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SECRETS REVEALED

IDENTITY CRISES…LUCKY'S CHILD

          The mid-afternoon sky was blue with soft, billowy clouds.  Bronco and I climbed into the back seat.  We were tired and dirty from exploring the field next to our grandparent’s house.
          Dad backed the ford onto the street, and we waved at the older couple standing by the chain-linked gate.  I looked out the back window as we drove away.  Grandma made her way to the side of the house to check the chicken pen.  Grandpa Williams, with his hands stuffed in the front pockets of his brown pants, resembled an artist’s character.  He strolled back to the front door; his beige Stetson hat rode faithfully on top of his head.
          We turned the corner onto Main Street and Dad stopped the car in front of Benjamin’s grocery store.
          “I’ll be right back,” Dad said as he got out of the ford.
          “What’s Dad getting?” I asked Mom.
          “Just some things we need...huh...Gloria, I want to tell you something.” Mom’s voice was low and subdued, as if she didn’t even want the Ford to hear.  I glanced over at Bronco; he leaned against the upholstery, his eyelids heavy with soon approaching sleep.  I scooted to the edge of the backseat and leaned my arms and chin on the back of Mom’s seat.
          “When I was sixteen years old”...her voice began.
          Oh good, I thought to myself.  I loved Mom’s recollections of her “long ago” days.  They were full of brothers and sisters, funny pranks, laughter; taking baths in an old washtub, with two children at a time sharing the same bath water.  There were tales of depression days when they traveled cramped in an old car: of Grandpa Underwood searching for work, and painting billboard signs for money to survive; and of Grandma Underwood cooking pancakes over a campfire for her large family.
          I focused my attention back on Mom’s voice.
          “Uncle Don introduced me to Kenneth Bolding.  Actually, his full name was Warren Kenneth Bolding, but his family called him Kenneth.  To his friends in Magdalena he was known as "Lucky".  He was new to Magdalena and he took a fancy to me, probably because I didn’t fall all over him like the rest of the girls in town.  He was very good looking, with black hair and blue eyes.  I dated him for a while.  During this time, life at home became unbearable, and I wanted to leave.  Lucky suggested that we get married, so we drove to Albuquerque and...And... Got married.”
          “I never knew that,” I said in surprise.
          “I was waiting until you were older to tell you,” Mom continued, “You were born when I was eighteen...Lucky...Kenneth Bolding is your real father.”
          I sat perfectly still, my mind unable to comprehend what Mom was saying.  It was foreign to everything I knew about myself.
          I finally found my voice, “How can that be?” I asked in unbelief.
          “We were divorced when you were three years old.  I married Slim and he adopted you.  Kenneth didn’t care about you or he would have contested the adoption.  He gave up all of his rights to see you again.  Lucky...huh...Kenneth was married before me, and he had another daughter by that previous marriage.  Her name was Linda Lee.  She was four years older than you.  In baby pictures, you both looked a lot alike.  She...”
Mom’s voice halted abruptly as Dad walked down the sidewalk carrying a grocery sack.  He put the sack on the back floorboard and slid behind the steering wheel.
          “Sorry it took me so long, we got to talking.  Cy says to tell you hello and stop in next time we’re in town,” Dad said light heartedly.
          Dad didn’t know that a little part of his world had changed.  I stared at him as if seeing him for the first time.  Sadness stirred inside me.  If he wasn’t my real father, then why did people say we resembled each other?  Why did we both have dark hair and hazel eyes?
          My mind moved slowly like a large locomotive pulling a heavy load.  Thoughts, like boxcars linked together, began to gain momentum as they passed one by one.  Alice Birmingham came to mind.  Just a few weeks before she had confided in me as we walked home from school.  She had been told that Mr. Birmingham was not her real father.  Her words echoed in my mind.
          “I just don’t see why I should have to call him Father any longer; after all, he’s only my stepfather.”
          “I can understand how you feel Alice,” I answered sympathetically.
          Later in the day, I told Alice’s problem to Dad and Mom.  Neither of them made a comment, and at the time I gave it no thought, but now I remembered the expressions on their faces and everything registered!  They must have felt they were being confronted with their own secret.
          A light dawned in my mind...that’s why Mom felt Grandma and Grandpa Williams didn’t accept us.  The light slowly dimmed, and I felt another wave of sadness as I realized I wasn’t special to them.  I didn’t belong. Bronco lay near me on the seat.  As he turned in his sleep his arm fell on my leg.  I looked down at him and emotions choked inside me.  My eyes brimmed with tears.  This morning I thought I was a whole sister, but now I was only half of one.  I believed I was a real daughter, and now I was adopted.  Somewhere there were other grandparents to whom I did belong.  There was Kenneth, although Mom said he didn’t care about me.  And there was Linda Lee.
          As we approached Albuquerque, I realized I had spent the entire ride deep in my thoughts.  A multitude of lights twinkled into the dark night.  I had always loved the lights of the city and would pretend they were all my jewels, sparkling and shining just for me; but tonight I was too engrossed in the realities of life to imagine and dream.

 

MAGDALENA

          Pinks, with tinges of yellow, outlined the New Mexico sunset, as our car sped down highway 60 toward Magdalena.
          “We’re almost there,” Mom said.  Bronco and I were starting to get “antsy.”
          Bronco and I watched intently at the approaching mountain.  At one certain angle, a rock formation resembled a woman’s profile.  Spanish settlers had named the mountain after Mary Magdalene and their town born the name...Magdalena.
          “I see it...I see the lady!” Bronco yelled with excitement as he jumped up and down causing the car seat to shake and me along with it.
          It was only a matter of minutes before we drove into the small town.  Quaint buildings, modest homes, and dusty side streets gave an air of oldness and rugged history.  Tales of saloon fights and lawless days were passed down from the older generations.  Legends of outlaws and cowboys passed the days of slow, country style living.
          Mom’s family, consisting of eight children, had moved to Magdalena when she was in her early teens.  Dad, ten years her senior, met her when he returned from the Second World War.  Mom’s family had long since left the area, but Dad’s folks were still here.
          This town, with its dusty streets and quiet mystery, was the place of my birth.  The once, little makeshift hospital, where I caught my first breath of life, was now the town’s fire station.
          We turned off the main street of town and drove east.  The white stucco house, with its chain-linked fence sat on the corner of the second block.
          A tall older woman was bent at the waist shooing chickens into a pen at the backside of the house.  The sound of the car door shutting caused her to straighten and turn, as she patted her windblown white hair.
          “I declare, those chickens are more than I can handle,” she said as Dad opened the chain linked gate.
          “Now Mom, what would you do without your fresh laid eggs?” Dad teased.
          “Yes, and what would I complain about,” she said as she gave Dad a hug, “It’s good to see you son.”
          “How are you doing Wanda?” she asked Mom.
          “I’m just fine Mother Williams,” Mom answered.
          Turning her attention toward Bronco, she encircled him with her arms and pulled him to her.
          “How’s my boy?”
          Looking up, her eyes met mine.
          “Hi Gloria, I’ve made you and Bronco some cookies.  Come on in the house.”
          We followed her into the front room.  The house had the scent of mustiness from old furniture.  Grandpa Williams stood with effort from his rocking chair.
          “Come on in folks, it’s good to see ya...have a chair.”
          Dad pulled up a platform rocker and sat next to his father.
          Mom took some of our belongings into the back bedroom, while Bronco and I followed Grandma Williams into the kitchen.  We wanted to see about those cookies!
          During that evening, and half of the next morning, I spent my time observing.
          Mom eyed me curiously, “Don’t you feel well?” she asked.
          “I feel fine,” I answered nonchalantly.
          “Why don’t you go outside and play?”
          “I just want to stay inside,” I answered innocently.
          I sat on my perch beside the kitchen table.  I was determined to solve the mystery.  Why did Mom get upset and why did she feel she and I weren’t accepted?
          Grandma and Mom seemed to have a polite co-existence as they moved around the kitchen.  I noticed Grandma did pay more attention to Bronco, but he was still little.  After all, at nine years old, I was half-grown.  There comes a time when a person doesn’t need all that hugging and kissing, I reasoned. 
          I could not remember a time when Grandpa Williams had spoken a word to me. He never talked to Mom and me, but he never conversed much with anyone...except Dad.  They would walk around the yard (Dad slowing to Grandpa’s gait), or sit in the rockers discussing ranching.
          Maybe there isn’t anything wrong.  That’s probably just the way Grandma and Grandpa are, I decided.  I felt a mixture of relief and freedom as I ran out the back screen door into the warm summer day.