“Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take, towards the door we never opened, into the rose garden.”T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Switched at birth began my story
as told by Mom, eyes teared and blurry
A mistake made by the nurse
discovered on the elevator
if you fancy
“A big fat Italian boy!” Take him back, Bud! Get our girl, our skinny Nancy!”
And where, pray tell, was I as this was going on?
In the arms of my loving wrong Dad and Mom.
The ones who in my opportunistic imagination
had only me to spoil with unending adoration
Attentive to my every wish
No words of, “Not now. Wait your turn.
Share your every that and this.”
No Great Aunties asking who is who.
Mom answering, “Nancy’s not the twin. It’s Robbie and Chris,
“Lillian!” said Phyllis “Just look at the babies too,
Michael and June!”
“Andrea’s fifth, angelic, ooh!
Eleanor’s the tall one, of course, the oldest.”
Those two aunties always were the boldest!
But my switched at birth Mom and Dad
showered me with every morsel of attention they had
All of my aunties, uncles too said, “We’ve come to play with only you!”
I, in turn, glowed in their light
But something always felt askew
“Did you stand all summer behind the screen door?”
My freckled face went unexplained.
My fondness for potatoes, mysterious.
A matter of worry, in all seriousness
Olive Oil was but Popeye’s wife
a cause for strife
And whom to play and fight with
in the ring?
When my Irish temper needs to sting?
Irish sisters, brothers bring.
And the pint to share as well as the curse
This mistake must be reversed
I love my lasagna loving folks,
wide of girth
But please now
bring me back to my crazy Irish
family of birth.
A true story which was accounted to me many times throughout my childhood by my Mom, always with a healthy dose of humor and perhaps not as healthy a dose of horror. I never told her of my childhood imaginary alternate life, my “rose garden”.