In Case Anybody Cares, This Is Why I Can’t Sleep

The election results have cut to the quick. After a full week of protests from a stunned half-a-country, both the President and President Elect have called for calm. Peace rallies are cropping up now – “hug-ins,” and a “hand-holding” of hundreds around a lake, and a student/teacher-organized multi-hour march through a town to promote an accord.

At the same time, political, environmental and human rights groups are begging us to rally behind the issues and work together to safeguard against dismantling reforms that have been made.

I get it. We can’t continue this way. I don’t condone the violence, the fires, the blocking freeways and highways. But my personal anger rages. And while I am not a person of color or of a religion or creed that might attract negative behavior, I continue to react. I do not like the person I see in the mirror, sometimes spitting-mad, then depressed, unsmiling, stunned, and always terribly irritated by every minor inconvenience.

And worst of all, Humor, that irreverent and goofy thing that dwells within me, so close to my surface, suddenly packed up and left Tuesday night sometime between the cup of tea I made to steady my nerves and going to bed. It left, and it took Sleep with it.

Every night for eight nights I think long and hard about what has happened, and attempt to figure out why I hurt so much. There’s no denying it; I feel like I’ve been wronged. The hurting won’t stop.

I don’t react against the millions who voted this way, including relatives and friends. In the end, somebody wins and somebody loses. I know how good it feels to have a candidate I’ve supported win; it’s great, isn’t it? I don’t want to take this celebratory feeling away from anyone. So it’s not just that my candidate lost.

Last night, somewhere between 3 and 4 a.m., it hit me. Of course, I have been dismayed by the public lack of restraint the now President Elect has demonstrated for the past 17 months, and I hope that most of us, at the very least, has shaken our heads at the charged rhetoric. My urban neighborhood and my entire city is an ethnically-diverse region. I live in Silicon Valley. The entire San Francisco Bay Area is diverse. We chose, and continue to choose to live in an area that my grandmother, who was born in 1900, would have called “a regular League of Nations.”

When I walk my dog down the main artery, every day I breathe in the wonderful aromas of spices from multiple restaurants featuring world cuisines. The local movie theater is a hub for Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada and English movies. The shops and businesses are owned by neighbors who hail, or whose families once hailed from countries around the globe.

My kids’ grammar school was another “League of Nations” with 26 languages spoken by families. Some girls in my kids’ classes wore headscarves. Sometimes parents, who had just moved to the area and who had studied English in their native countries, volunteered in classes for weeks and months, translating for their own young children who, just starting school, had not yet had the opportunity to study English. Other language-rich volunteers within the community helped many a student feel comfortable with English. In fact, the school district, our school and parents’ organization held numerous tutorials with translations provided for non-English speaking parents so they could learn how to navigate their way through the school system. One thing was certain; we were in this together.

Along with the regular curriculum, all the kids studied music and technology. They learned about holidays throughout the globe and they sampled foods from across the continents. On special occasions they shared traditional dress. They played with each other and did homework and projects together and it never occurred to these kids that there was anything different or odd or unusual about any of this.

I’ve dedicated much of my time volunteering in and for schools. We, our family, chose to live here, and we embraced the diversity. And as with the other families around us, our children, all our children, would grow up together, study together and someday work in a global economy together where every ounce of understanding among individuals and nations could only be a benefit. This is Silicon Valley. A good chunk of success here is from working together. As school volunteers, we not only helped in class, we ran the cultural assembly programs, we engaged the kids in the arts, we wrote the newsletters, helped with the field trips, mentored, wrote about the successes of the school in a state and national program, ran the fund-raisers, made the copies, decorated the classrooms and the cupcakes, served on school site committees and represented the school at district-wide parent committees, and told kids that we really did live at school. The staff welcomed us warmly. We were partners. As parent volunteers, the more engaged we became, the more we realized that our own children’s success was in every way rooted in the success of all the children at school, no matter what learning disability they had or which language they spoke. We worked hard to counter bullying, embracing research-based practices that the entire school district supported. Parent engagement programs taught us how to empower youth, how to provide kids with assets that would enable them to meet challenges head-on. We adopted sound, proven techniques that highlighted a positive school climate.

And so here is my personal epiphany, figured out in the wee hours of the morning last night. For the past 17 months, we have heard nothing but bullying and calling out groups originating from different places on the globe, belittling people – people who have handicaps, people who speak different languages, people who worship in non-Christian places, women, blacks, gays, people who dress differently, and the list goes on. I will be the first to tell you that there are great challenges in our society, but after spending what I am proud to call my life’s work, the President-Elect has not only spit upon my values and those of my colleagues and neighbors and friends and residents of a beautiful place we call home, stomping on years of thoughtful, loving and hard work to help our kids, all our kids thrive, he has made it fashionable to seek-out with aggression and malice any and all who may be seen as a threat, any who look or act differently based on some perceived difference, forgetting that so much of the greatness of our country was built on the backs of immigrants who were also persecuted.

As a result, I feel shame that this is the course our nation has chosen. Change is fine. Bring it on. But let’s be darned certain that the change we make yields real progress. Making our country less inclusive of diversity is change, but just the worst kind. Progress is not made by bullying and threatening violence and committing violent acts. Nor is it made by yelling abusive comments at others. And we certainly do not make any kind of progress when children are afraid to go to school because they are told that they will be arrested and deported as soon as they open their door. One young child packed a suitcase on election night. A student, a young woman at a local university, was assaulted because she wears a hijab; she was nearly choked. There have been many, many reports of racial slurs, violence, and assaults. How do hate crimes enact positive change?

So I too, now, call for some semblance of order. Yes, from damaging riots, but also from people who think it is within their rights to persecute another for how he or she looks, acts, thinks, prays, or speaks. I chose to work for years, doing my part as a parent and citizen, to ensure that my kids and their classmates and friends were safe, well-adjusted and ready to succeed in a world that is, communication-wise, without borders. And in 17 short months, the gold-standard has been reduced to nothing more than a barnyard brawl.

And that’s why I’m not sleeping.

Kathy Galgano

November 16, 2016

 

 

Dog Park Minutes

  1. It was agreed upon yesterday evening by the quorum-plus assemblage that members and accompanying multi-legged canine companions (as one canine companion propels herself with great alacrity on three appendages, the phrase “four-legged companions” would be inaccurate and presumptuous) (and while the phrase “four-legged canine companions” might be considered redundant or at least unnecessary, it does depict an instant image in the mind’s eye), that the slight chill in the air that compelled us to wish we had donned a heavier sweatshirt could be considered akin to a “brisk spring.” It was also agreed upon by said group that as approximately five per cent of the geographic regions in the contiguous forty-eight states reported air temperatures above the freezing point at the same time, and perhaps even above the five degrees Fahrenheit marker, there would be no complaints tolerated regarding the fifty-something degrees Fahrenheit the group experienced at that time.
  2.  It was also generally agreed upon by all members present that the addition of the new canine companion was most welcome. The playful six-month old black lab mix instantly took to play with the other canine companions to the delight of the canines and accompanying parental units alike. The parental units of said playful pup were warmly welcomed by the other parental units in attendance.
  3.  It was reported that the sprinklers watering the field at the nearby secondary school have made the landscape “boggy,” and perhaps one of our members should notify an agent of said secondary institution of learning that a regulation of the ground sprinkling timetable would be in order. The rationale behind this revamping of the sprinkler assignment would be fiscal savings and the conservation of water during this exceptionally dry season. There was no appointment of a representative to notify said school of muddy conditions. The matter was taken under advisement.
  4.  It was offered by another member that while her canine companion enjoys frolicking with much favored orange and glow-in-the-dark balls at said member’s residence, the canine companion prefers interaction with other canine companions’ playthings, even when those preferred are the same as those brought to the field by said parental unit. Other members concurred, offering empathy and insight that this behavior is not uncommon.
  5.  Lastly, it was generally agreed upon by all members present that even with the added daylight of January versus that of a month prior, plus with the existence of street lighting and the lighting provided by the secondary institution of learning, in addition to the use of personal flashlights, it remains a challenge to spot the necessary relief droppings of the beloved canine companions. Multiple parental units were witnessed searching for said droppings, scanning the field methodically, foot by foot, from a northerly to southerly direction. Meanwhile, other parental units were seen searching said terrain for orange and glow-in-the-dark balls, with the latter no longer holding said glow-in-the-dark properties.
  6. All members agreed to meet each other and their accompanying canine companions on the following afternoon/ early evening.

Kathy Galgano

January 7, 2014

HOMEWARD BOUND – Thanksgiving Part II of III

I enjoyed inviting friends over to dinner, and my confidence level had grown dramatically having sliced and diced for our chef turned engineer friend so many times over the years. I grew up in a family that shared regional cuisines of Eastern and Southern Europe, and I gravitated to the Italian recipes.

Cooking was never scary. Well, not in the way you think. My mom and dad were adept in the kitchen and dad especially enjoyed the process, and we kids were expected to pitch in and help. Dad loved to play-up a mannerism that my mother and I found maddening. Dad talked while holding a knife. He would be telling us a story, and inevitably my dad would stop slicing or dicing or carving and start walking around the kitchen, swinging his arms and making his point, drawing circles in the air with the small razor sharp paring knife, or full-sized carving knife. I knew Dad used keen-edged blades; I watched him sharpen them on a stone before every cooking session.

“Carl,” my mother would call with exasperation. “Put down the knife!” Dad would be wandering around the kitchen, fully engaged in his story. My mother and I focused our eyes on his dominant, knife-wielding right hand as it cut through the air like a magician’s wand. He gesticulated wildly while nonchalantly forging ahead with his humorous story. He reacted to his own yarn, and smiled and laughed all the while seemingly unaware of the momentary kitchen angst he created. How Dad loved to tease! In his defense I have to say he never once dropped the knife; Dad’s grip was too strong to let that happen. My mother and I would look at each other and shake our heads as Dad wandered over to the sink, where I might be rinsing iceberg lettuce, or strolled the few steps to the stove to check out the pots my mother was stirring, still talking and waving his hands. At the conclusion of his story, Dad would return to his thick wooden cutting board wearing a broad smile, and dive into his work with great skill. We’d still be shaking our heads and he always pleaded innocence. Dad would look up at us and say, “What?” “What did I do?” My mother and I would sigh, maybe even roll our eyes in exaggerated exasperation, and then Dad would pull out his signature expression, contorting his mouth downwards to reveal his ridiculous “look ashamed” visage. Laughter erupted.

So while I’ve never been afraid to dive into a culinary project, I don’t remember recreating our friend’s fabulous Coquiles St. Jacques, those sumptuous scallops he made for us one Sunday night years ago. It was the first time I had ever eaten scallops, but I wasn’t going to confess that to our friend as I washed and cut vegetables. Nor did I tell our host and hostess that I had never before tasted barbecued ribs, let alone purchased them at the supermarket. I worked on the salad that night. The ribs were great and I became a fan. My comfort zone was in roasts and pastas and meatballs and chicken and fresh water fish and potatoes and vegetables in season and soups and stews. My mother was allergic to seafood, and we just never ate ribs; barbecues were for hamburgers and hot dogs and sausages. Pesto was a dish new to me, as well. My Italian grandparents hailed from Southern Italy, and pesto, traditionally a Northern Italian recipe, was not part of my family’s legacy. But I liked cooking and I liked my food processor and my gadgets, and so I dove into new recipes with enthusiasm.

I prepared dishes for our family of friends, and for loved ones who visited from the East Coast. I remember making homemade linguine for pasta Carbonara. One evening I spent a long while at a bookstore, searching for just the right cookbook. I purchased it and a paella pan and tried my hand at the dish I had enjoyed while living in Spain for a summer when I was in college. That book also taught me how to make Spanish tortillas; those potato and egg skillet dishes that can be eaten alone, or put between two slices of fresh bread for a great sandwich. When my study-abroad group took weekend bus excursions to tour different parts of Spain, the kitchen staff in our dormitory made these tortilla sandwiches for the ride. I loved them. I also tried my hand at my dad’s fabulous rolled steak, an Italian dish that takes a fair amount of prep time. The results were satisfying.

Frequently I called home and chatted with my folks, asking them how they seasoned or cooked different things. When I called for clarification of my father’s recipe for potatoes (all these recipes are passed to us by doing and watching – nobody writes them down), my mother bristled at my request. I wasn’t surprised. Dad made these roasted potatoes with fresh parsley and garlic and cheese. “The Good Kind Of Potatoes,” we called them. The cheese would crust on the edges of the roasting pan and we’d love picking out the charred pieces. How tasty! Mom used to ask, “What about all the other kinds of potatoes?” She made delicious cabbage with boiled potatoes, and dumplings stuffed with a potato mixture, and fried potatoes and yams and roasted ones. And she made tasty mashed potatoes. “Are those the ‘Bad Kinds’?” Again, there was the familiar head shake back and forth and accompanying sigh. Dad did his playful best to keep this recipe name game alive. “Kids,” he’d yell upstairs to us in the house on Sundays, “Do you want me to make ‘The Good Kind of Potatoes?’”  Naturally, the phrase, “The Good Kind of Potatoes” received particular emphasis. Our response was always an enthusiastic, “Yeah!” I just knew my mother was wincing. If Dad or we kids said the phrase “The Good Kind of Potatoes” more than a couple of times, inevitably, Dad would catch my mother shaking her head or sighing, and then would don his trademark expression, and we’d all laugh as he looked ashamed again.

The California chef turned engineer friend taught us how to make roux. I didn’t have the heart to tell my mom that this technique was better than hers for making gravy. No more stirring and stirring the pan drippings, trying to attack each little lump of corn starch or flour with the back of a spoon. This was a revelation, as was white pepper. A bowl of mashed potatoes seasoned with white pepper was beautiful.

So it just seemed natural that I would host Thanksgiving dinner for however many friends and family would be joining that day. What was the big deal?

Stayed Tuned for the third and final part of Homeward Bound!

Kathy Galgano

November 13, 2013

Homeward Bound – Thanksgiving Part I

The tradition started years ago, when we were out of college and making our way in the world. On that special Thursday in late November, with so many of us 3,000 miles away from family and home, it was the one holiday that proved a bit tough. Yet we had established a network of friends – our new family of friends — and one among us was a chef.

We spent many a Sunday afternoon at the chef turned engineer’s home, first in Silicon Valley and later in the nearby Santa Cruz mountains. Always on the menu was a spirited game of Trivial Pursuit which we played in teams, and some California wine, cheeses, crackers and bread, and fruit. Wine was a new foray for many of us and it was sitting around the board game table or stretching in front of the fire with the cat on cool, rainy winter afternoons listening to music that we began to appreciate the nuances of the varietals and blends. White zinfandel was a favored choice at first; the sweet, crisp taste was perfect for wine tasting neophytes, but in time, we uncorked bottles that were less sweet and more complex. Buttery chardonnays were in vogue and that became a favorite.

Sometimes we took a little hike, not always successfully avoiding the poison oak on the hillside, or visited one or two of the many wineries tucked in the steep hills of the local coastal redwoods. Or we could complete the drive in the Santa Cruz mountains “over the hill” and check out the sea lions in the pilings of the wharf in Santa Cruz. The sea lions barked that loud, deep, raspy call of theirs, and we playfully called back to them. Mostly, though, we enjoyed the company of good friends, and spent Sunday afternoons just relaxing together.

There was never any question as to where everybody would go for Thanksgiving. We all showed up at the chef turned engineer’s house on Wednesday evening after work and the process would begin. As more friends arrived, we would spread out from the kitchen into the dining room and even head to the coffee table in the living room, setting up shop, mincing onions and celery and parsley, slicing and cubing bread for stuffing, dicing carrots and preparing turnips and butternut squashes, and peeling potatoes, stroking downwards, so that the peels would drop directly into the brown paper bag placed under our hands. We would sip wines we brought to share, and work and talk and listen to albums while our host and hostess prepared a pasta feast for the crew. When word from the kitchen came, we’d clear the dining room table and enjoy a wonderful spaghetti dinner with homemade rolls and salad. After dinner, we’d wash up and put the final touches on our peeling, slicing and dicing, and lastly prepare the pumpkin pies. It might be close to midnight when we pulled the pies from the oven, but dinner prep was in great shape.

Early afternoon on Thanksgiving Day, as we walked through the front door, the aromas from the kitchen welcomed us. The scent of turkey and stuffing and vegetables and rolls brought each of us back home for a moment. There were smiles and waves and hugs as we made our way in and tossed our jackets in the bedroom and uncorked our wines, donned aprons and rolled up our sleeves to get to work. Many of us had already telephoned home and spoken to our families who were dining or preparing to dine at home three hours ahead of us. We all shared a similar story; family members were always happy to hear that their Silicon Valley “transplants” each had someplace to go for Thanksgiving. We understood. While it would have been nice to share the holiday with our families, there was something very special about embracing our own tradition.

Back then, we called ourselves “homeless.” That phrase hadn’t been coined yet to mean what it means today. Sometime during dinner our host would play “Homeward Bound,” by Simon and Garfunkel. While a bit melancholy, it was a fitting acknowledgment of our families back East. That mood didn’t last, however, as we enjoyed seconds of this amazing meal, and another glass of wine and great conversation with dear friends. Dinner was never hurried, and we laughed a lot. After a long while, we would gather up the plates and carry everything back to the kitchen. Somebody would make coffee and our hostess poured heavy cream into a stainless steel bowl. We’d unveil the desserts we had brought and the pumpkin pies we had baked just hours earlier, and again sat down at the long table. As we stirred cream and sugar into our cups, our hostess clasped a whisk and expertly turned the cream in the bowl. After a spurt of high-powered whisking, she turned, smiling broadly to the guest sitting next to her and hung her apron around his neck announcing it was his turn. As the bowl and whisk and apron made its way around the table, we cheered as each person worked a little whisking magic, and we each posed for the camera with that frilly apron wrapped around our necks. When the stainless bowl returned to our hostess, it was filled with perfectly whipped cream. Then, people sitting nearest to the pies and cakes began to cut slices, and we passed dessert plates around, filling each one with the tastes of the season, apple and sweet potato and pumpkin pies, and always something chocolate, with our hostess adding a heaping dollop of fresh cream onto each plate. It was fabulous.

One day, however, our dear friend, our host, told us that his job was taking him to Europe.  This was a great career move and of course, we were very happy for him, and offered our heartiest congratulations. Still, how could we not be saddened?  We were a tight group and our friendship was strong, so we knew that staying in touch would not be a problem, but this nearly weekly tradition was coming to an end. And then there was that big unanswered question hanging in the air … What about Thanksgiving?

End of Part One

Honoring Our Vets

When Dad and my uncles and aunts sat around a table or in yard chairs on summer days when we were kids, they talked about family and growing up in the “good old days” and Italian food and friends. Memories of the “good old days” usually did not include recollections of World War II, even though the youngest three brothers in a family of five boys and three girls served abroad at the same time. If one of the three youngest brothers did share a war-time story, it was a humorous anecdote.

Sometimes after supper, Dad would sit in front of a shortwave radio in the living room with a pad of paper and a pen in his hand, and transcribe the audible beeps that he heard into dots and dashes on the paper. After a while, Dad would look up and show us his work, and read aloud the code that sounded like musical gibberish to me. What always amazed me was the next part, when he read the message out loud, in actual words. Sometimes he would interrupt his own retelling of the message and say, “I didn’t get that word,” but most of the message was repeated, dot and dash, letter for letter, word for word. My lasting impression wasn’t that the messages were very interesting, but that these rapid tones actually meant something.

Dad served as a radioman on the USS Endicott, a Naval destroyer, and that’s why, two decades later, he could transcribe these messages at home. I know he sailed into a lot of ports around the world, and on one occasion he just missed meeting cousins in Italy when family members he had never seen received word that one of their own was on leave on their soil. His ship pulled anchor before they could reach him, though.

I know, too, that Dad bought a large bunch of bananas back to the ship while on one of his shore leaves, and his compatriots desperately tried to coax a piece of fruit off him. Dad refused. “Get your own bananas,” he told them. How he enjoyed this fresh treat. I also know that he learned how to shoot craps and even explained the game to us kids, though I never quite got the hang of it other than the part when you exclaim, “Baby needs a new pair of shoes!” as you let the dice fly out of your hand. And I know a few other stories, but not many.

One time, when I was all grown up, married and living across country, my parents flew out to see us and spend time with their young grandchildren. Dad and I were staining the deck in the backyard, and we talked about his Navy days a little bit. I remember saying that he never really told us what it was like; I knew that his ship escorted the fleet for the Invasion of Southern France. He stopped and looked at me, the paint brush in the air, and grew quiet. He was silent for several long moments. Then he said to me, “The sea was red.”

That should have been enough, but I wasn’t sure I had heard him correctly. The kids were calling me from inside the house. I repeated what I thought he had said on that summer’s morning. “The sea was red?”

The paintbrush that he had dipped in stain moments before still hung in his hand, though none of the stain was dripping onto the wood. He was an expert painter. Dad looked at me and said one word more. “Blood.”

And then he turned his head back to the deck and continued on with his work.

Kathy Galgano

Veterans Day – November 11, 2013

HALLOWEEN REPRISED

With about a hundred Trick O’ Treaters, (neighbors closer to the elaborately decorated “Halloween House” down the street get many times this number) and candy tossed to some cleverly-dressed parents, a few costumed kids jump to the top of my memory.

But for starters, I am saddened to say we didn’t get one single toddler who insisted on marching into our living room, believing he would be visiting with us for the evening. Last year, this kid was inconsolable. He had completed the requisite dressing up with parents fussing over him at home, had taken the nice long walk, (I’m guessing that to a toddler, a short block or two is enough), arrived at the door, and rang the bell via mommy-help. We hadn’t met before, but even the dog was happy to see him. Why wouldn’t he want to settle on the perfect height of a chair, the bottom stair in our house, and remove his wrap? From there he could relax, see everybody and easily pet the dog. This little kid really understood the rules of hospitality.

Think about it. Would you want to spend the money and time to buy or make a new outfit, then linger over looking your best, walk or drive to your friend’s house, anticipate the wafts of a fabulous meal as you ring the bell, only to be greeted by a smiling host, who, upon opening the door, shakes your hand, thrusts a doggie bag in your clutches, and bellows, “You look great! See you next year!”?

The only way we could get the toddler to make his next call, (and of course we told his parents they were more than welcome to stay and visit), was for me to leash the dog and accompany them to our neighbors’ house. The tears stopped flowing when we all took a friendly walk together; the little guy even held the leash. And once again, he rang the bell via mommy-help, and my neighbors opened the door and smiled and greeted him. The toddler marched into their living room and made himself comfortable. I didn’t wait around to see what happened next.

This year, lots of kids really fussed with make-up (or their parents fussed), to spectacular results. One little girl modeled a Dia de los Muertos costume. Her colorful and ornate dress was handmade, and her make-up was less skeletal, prettier. She looked beautiful. I can’t imagine how much time and patience it took for this team to achieve these expert results. Then there was the kid with a zipper realistically applied to his face. The zipper was open, and I could have sworn it could be zipped shut. Chilling and amazing!

But the kid who wins my Candy Corn award for embodying the spirit of their character (an award I just now devised) goes to a hobgoblin whose costume was quite popular this year. While I greeted kids one-by-one in a large group who all happened upon my door at the same time, I heard this familiar little tune from somewhere in the crowd: “Da-da dada dada dada, Da-da dada dada dada, Da-da dada dada, dada….” Each princess and ninja and devil and kitty cat and zombie and candy corn and tree and cell phone and Star Wars character (sadly, no Minions this year) selected a piece of sugary goodness from the bowl. The singing continued. Da-da dada dada dada…. He was last in the group, and when I looked up, I saw that one dad alone remained in the driveway. With great confidence, Batman selected a treat, still singing his theme song, and gazed up at me with a serious look on his face, and shouted, “Thank you, citizen!” He turned, ran down the steps, with his cape billowing as he ran, and joined his father, who was laughing even harder than I. Looking at the dad quizzically, I wondered if his boy had rehearsed this routine. The dad shook his head to answer my unspoken question, and exclaimed, “I had no idea!”

Runner-up goes to this very little guy who smiled when I remarked that I liked his magician costume, with cape and all. While he selected a treat, I asked him if he could provide me with a trick. He happily obliged. Removing his top hat, he waved his wand over it. Very quietly, he whispered something close to “Abracadabra” and reached inside the hat. He had a little trouble maneuvering a fabric panel, but moved it enough for me to see that a plush bunny was hidden inside. After a few more minutes of struggle, his mom helped him to extricate the rabbit, and he held it high. Pretty impressive! This kid was beaming. I tossed him a second candy as he turned to go. He earned it!

Kathy Galgano

November 4, 2013

I JUST KNEW I WAS ADOPTED

One of my first cousins on my dad’s side was adopted. Our families visited each other every few weeks; my aunt and uncle lived in a different city, but either they or we would make the drive on a Saturday or Sunday. We didn’t go anywhere when we visited – not out to dinner or to a store to shop or to a museum – we just went to visit. The parents would perk coffee and sit around the table and talk about all the important stuff and I would hang out with my cousin and her dogs and my sibs. Well, the dogs really belonged to my uncle; a mother and daughter French poodle duo. They yapped and jumped on you and were wonderful.  Sometimes my dad and uncle and another uncle, would watch football on Sunday afternoons together, while the aunts and my mom would talk in the kitchen with the coffee pot on the table. While my uncles were yelling at the teams on the television set, we kids would play with the two French poodles and hang out together.

My beautiful cousin had the most fabulous pair of white, lace-up, boot roller skates with quiet wheels – you know, the kind you wear at rinks. I had a great pair of skates, don’t get me wrong. They were the kind you attached to your shoes and tightened with a key. I won them in a radio contest for writing a good letter to Santa Claus. I didn’t even know there was a contest, but some official person must have liked my letter and I won! When my parents drove home with the prize, my brother and I took turns roller skating on the kitchen floor. What a thrill. My family had a bunch of skates in the basement and they all worked, but these were shiny and new without a speck of rust. I used them all the time, but my cousin’s skates were special. You wore them at a rink. I didn’t even know where there was a rink – certainly not in my town. Who went to a rink, anyway? Well, rich kids must have gone to a rink, rich kids and adopted kids. Anyway, these skates were really something, and my cousin and I wore the same shoe size so I could put them on and try them out in her house.

And it wasn’t just the skates. This same cousin went to this summer camp once that was like heaven. You didn’t sleep in some musty-smelling, hot and gunky canvas tent. Oh, no, you slept in one of the wonderful cabins with walls and nice bunk beds and you could pick the top bunk and climb up it and touch the ceiling. This camp had a trampoline. Who had a trampoline? Not the Girl Scout camp I went to once. Well, there was this one hotdog stand in town that had a trampoline and go-carts to drive, and you had to pay to use them. But that was it. Nuns ran this camp; my dad used to do some plumbing for them once in a while and I learned not too long ago that this one rocking chair I love and actually have in my home today was a gift to him by the nuns for helping them out. It wasn’t a new chair, but they just said to Dad that he could have it if he wanted. These nuns were nice and smiling and happy to see the kids and they let them jump on the trampoline.

Now my first cousin on my mom’s side was also adopted. Like my other cousin, he had his own room. And he had a dog, too. Being a boy, he probably didn’t want a pair of white boot roller skates, but he did own a full set of Dr. Seuss books. Can you imagine having your own set of Dr. Seuss books? I remember bringing home The Cat in the Hat from the library and my mom loved it and laughed when I read it. I never asked her to get me my own set of Dr. Seuss books; it never occurred to me. But when you’re an adopted, only child, things like that happen. The mailman did bring Highlights and Humpty Dumpty magazines when we were kids and that was great. I loved that we read the same magazines the dentist displayed on the table in his waiting room. And one time when I was in Kindergarten my mom bought me this book of holiday stories with fabulous illustrations, and I loved it. I found the exact same book when my kids were little and I bought it for them, too.

Now don’t get me wrong. I loved my sibs. My sister and I made doll clothes, and my younger brother and I played army in the back yard. My older brother and his friends would come over and sit around the kitchen table and once they helped me with my science experiment to make a volcano, but I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to add to the vinegar to create the “molten lava” erupt.  We tried sugar and flour and all kinds of stuff, and then finally we realized it was baking soda. My cousins from town would pop in all the time with my aunt, and we would play records and make music and sing and talk about good stuff, and one cousin always styled and “teased” my hair. Never, ever once did my older brother and sister and cousins shoo me and my younger brother away because we were the younger kids. Never.

So in my daily search for my Adoption Papers (I KNEW there must be something called “Adoption Papers”), I have to say that I never once wanted to negate my own sister and brothers.  Frankly, that just never occurred to me. Why would I want to do that? My thought process was simple; if I were adopted, I, too could have cool things like fancy roller skates and Dr. Seuss books and go to a camp with a trampoline and always wear really new clothes. So nearly every day I would enter my parents’ room and go in their closet, heading for the left side where there was the most marvelous and deep cubby space cut into the wall.  It was a perfect storage area for luggage. Scattered among the luggage was this one old red small suitcase, the kind with a little mirror inside and women can pack their toiletries in it. Come to think of it, I don’t remember anyone ever using this case, but I knew it was important. I was convinced my Adoption Papers were in there. In actuality, there was nothing in there but the mirror and a smooth,  silky-fabric lining with a gathered pocket, and space. I always checked in there, though, and in the other suitcases in the cubby hole because I knew that this would be the perfect place for Important Papers. My mom also had stashed a few little keepsakes like my big brother’s projects from Boy Scouts in the cubby, and I loved looking at those. I never found my Adoption Papers, but I always enjoyed the hunt. I t never occurred to me to look in other places, like under the bed or in the desk drawer, or even ask my mother where the papers were located. I had to find them for myself.

One day my mom found me in her closet, searching the cubby and the red little suitcase, and asked me what I was doing. “I’m looking for my Adoption Papers,” I told her. She went into my brothers’ room and gathered my younger brother and in one movement, set me and my brother next to each other in front of the full-sized mirror on the back of the door. “Don’t you see the resemblance? You LOOK LIKE YOUR BROTHER!” Then she left.

I wasn’t adopted? Was this true? My brother and I walked out of our parents’ room, not even stopping to tip up all the handles on their dressers so that they would make a great clicky sound when my parents touched them and flipped them back down again.

What a disappointment. After that day, I didn’t search so furiously anymore for my Adoption Papers. I didn’t tell anyone how sad I was, but I sure felt bad.

But wait a minute! I had heard the grownups say that lots of times parents don’t want to tell their kids they are adopted. The grownups said this makes the kid feel bad. I never knew why kids would feel bad when they found out they were adopted; that seemed silly to me. There was an orphanage in Hartford that we used to drive by on our way into the city for a special day out, and the orphanage looked nice. Those kids would know they were adopted; how could they not? One minute they would be living in a pretty orphanage in Hartford, and the next thing they would be adopted and living in a home somewhere with a family. The grown-ups couldn’t hide the adoption from these kids. And my two cousins knew they were adopted and they didn’t feel bad.

But perhaps my mom just worried that the truth would make me feel bad, just like they always said. It didn’t matter that I looked like my brother; she was just trying to make me feel good about my situation. That was it! So when I did search for my Adoption Papers, I made sure my mom was really busy downstairs, like when she made dinner, and my dad was at work. I planned it so when I found my papers, my parents wouldn’t know, and then the grown-ups wouldn’t have to talk about it when they drank coffee at our house or my uncle’s house on the weekends. When I found my Adoption Papers in the pretty little red suitcase in the cubby in my parents’ closet, then I would get my very own set of Dr. Seuss books, and  I could go roller skating at the rink with brand new white boot skates, and my sister and brothers and cousins could all skate, too. That would be a blast.

Kathy Galgano

October 22, 2013