Dear Visitor: I am a New York City based writer/educator who was raised in Fairport, New York, a village on the Erie Canal. There, I learned the importance of community. This is why I see and appreciate New York City as a series of small towns. I invite you to read the below memoir excerpt and to drop me a line afterwards. Thanks for stopping by! Carrie Anne
Touché I am wearing a yellow zip-up sweatshirt with a decal of the Pink Panther on the back. I am in the fifth grade in Mr. Daly’s class at West Avenue School. Scott Francis is walking toward me in the classroom. “Hi, Dolly Parton,” he says. I am sick of this nickname. I turn, lock eyes with him, and say, “Why don’t ya take a look in the mirror? Afraid ya’d get scared?!” I say what I have to say and head toward my seat. “You told him, Touché,” Lynne says. She gives me a high five as I settle back into my chair. I pretend Scott’s comment doesn’t bother me, but he’s the reason why I wear my Pink Panther sweatshirt to school almost every day. I want to cover my developing body. Touché is a nickname I like. Lynne gave it to me because I am often quick with a comeback. Like me, Lynne is adopted, and to my knowledge, she is the only adoptee I know. I identify with her even though we look different. I have dark hair and dark eyes that match my Italian last name. Lynne isn’t black or white; her skin tone is somewhere in the middle. I don’t know her parents’ background, and I don’t really care. All that matters to me is that she knows what it feels like to be adopted. Being near Lynne makes me feel safe because we both know the P.D. Eastman book Are You My Mother? is not a cute story, but a frightening question. We always want to know the answer, but don’t dare to ask it. It is a question no one I know can answer. Lynne and I never talk about our adoptions; the fact that we are both adopted unites us. When I am with her, we are the same and everyone else is other. I feel like I have more in common with Lynne than I do with anyone else in my life, even my best friends Jane and Sandy. Her face is open and tawny cinnamon, reminding me of apple crisp, my favorite dessert. When she is next to me in class, I forget about everyone else, and when she smiles at me, the two little puffs of hair that rest behind her ears lift, and so does the usual nervousness that I feel. A few months into fifth grade, just before Christmas vacation, Mom says, “Carrie, I have bad news. Lynne won’t be returning to school after Christmas break.” “Is she sick?” I ask. “No, I am afraid her parents thought she was difficult to control.” This idea terrifies me. I don’t think Lynne is difficult to control, so what does it mean? I am a well-behaved child, but after I hear this news, I become exceptionally well-behaved. I worry my parents will return me if I upset them, and I don’t want to leave Mike and Mark, Cupcake, and our red house that sits in the middle of West Church Street. I can’t believe Lynne won’t be in school when I return. The fact that a friend of mine can just be taken away scares me, but mostly I am sad that Lynne won’t be in my class anymore. On Christmas Day I receive a set of light blue stationery. “Can I use this to write to Lynne?” I ask my mother. “Of course,” she says sympathetically. I write Lynne three letters and receive two replies. Each letter from her begins with my nickname: Dear Touché. Her return address is Hillside Children’s Center. I wait and wait for a third letter from her. It never arrives.