She didn’t look like them. Everything about her was out of place amidst the shared genetic pool of their Italian heritage. Once at a family gathering, someone asked her who she was married to. She looked to be an out-lawed in-law, a true Black Sheep who was anything but.
She was tall, fair, blonde, with green eyes and freckles.
The fact she stood a good four inches taller than most of the other women there didn’t help her go unnoticed either. She was a solid six inches taller than her sisters. They belonged there, however. They were sired by their mother’s first husband. They were 100%. Her father was not. His Scottish genes had somehow managed to overpower the supposedly dominant ones. Genetics be damned.
After her mother died — this side of the family seemed content to let her go. Her mother’s oldest brother was the only connection to these people. He would drive the four hours from his home to hers and check in on her. He would always slip a dollar or two into her hand as he left, in the way all Italian Uncles do. Now and again in the summer she would go and stay with his family for a few days and try to integrate back into foreign territory. Her cousin (his daughter) had always been her best pal in this land of unknowns and they remained pen pals well into adulthood. In all the hordes of cousins that existed — there was just this one who really knew her.
Lucky for her there were The Others. The Others who looked like her. Others who did not ask her if she actually belonged with them. Others who knew her.
Her father’s family resembled her. Taller, paler, with hair color in every shade under the sun, eye colors which spanned the rainbow — they were a gangle of mismatched socks — happy to have another to tag along and add to their number.
They welcomed her. They fed her. They took her under their wings and taught her about Life. They were a rowdy and at times difficult bunch — but they were always Family. And always hers.
Her father’s family were country born and bred. They shared her love of nature, her gifts of speaking to creatures, and her forthright temperament.
Every once in a while — just for fun — she tries to remember all the names of people from her mother’s side of the family. She tries to put the right kids with the right parents and the right Aunt with the right Uncle. Her mother had 5 siblings, sometimes she even thinks she gets it right.
She used to identify herself as Italian for so many of her years because she longed for a connection to her mother and those Lost People. The ones who never reached out to her, The Not So Black Sheep.
But one day after too much suffering she took a good hard look at what the score really was. Ironically it was FB that showed it in black and white:
Mother’s family: 5 ‘friends’/Father’s family: 23 ‘friends’.
And ironically she had never ‘met’ 2 of those ‘friends’ on her mother’s side of the score-card. They were a spouse and an adult child of cousins who lived states away. Likely they would never even hear the sound of her voice. So in truth — only 3. Three people who had known her as a child, had known her mother, her grandparents, her sisters, her aunts and uncles, and all the family stories which are a giant black hole in her life. Three. Three people whom she hadn’t seen in decades.
But all 23 friends on her father’s side of the score-card knew her. At least half of them had her phone number and mailing address. She sent Christmas cookies to a large number of them every December.
It was time to face facts. You can’t ignore numbers.
She wasn’t Italian at all. Because the Italians had never wanted her. She didn’t look like them, she didn’t act like them, and for the most part, she wasn’t on their radar as family.
She was Scottish. And those 23 people were HER PEOPLE.
And as much as she might have longed for the rest of her mother’s family to realize she existed — she had finally come to face the truth of the matter — that particular ship had sailed decades ago.
There are no good reasons to keep banging on doors which refuse to open for you. Realization. Acceptance. Peace.
“Go Where You Are Celebrated, Not Where You Are Tolerated.” — Anonymous.