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My Stolen Diaries – 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!

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter 22: O Holy Night



December 1965

I have never seen Mem so happy and so relaxed. She’s been sewing secret gifts for all of us while playing holiday music nonstop. Her favorite song is O Holy Night by Nat King Cole, and she plays it on our record player over and over and over again.

Mem says that after what Adam did for us, the song has even more meaning to her than before.

Her favorite part of the song is:

♪ ♪ A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices. ♪ ♪

Life has indeed been glorious since moving to Success Park. Mere Germaine and Mom share a room with twin beds, and I sleep with Mem in the bed Adam gave us.

Mem says that Adam was our guardian angel and our Christmas miracle, and we all agree.

Speaking of miracles, surviving seven years of St. Ambrose Catholic School is also a miracle because all the nuns except Sister Regina Mary are beastly and mean!

Mom says it’s because they never “get any” and calls them frustrated old bitties, but only when Mem and Mere Germaine aren’t around.

When I ask Mom what the nuns never get, she tells me I’m too young to understand.

I used to think it was sacrilegious for her to say bad things about the nuns, but now I agree. The nuns have a terrifying way of humiliating us girls.

They put their fingers together in a point and pound them into the top of our heads. Ouch is right. The constant digging of their fingers into our skulls can’t be good for us.

The boys have it worse, though. The Sisters grab both their ears and yank them hard, causing their heads to bobble back and forth, which I’m sure rattles up their brains.

They also torture us in other ways, like stalking and roaming around with a wood pointer and whacking it on our hands whenever they feel like it.

Once, when Mother Superior caught me chewing gum, she made me walk around with it stuck on my nose all day, including recess, which was tricky because it kept falling off. By the time school was out, the wad of gum was filthy and speckled with who knows what.

Another time, she read a note I sent to my best school friend Vicki about a boy I had a crush on—over the load speaker to the entire school!

The good news, though, is that I am still one of the most popular girls in my class, and now that we don’t live on White Street, things have never been better.

However, there is some bad news—my friends are still not allowed to come to our apartment because I’m still from a broken family.

But at least I don’t feel ashamed of where I live, just sorry that people think my life with Mem, Mom, and Mere Germaine is broken.

Click here for Chapter 23: She’s an Awkward Girl

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter 21: Building 55, Success Park



October 1965

Two weeks after the meeting with Adam’s lawyer, Mem got a big fat check and the keys to his car.

Soon after, Mem put a down payment on a two-bedroom unit in Success Park, which is in Bridgeport but closer to the Stratford side, which Mem says is the safer section of town.

It’s no surprise that Mom disagrees with Mem and says there is nothing safe about Bridgeport, mainly because she despises everything about it. And she’s still blaming me for ruining her chances of getting out of Bridgeport for good.

According to Mom, Success Park is a housing complex that the U.S. Government built to accommodate the massive number of workers coming to Bridgeport in hopes of getting good-paying jobs during the war effort.

Success Park sounds to me like it’s mostly for low-income working-class people like Mem and Mom, and lucky for us, it’s far from any bullet-flying, street-knifing areas like Father Panik and a huge step up from White Street.

Mem agrees that the people who live in Success Park are a lot like her — hard-working, honest, decent people who struggle to make ends meet and, most importantly, are devout church-going people.

Success Park sounds like everything Mem has ever wished for, but the best part for me is that Mere Germaine is moving back in with us.

Adam left us his furniture, dishes, and Frigidaire, so Mem says he not only saved us financially but also set us up with everything we needed to live our best lives.

I’m happy Adam saved us, but Mem treats him like a saint, so now I know she’ll never get back with Steve. It seems to me that Mem is in love with a dead man, and nobody can ever live up to that — not even Steve.

Mom is relieved that we are getting out of our rat trap White Street apartment and moving to Success Park, but she still thinks we deserve better and need to get out of Bridgeport to make a name for ourselves. I hate that she always says “we” because I don’t know who “we” is, and I don’t want to be part of her dream. I have dreams of my own.

Mom always says she wants money, a rich husband, famous friends, a beautiful house, and everything else wealth brings. No one can disagree that Success Park is way better than White Street, but it’s not even close to the rich and famous stuff Mom keeps wishing for.

Mom’s definition of making a name for herself is marrying someone rich, but that’s not how I plan to make a name for myself. I have no plans to marry someone rich because Mem always tells me I can only depend on one person and one person only for what I need — that person being me, myself, and I. But now, I’m not sure she’s right because Adam turned out to be a very dependable person to Mem.

Now that I’m the proud owner of a beautiful piano, I would love to be a famous pianist and travel the world playing my music, but Mem says I need to learn how to play the piano first.

Roberto is still not talking to Mom, and she told Mem she’s worried that he won’t be able to find her once we move and change our phone number. Mem answered that if Roberto wanted to find her, he’d figure out a way. Otherwise, it’s his loss and too bad for him. I keep my Roberto thoughts to myself, but I pray to God every night that he never finds her.

Our moving day was exciting but also really sad. I took my chances and ran through the Panik to say goodbye to Yolanda. We both cried our eyes out because we knew we would never see each other again. Yolanda convinced me to stop by Steve’s Market to say goodbye. I didn’t want to go alone, so Yolanda went with me.

As soon as Steve saw me, I could tell he was happy but also unhappy. I hugged him and told him we were moving, but he already knew. I told him I would never forget him and thanked him for teaching me all about meat, which made him smile.

Then Steve said that he expects to read about me in the papers because he’s sure I will do great things and to always believe in myself. I could see Steve getting misty-eyed, especially when Yolanda told us we were the only white people she ever loved.

I hugged Steve again, and he whispered in my ear to run off and have a beautiful life. I squeezed them both one last time and then ran back to White Street, bawling but excited.

Mem drove Mom to Success Park in Adam’s car, and Mere Germaine, Rib, and I went with the moving guy in his truck. Poor Rib threw up brown bits all over my shirt and pants.

When we pulled up to the parking lot in front of Building 55, a bunch of kids were playing in a cement lot next to it. They all stopped what they were doing to watch us get out of the truck. I felt like a movie star with all their staring, although I hoped they couldn’t see the chunks of Rib’s vomit dripping down the front of me.

Building 55 was a brick two-story townhouse with ten units attached in one long row. As we walked up to the front door, there was a tiny fenced-in patch of yard that I let Rib run around in.

When we opened the front door, the apartment was sunny and smelled of fresh paint. The kitchen and living room were one giant room with a patterned wood floor, which Mom said was parquet.

Adam’s piano will surely take up half the living room, but Mem said it would serve as a constant reminder that Adam saved us.

We now have a front and back yard with our very own clothesline. The yards are postage stamp size, but they belong to us. And both the front and rear doors open properly, so we finally have two ways to escape in an emergency.

Mem is thrilled that we don’t have to share a clothesline with our neighbors any longer, but she is worried about who will mow the front and back lawns since we never had grass before.

There are two bedrooms and a bath upstairs, and the whole place is spick and span. The best part about our new home is no bugs, rodents, peeling paint, or moldy walls. And each bedroom has a door, which we didn’t have on White Street, although Mem says there’s no good reason to close them. Since I never had a bedroom door before, I disagree with Mem and can’t wait to close it for privacy, although I have to sleep in a bed with her. Mom and Mere Germaine will share the other bedroom and are lucky to have twin beds.

Mom might have dreams of leaving Bridgeport, but I would consider myself the luckiest girl in the world if I could spend the rest of my life in Building 55, Success Park.

Click here for Chapter 22: O Holy Night

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter 20: Help!



August 1965

Today the song Help! by the Beatles was playing on the radio, and the words of the song describe our lives to a T because we desperately need some help, especially the part that goes,

♪ Help me if you can; I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me ♪

It’s been seven months since my window screw-up, and Mom still blames me for everything bad happening to her. She keeps whining that Roberto was our only hope of escaping Bridgeport and that Nick will never be of any help since he likes it here. Plus, Mom says Nick has no ambition and will never make enough money to get us out, even if he changes his mind. According to Mom, we’re stuck in Bridgeport forever, thanks to me.

I hate that I’m the cause of all of Mom’s troubles, but as long as I’m with Mom, Mem, and Mere Germaine, I agree with Nick that we don’t need to leave Bridgeport, although it would help if we could move someplace without bugs and rodents.

Mem always says that help can come in the unlikeliest of places and when we need it the most, but Mom says there is no one to help us now that Roberto is off with some other girl. Mem’s reply to Mom is that if he found another girl so fast, he wasn’t the right guy for her anyway.

Speaking of help, before school let out, Sister Regina Mary helped me sign up for a library card because she believes that reading is good exercise for the brain. Sister also says that books will help my imagination and strengthen relationships. I hope Sister is correct because I could sure use some help with my relationship with Mom.

But the biggest thing that has happened since I wrote last is that poor Adam passed away. Lucky for him, Mem was there and helped him get to the other side. I have never seen Mem so upset, and it took her a few weeks to return to herself. You’d think that with Adam dying, Mom would be nicer to me, but she hasn’t been any help at all, mainly because she still hasn’t heard one word from Roberto.

Two days ago, Mem got a call from Adam’s lawyer asking her to come into his office. I took the bus with Mem to a fancy building on Main Street. The lawyer said that Adam’s will was recently probated. Mem told the lawyer she didn’t understand what that meant, so the lawyer explained that Adam’s will was proved by the Bridgeport Court to be his last will and testament. Mem was still confused as to why she was there and asked the lawyer if she was in some kind of trouble. Mem was shaking like a leaf.

I could see the lawyer felt bad for Mem and calmed her down by saying that she was in no trouble at all and that he had great news for her. Mem replied that Adam dying was terrible news for her, and nothing could change that. That’s when the lawyer told Mem that Adam had left her his car, the contents of his house, and a substantial amount of money.

Mem cried like a baby, and the lawyer offered her a box of tissues. Seeing Mem cry made me cry because I never saw her cry before.

The lawyer sat quietly for a minute before asking, “Who is Tony?” Mem, who was blowing her nose, pointed her finger in my direction. The lawyer looked down at his notes and then back up at me and said, “Adam left you his baby grand piano,” which made the two of us cry even more.

Then the lawyer turned to Mem. “Don’t you want to know how much?” “How much what?” Mem asked, wiping the tears off her face. “How much money Adam left you,” the attorney replied, looking shocked that Mem didn’t think to ask him.

Mem stood up, straightened out her skirt, grabbed my hand, and on our way out of his office, looked back at Adam’s lawyer and said, “No, I don’t want to know how much. When I get the money, I’ll know.”

Up to me, I would have wanted to know how much money Adam left Mem. Poor thing cried the whole bus trip home, even though I tried to calm her down by reminding her she was right on the money when she said that help comes from the unlikeliest of places and when we need it the most. She replied that right on the money was the wrong choice of words.

The one thing I know for sure is thanks to poor dead Adam; help is on the way. And no matter how much or how little, I know his money will go a long way to helping us get our feet back on the ground.

Click here for Chapter 21: Building 55, Success Park

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter 19: The Boot



April 1965

It’s been almost three months since Mem gave Steve the boot, Roberto gave Mom the boot, and Mom gave me the boot, or should I say the broom. But Mom won’t stop telling Mem that everyone got the boot because of me. Except, of course, Adam, because he’s almost dead, so there’s no way he’s getting the boot except from God.

Since I’m not allowed to go to Steve’s Market, and Adam is sicker than ever, I’ve spent most of my time at the Bridgeport Library.

I’m also not allowed to go to Father Panik Village, so Yolanda meets me at the library and helps me hide Rib in an old purse of Mem’s, so he can come with us.

We don’t have library cards which means Yolanda and I never get to the end of the books we like because we must leave them behind. I hope to apply for a library card soon because I’d like to finish just one of them, but I need an adult sponsor.

The first couple of times we went, I was paranoid that the librarian was watching us because of Rib, but Yolanda said it was because I was with a girl with black skin. I think it’s sad that the librarian is way more interested in why I’m with black-skinned Yolanda than the dog in Mem’s purse.

Rib is only three pounds, and Mem says that’s as big as he’ll ever get, which is excellent for me because I get to take him everywhere, and because he’s so tiny, no one even knows he exists, which in Rib’s case is a good thing.

Speaking of not existing, Mom still hasn’t heard one word from Roberto since I shoved my stupid face out the window. And she still hasn’t forgiven me for it, even though I make her bed every day and do all the chores she’s supposed to do, like vacuuming, dusting, and taking out the garbage.

My birthday was a bust because Mom refused to participate. Mem and Mere Germaine took me for a birthday celebration at Valley Farm Drive-In on Boston Avenue. I had a hot dog with the works, and Mem and Mere Germaine shared a meatball grinder, but Mom never showed up. When I cried to Mem, Mere Germaine told me that Mom’s heart was healing and to give her some space and time.

Mere Germaine still lives in Samir’s apartment, although I haven’t seen him since he punched out Uncle Luke. You could say Uncle Luke also got the boot, but with a fist to the face instead.

And just to let you know, I check the kitchen cupboard from time to time for any new newspaper articles about my dad, and there are plenty of them, so I’m sure he’s another man that I won’t be seeing anytime soon.

Based on his law-breaking behavior, he’s the only one who deserves to get the boot, although I hope the police don’t shoot him in the head like they did to his friend Anthony.

Maybe Mem is right when she says that all men should get the boot — except for Adam, who, according to Mem, is one-of-a-kind and not like other men. When I asked Mem about Nick, she said only time would tell whether he should get the boot.

I try to bring up Steve to Mem because I miss him terribly, but she’s stubborn and says he got the boot because he wouldn’t stop bad-mouthing Adam. Without Steve, we’re back to chopped meat, hotdogs, and liver, plus no more free cigarettes for Mom and Mem.

Mom is still dating Nick, but I can see his frustration. Nick knows Mom doesn’t love him because he told me so himself. When I asked him why he was wasting time with her, he said he still had hope.

If you ask me, I think his situation is hopeless because Mom cries every day over Roberto, so I’m all but certain that Nick will be the next one to get the boot.

Click here for Chapter 20: Help!

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter 18: The Secret Is Out



January 1965

I should have never taken the chance that Roberto might see me at Mem’s window, but I was sick and tired of worrying about some guy I didn’t know. Plus, I was boiling mad at Mom for refusing to tell Roberto about me, and deep down, I wanted to punish her.

So late last night, when I saw the bright lights outside, I knew that Roberto was dropping off Mom, and I decided to take my chances at Mem’s window. Mem was busy on the sewing machine at the other end of the apartment, so I snuck a quick peek.

As I peeped out from the bottom right corner of the window, a cockroach ran out from under Mem’s bed, making me jump around and scream like a banshee.

That was the stupidest thing I could have done because Roberto looked up and saw me! I quickly dropped to the floor despite the cockroach. A few minutes later, I heard the kitchen door open and loudly slammed shut.

“Where is she? I’m gonna kill her,” Mom yelled out from the kitchen. I crawled under the bed, praying there weren’t more cockroaches, but from the sounds coming out of Mom, I was safer with the bugs.

Mom was screaming and swearing, and Mem warned her to stay away from me. Mom came into the bedroom with a broom and kept stabbing me under the bed with the bristles. It was painful, and I was crying. Mem tried to pull Mom away and threatened to call Mere Germaine on her if she didn’t calm herself down.

Then Mom dropped to the bedroom floor, sobbing. “Roberto saw Tony at the window. She did this on purpose. Roberto called me a distrustful liar and broke up with me. That Tony of yours is pure evil, and I wish she was never born.”

Mem responded by reminding Mom that I was her kid and not Mem’s and that I could hear every word she was saying. Mem warned Mom that she would regret her words later. “The only thing I regret is having that brat,” she yelled as she picked herself up off the floor and slammed the back door as she left.

Mem ordered me out from under her bed. When I crawled out, I was covered head to toe with blood pricks from the broom bristles. My bleeding body stung, but not as much as Mom’s ugly words.

Mem stayed quiet. She put me in the bath to clean off the blood and removed some broom bristles stuck in my hair and scalp.

Then Mem called Mere Germaine to ask what she should do because it wasn’t safe for Mom to be outside in the dark. Mere Germaine said she was walking over to our apartment, which was a very long walk, so Mem begged her not to come. But Mere Germaine said she was on her way.

I hated myself for what I had done, but there was nothing I could do to change the situation. If it weren’t for Mom refusing to tell Roberto about me, none of this would have happened.

When Mere Germaine finally showed up, Mem ran outside to look for Mom. Before Mem left, Mere Germaine told her to take a can of Raid with her so if anyone tried to hurt her or Mom, she could spray it in their eyes.

I told Mere Germaine what happened, and she scolded me but held me tight while gently patting my still-bleeding arms and legs with her dainty needle-pointed handkerchief as I cried uncontrollably in her lap.

She put me to bed and told me not to move a muscle. “When your mother gets home, you pretend to be asleep, tu comprends?” Oh, I understood, all right.

Soon after, I heard Mem and Mom come into the apartment. Mom was still sobbing hysterically and telling Mem and Mere Germaine that she couldn’t take me anymore.

“If it wasn’t for her,” she cried to Mem, “my life would be so much easier. All of our lives would be easier.”

Mere Germaine was quiet, but Mem said, “How can you say such a thing? She’s a child. Your child.”

“Tony just had to put her ugly, scrawny face on the window. How many times have I told her not to do it? She ruined everything. We will never get out of here now, thanks to her. Roberto demanded to know who the kid was. This is not how I wanted him to find out about her. He’ll never speak to me again; I just know it.”

Mem and Mere Germaine did their best to calm her crying fit, but she wailed away for hours. That’s what Mom gets for being a big fat liar.

Mom’s words were way more painful than the stabbing she gave me with the broom, but getting Roberto out of our lives was worth the pain of all of it, and given a chance, I would do it again and again and again.

Click here for Chapter 19: The Boot

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter 17: Somebody Has to Go




November 1964

Adam is getting sicker and weaker by the day, and Mem spends all her free time caring for him. Mem says Adam is on his last legs, which I think is a weird thing to say because poor Adam had both his legs amputated a while back. He’s been so ill that Mem doesn’t want me there much anymore, so I’m back to my routine of going to Steve’s Market with Rib every day after school.

Steve refuses to let up on Adam, and it has caused a lot of trouble with Mem. I keep reminding Steve that Adam is almost dead and beg him not to mess things up. I warned Steve that giving Mem a hard time over a dying man was not the best way to win her over. But Steve won’t shut up about Adam and keeps accusing Mem of being ungrateful and selfish.

I sometimes wonder if Adam is also trying to cause trouble. Since I’ve been spending more time with Steve, Adam has been asking Mem to see me on a more regular basis.

Adam has a fancy baby grand piano, and he recently told Mem that he wanted to pay someone to come over to his house and teach me how to play. I think that’s Adam’s way of getting closer to Mem.

Adam also has a fancy car that he told Mem she could borrow anytime. Mem studied hard and got her driver’s license, so now we don’t have to walk or take the bus everywhere we need to go.

Two weekends ago, Mem and I stayed overnight at Adam’s house, which according to Mem, made Steve mad as a hornet. Adam hired a piano teacher, as he promised, and I spent the entire weekend learning how to play Minuet in G Major by Bach.

Mem was in the bath when Steve stopped by our apartment that Sunday night with some porterhouse steaks. He demanded to know whose car was in front of the apartment. I told him it was Adam’s car and warned Steve to keep his anger about Adam to himself or else.

“Or else what?” he asked me. I ran my right hand across my throat, which I hoped he took as a sign to stop his nonsense. Doesn’t Steve see he’s pushing Mem away? I asked him how he could be jealous of a man with no legs, who’s on his last legs, but he just shrugged.

The more Steve gives Mem a hard time, the more time Mem spends with Adam, which is fine with me because I’ve been learning piano, and according to my piano teacher, I’m a natural!

Last night Steve told Mem he thought she cared more about Adam than she cared about him. Then Steve said to her that “Somebody has to go.” Mem answered that she wanted to take a break from their relationship and that the somebody that had to go was him. Steve can’t say I didn’t warn him.

And according to Mom, not only will we have to go grocery shopping somewhere else, but without Steve, we won’t be eating steak any time soon.

Click here for Chapter 18: The Secret Is Out

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter 16: In Over My Head



August 1964

We went to Caribou, Maine, two weeks ago, for our annual St. Germaine family reunion. Mom is mostly dating Roberto, but she still goes out with Nick from time to time. Since Nick is Mom’s backup boyfriend, I was shocked when she told me Nick was driving us to Maine.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised because I’m not sure how we would have gotten to Caribou since we still don’t have a car, and Roberto still doesn’t know I exist.

I think Nick must really love Mom because even though she told him that she loves someone else, he hasn’t given up on her.

When we got to Caribou, Mom showed Nick around, although there wasn’t much to see except a bunch of potato farms and the Aroostook River.

Then we drove from Caribou to Eagle Lake for the family reunion. I helped Mem, and her sisters set up the picnic tables for lunch until a bunch of the kids decided to swim out to the floating lake dock. I didn’t know how to swim, but I really wanted to go with them, so I grabbed a swim tube and paddled out anyway.

The kids were diving off the dock, which roughed up the water, and I somehow slipped through the tube. As I sunk under the water, I panicked but luckily bobbed back up to the surface. But my tube floated away, and the water sloshing into my mouth made it impossible to yell for help.

I struggled to stay above the water, but I sank anyway. As I slowly dropped under, I could see the sun’s brightness above me. I thought I was a goner until a shadow blocked the sunlight, and someone grabbed me by the arm.

It was Nick! He was shaking, maybe even more than me, but he was a strong swimmer and dragged me to the sandy shore where Mom and Mem were crying hysterically. Mom was hugging and crushing me. I shoved her off of me so I could throw up. Mem was screaming at Mom that she should never have taken her eyes off me.

“Are you ever going to take responsibility for Tony?” Mem asked Mom. Nick tried to calm Mem down by saying he was watching me the whole time, but Mem told him while looking in Mom’s direction, “that’s what a mother is supposed to do.” Mere Germaine nodded in agreement which was a shock because she usually takes Mom’s side on everything.

Even though I was throwing up, I made sure not to miss a single word of what was being said. Mem made me promise never to go into the water again, which is more than okay with me because the only water I plan on ever getting into is in the bathtub.

The next day, Mem refused to speak to Mom even though Nick tried his best to calm down the situation. But Mem wasn’t calming down. She wouldn’t let me out of her sight and kept repeating that it was high time Mom woke up to the fact that she was someone’s mother, and again, Mere Germaine agreed.

With Mem and Mere Germaine giving Mom a hard time, she insisted we cut the trip short, so we left Caribou two days early. As usual, what Natalie wants, Natalie gets.

When Nick dropped us off, he lifted me out of his car and hugged me. When I thanked him for saving my life, Nick took my face into his hands, kissed the top of my head, and said, “You know I love you, Kiddo.” That was the first time a man ever said he loved me. “I love you too, Nick,” I said back, which was the first time I had ever said that to a man.

I wasn’t happy that I almost drowned, but it was worth it to have Nick say he loved me and to say I loved him back. Now all I have to do is get Mom to love him too.

Click here for Chapter 17: Somebody Has to Go

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter 15: Roberto, Roberto, Roberto



June 1964

Since Roberto doesn’t know I exist, I almost never look out the window when he picks up Mom because I don’t want to ruin her chances with him, even though I wish she would choose Nick.

She keeps telling Mem and Mere Germaine that she loves Roberto, but their answer to her is that it would be better if she finds a guy who loves her more than she loves him. It sounds to me like Mem and Mere Germaine both think that Roberto might not love her as much as Nick does.

I’m not sure Roberto even likes her. Mom is always coming into the apartment after their dates crying, and Mem always tries to calm her down.

If Mem is asleep when Mom comes home from her stupid dates with Roberto, she sits at the kitchen table in the dark for hours, smoking cigarettes. Mom never comes home crying or upset when she goes out with Nick.

Mem keeps saying that just because Roberto is rich and lives in some fancy town called Westport doesn’t mean he can treat Mom like she’s lower than him. Mere Germaine keeps telling Mom that with her beauty, she can get any man she wants.

“You look out that window when Roberto drops me off, and I’ll kill you,” Mom always says, so I’ve been careful about when and how I look.

Since Roberto always makes Mom cry, I wish I could get up the courage to stick my head out the window and show him once and for all that Mom has a kid, but I don’t dare. Not yet, anyway.

And I still can’t figure out why Mom doesn’t love Nick. Why does she waste her time with Roberto when Nick adores her? Plus, Nick knows I exist, and he’s okay with it. More than okay with it. He told me he loves me!

I sort of understand why Mem and Mom needed to lie to St. Ambrose about me being Mem’s daughter, but at least at school and church, Tony is a human being who belongs to somebody.

Roberto thinks it’s Mem, Mom, and Mere Germaine. That’s it. No Tony at all because he has no idea that Tony exists. Why can’t Mom tell him about me? Why would a mother lie about being a mother to the man she loves and who supposedly loves her?

Mem told Mere Germaine that Mom hiding me from Roberto was proof that he wants Mom to be someone she isn’t and that she would be better off being with someone who loves her for all of her. Mere Germaine agreed.

I’m also hoping Mom gets rid of him, but only if she chooses Nick because I’d hate to see Mom sad, and I don’t want her to be alone, even though she might ruin my life.

Click here for Chapter 16: In Over My Head

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter 14: Almost in the Nick of Time



May 1964

Let me tell you about Nick.

He’s tall, handsome, and the best thing that has happened to Mom in a long time, maybe even ever. And even though Mom says Nick has his selfish reasons, he likes me!

Last week, when Nick came to pick up Mom to take her to Seaside Park, I screamed out the back window for her to take me with them, which I could see made her furious.

Mem yanked me away from the window and made me sit facing the wall in the living room for fifteen minutes. I thought they had left, but then Mom came upstairs and said Nick felt awful that I was begging out the window and insisted I go with them.

When I yelled to Mem that I needed to come off the wall because Nick was waiting for me to go to the beach, mean Mom told me Nick could care less about me. “He only told me to let you come with us because you screamed out the window like a nincompoop. You’re a pathetic beggar, and he feels sorry for you.”

Mem asked Mom why she had to say such hurtful things to me, but I didn’t care because I was just happy to be going to the beach.

I thanked Nick later, and he told me it was no big deal since he’s Mom’s boyfriend now and wants us to be friends. Nick should only know the truth—that Mom has another boyfriend.

Mom is also dating a guy named Roberto. I’ve never met him, but I’ve seen him from Mem’s window a few times. I’m forbidden to look out the window when Roberto shows up, so I am as careful as all get out.

Mom told me if she ever catches me spying on them, she’ll give me the strap, which is way worse than the wall.

I know Roberto doesn’t know I exist because, according to what Mom tells Mem and Mere Germaine, she’s afraid to tell him she has a kid.

I was going to let Nick know that he isn’t Mom’s only boyfriend, but he was so nice to me, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, and at least Mom told him about me. And unless Nick is good at hiding his true feelings, it seems like he’s okay that I exist.

Mom was reading a book on the blanket while the two of us dug for clams. We talked about White Street and what it was like living there. I told him about the rat traps, but he already knew. He asked me if I was afraid like Mom, and I lied and said no.

He seems to care about what I think, and I like him a lot. He calls me Kiddo, and I like that too.

When we got home that night, Mom stayed in the car with Nick while I went upstairs. I tried to look out the window to see if they were making out, but Mem pulled me away and yelled for me to give them some privacy or she’d put me on the wall again.

I pretended to go to bed and took one more peek out the window. Mom wasn’t kissing Nick, and it was obvious that he was upset about something because he had his head in his hands, and she was patting him on the back, which I took as a bad, bad sign.

Click here for Chapter 15: Roberto, Roberto, Roberto