There she is again – that face becoming familiar now from three pictures in the old family album. The face told him that the two of them must be related. There was that odd diagonal dark marking on the chin that he had never seen in anyone living – just the grandmother that he had never met, but saw in the pictures in the album, and this girl of about five who was holding him as a baby in her arms. Her chin was a match for his.
Here was a reverse of the saying from the Joni Mitchell song, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” No one would ever write, “You don’t know what you had, when you just discover that you had it.”
Tommy had been raised as an only child, his parents feeling they were much too poor in their early days of marriage to have another. Yet here was this girl that definitely looked like family. He would like to ask his mother about her, but his visits to her in ‘the home’ were not occasions of remembering. There was a time or two when he had to identify himself to a worried looking old woman.
He couldn’t ask his father about the girl in the pictures, as he had recently died. Tommy had inherited the photo album from him. He couldn’t ask his cousins, as they were all younger than he was, and would be unlikely to know anything about the girl with the marked chin. He could ask his Aunt Emily, his mother’s sister. She was usually fairly knowledgeable about family history.
Asking Aunt Emily
The next day he ‘dropped in’ to his Aunt Emily’s place, bringing the photo album with him. She was surprised to see him, but pleasantly so. But her smiling face changed once he pointed out the girl in the photo album pictures. She looked worried, like he had just asked her about how much taxes she paid each year. She stuttered and stammered a bit, and then said,
“You’ll have to ask your mother, dear. “You’ll have to ask your mother. I’m not the one who should tell you. She is.” The last sentence sounded strange to him, but he did not pursue the matter, as he knew that would get him nowhere. He would have to visit his mother, maybe a few times, to get his answer to the question he had just asked his aunt.
Going for Ice Cream
As he left his aunt’s place, he decided it was time for him to get some ice cream. That’s what he often did when he wanted to put his mind at rest. So he went to the local Dairy Queen, where the servers knew him well. He would always joke with them, and they would always laugh, not always just for politeness sake. His joke today was that the servers should not wear just everyday ordinary Covid masks, but should have ones that would advertise the different flavours of blizzards. The laughing this time was definitely genuine. He bought his usual, a choco-brownie extreme.
Going to Visit his Mother
On Saturday, he went to see his mother. It was with mixed feelings, as usual, as he had such great memories of her when she was a lot younger. But she was so different now. The visit began well. She knew who he was. He got a big, “Hello Tommy. It is good to see you.” She noticed that he was carrying a photo album with him, and asked about it. Tommy wheeled her into a quiet space in the common room, as far as possible from the overly-loud television. He then put the photo album on the table in front of the chesterfield upon which they both sat. He turned the pages for her, knowing by the expression on her face when it was time to flip the page. Sometimes she would put her hand on a picture of her husband or of him. There would be a delay when one of the pictures of the ‘mystery girl’ were on a page. She said nothing, but once she put her hand on the photo of the girl. When the last such picture appeared, and she touched it lightly with the fingers of her right hand, Tommy took a chance. “Who is this picture of mom? She looks like family.”
Instantly, there was a mixed look on her face, part confusion, but part something else that he could not identify, it could almost be fear. He didn’t press the point. He closed the photo album, and she seemed to relax a bit. A little while later he wheeled her into her room. He lifted her into her bed, and she held on tight after he let go. There were tears in her eyes.
Again to Get Ice Cream
To get his mind and emotions back where he wanted them to be, Tommy went to get himself a two-for-one deal on blizzards. He joked with one of the servers that he thought that the two-for-one meant a choco-brownie extreme blizzard, plus a choco-brownie extreme coloured mask. She must have a similar sense of humour to his, as she almost laughed her mask off.
Tommy Visits His Aunt Again
Not one to give up easily on something he was determined to find out about, Tommy went on Sunday to visit with his Aunt Emily a second time. He would tell her of what happened when he went to talk to her sister. She listened, nodding her head at appropriate moments. But, when he asked again if she would tell him who the girl in the photo album was, she just shook her head, not giving him a hint as to why. He knew now that asking her would be fruitless. He shifted the conversation to safer territory, asking about her grandchildren. She was all words then. They talked into the early evening.
He sat in his car for a while after going out the door. Maybe he should just give up. No. But what could he do? Nothing that we could think of. Well, might as well go to get some ice cream. He would have to hurry as it closing time was fast approaching. The lights were still on as he parked his car, but they would be shutting up shop soon. He ran and got there just in time. They were cleaning up, but the door was still unlocked. Not expecting any customers, the two servers had taken off their masks. When he entered, he saw that one of them had a mark on the chin just like his. He then took his mask off.
Recognition was double. They both stared at each other at the same time. Tommy said the first thing that raced into his mind. “So, were you adopted?” She nodded, her marked chin moving up and down. He then said, “I have a family photo album that you should see. You might discover that you and I are related.”
After closing up, she followed him to his car. When he showed her the pictures of the mystery girl, she opened her mouth, eventually saying, “I remember that dress. My daughter, maybe your niece, loves it.”
They would have a teary meeting with their mother when they went to the home, and both took off their masks.