
breakfront in your bedroom,
after dangerously pulling it away
from the wall,
fish tank and all.

Dr. Hain called back to say it wasn’t
as serious as the time
you drank Calamine Lotion.

My rough-and-tumble baby girl,
dressed up like an angel in white lace,
barreling over Temple chairs;
your dress almost over your head,
exposing your diaper-wadded tights.

I rolled my eyes, but I felt love so big
it almost exploded my heart.

And speaking of diapers,
I was convinced that you would still
be sporting them in High School.

In pre-K, when I pulled out your
Monday, Wednesday, or Friday
underwear, you screamed out,
“DIPES!”

You were my little typhoon,
with your flyaway hair
sticking straight up
to the sky.

My badass peanut,
who picked up
a fleeing house mouse by the tail
and cradled a dead crow.

You weren’t anything
like I dreamed
you would be
back in my Barbie days
when I was holed up in
that squalid
railroad apartment.

Bridgeport would never
have scared you.

My tomboyish girl
who was afraid
of nothing.

You have far exceeded
my naïve myopic mini-Teri
molding dream I was working
so diligently to achieve.

The love I have for you is limitless,
and I am hands down
your biggest fan.

It is no surprise to me
that you,
who always thought
out of the box,
would take my work to a
whole other level.

I have never been so happy
to have my work undone
because you have
taken the dream
and smooshed it all up
Ariel style.

Remarkably,
with strength,
tenacity,
and conviction.

You are no dream.
You are my everything.

A Vision Foretold

 

I knew you were running out of time,

and you knew it, too.

You always knew best.

You always knew everything.

The one who couldn’t read or write.

Your last words were well thought out.

A vision you foretold.

“Stay away from him.”

“He’s no good for you.”

“Walk away.”

Words of wisdom before

you closed your eyes

for the last time.

Should have, could have, would have.

But I didn’t.

Happy birthday, and RIP.

I’ll see you soon.

I See You

I see you in the majesty of the

star-dotted stratosphere.

And when the clouds darken

the ominous skies, I see you.

Amongst the trees

or the whispering wind,

or the fluttering of butterflies,

I see you.

When a young child flies by me on a bicycle

or chases after an errant ball;

I see you.

I once saw you on a train,

causing my broken heart to spasm

and spill out all over me.

I saw you just yesterday in the desert,

and in the bar having a cocktail.

And when that bucking Ibex

locked eyes with me,

yes, oh yes, it was you that I saw.

Every so often, I see you in the ocean.

Sometimes, the ocean is me—calm, and

tranquil until I see you, and then I am a

rip current, plunging under,

way, way out of reach.

I packed up the photos,

stored the first-place trophies,

and stashed away all that

would remind me.

But still, I see you.

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter 23: She’s an Awkward Girl

CHAPTER 23

SHE’S AN AWKWARD GIRL

January 1966

Since moving to Success Park, Mom was finally treating me like a human being again.

That was until she went to a New Year’s Eve party with Nick and saw Roberto there with another girl. Now we’re right back where we started with Mom accusing me of ruining her life.

It’s been a blessing having Mere Germaine back living with us, and I love Success Park, but I wish Mom would get over Roberto.

I also wish I could see Yolanda and Steve because I miss them like crazy. But Mem says that part of our life is over, so I don’t think I’ll ever see them again.

If I wanted to, I could easily walk to Steve’s Market and Father Panik after school and see both of them, and Mem wouldn’t have a clue.

But if Mem says that part of our life is over, I need to respect her wishes. The last thing I need is for Mem to be mad at me as well.

Nick is still hanging in there, but knowing Mom loves someone else can’t be easy for him. I know she’s trying, but Mom isn’t interested in Nick. And Mom seeing Roberto on New Year’s Eve didn’t help things with Nick at all.

I don’t blame Mom for being mad at me. I’d be mad at me, too. But the way I see it, I’m not sure Mom will ever forgive me. I’m not sure Mom even likes me.

Last night, I heard Mom say to Mem, “She’s an awkward girl.” “She needs to grow into herself, that’s all,” replied Mem.

Telling Mem I’m awkward is Mom’s new thing. Maybe that’s her way of getting back at me, although I know Mom doesn’t think I’m much to look at.

I looked up the word “awkward” in the dictionary, and the definition hurt me badly.

In the wrong direction, lacking skill, turned the wrong way, causing embarrassment—that’s what the dictionary said.

Is that what I am to Mom—an embarrassment? Or is she saying mean things because she’s still mad at me?

I once heard her tell Nick on the telephone that I’m awkward and need help in the looks department. Of course, I don’t know what he said, but it must have been something about me being shy because Mom answered, “No, she’s not shy. Not even close. She’s got a big mouth. You haven’t seen that side of her yet. She’s mouthy, she’s lanky, and she’s awkward.”

My dark, frizzy hair is pretty awful—I’ll be the first to admit it. And my nose is bigger than I would like. And okay, my skin is darker than any of my friends, except for Yolanda, because, of course, her skin is black.

Mem says that as I get older, my nose will fit nicely on my face, but I don’t think I’ll ever grow into myself like she keeps telling me.

Mere Germaine thought she was making me feel better by telling me that I have a “Roman” nose, whatever that means. Yeah, “roamin” all over my face!

Mom’s probably right—I’m awkward. But I still don’t think it’s nice to say hurtful things about me. So, to get even with her, I told Mem about Mom’s conversation with Nick about me being awkward and needing help in the looks department.

I milked it for all it was worth and told Mem I could do nothing about being ugly. I knew she felt sorry for me because she gave me a long, tight hug. Then she reminded me about the ugly duckling.

“The ugly duckling wasn’t a duck at all—it turned out to be a swan—a beautiful, graceful swan. And all the ducks were jealous. You’re a swan, my little Tony. I see it right here in your face—and in those serious dark eyes of yours. And soon enough, everyone will see you as the swan that you are.”

I thought hard about what she said. “What are you thinking, mon petit choux?” Mem asked. “Why doesn’t Mom see that I’m a swan?” I reluctantly asked.

“I see. That’s all that matters,” Mem replied. “Now you wipe those tears away, d’accord?”

Later that night, Mem had a huge fight with Mom about her calling me awkward. Mom was angry that I was snooping on her and Nick. “She’s a tattle tale and a little snitch. That’s what she gets for putting her nose where it doesn’t belong.”

Mem’s mouth was hanging open, but at least Mom didn’t say my big nose!

“You’re her mother, for Christ’s sake,” Mem screamed out. And then she sucked in a great big breath because she had used God’s name in vain. She took her rosary beads from her housedress pocket and ran out of the kitchen and up into our bedroom.

I gave Mem a few minutes, and then I went upstairs, where she was on her knees praying next to our bed. “Holy Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”

She motioned for me to kneel beside her so we could pray together. Mem prayed out loud and asked God to forgive her for losing her temper.

I prayed silently and asked God to make my nose smaller and turn me into a swan as soon as conveniently possible.

Click here for Chapter 24: He’s Baack!