My family has been screwed up from the get go. I don't mean mentally, I mean more like identity wise. Actually, maybe they are a little bit mental, but it probably all stems back to their various crises of identity. They're harmless though, and I grew up loving their idiosyncratic personalities.
My dad was adopted when he was 3 months old. As a newborn, he was left in a Moses basket on the steps of a Baptist Church in downtown San Francisco the same day the prisoners escaped from Alcatraz. The blankets that his birth mother wrapped him in were drenched from the rain, but he likes to think that the prisoners found him in the bay and left him at the Church where they prayed for salvation before disappearing into American history. The church people always likened him to Baby Moses on the Nile, an association he used to his advantage when he wanted to get his way as a young boy. He never could quite explain the whole burning bush, though.
Dad was adopted by my grandparents, and the Baptist minister that found my Dad was a well-respected African American gentleman who remains in my Father's life to this day. Uncle Kenny, or as he's known on Sundays, Pastor Kenneth, mentors my dad from life crisis to life crisis. Just last week he dissuaded my Dad from purchasing a Harley. Before that, my Dad was seriously considering jumping out of an airplane just for the adrenaline high. "It's the way nature intended, a natural high. It's not like I'm smoking that vape gas the kids these days are doing," he said as he tried to qualify his reasoning for flinging himself out of a moving aircraft 10,000 feet in the air. "Smoking that vape gas…" I repeated to myself in disbelief. Mind you, this is the man who has smoked enough weed and dropped enough acid for two lifetimes. He settled down once we were born, but as time has passed he has become very impulsive once again.
And then there's my mom…she has become a lot less impulsive in comparison to my dad now that she has entered her mid-50s. Unlike my dad who had quite an unstable start to life, my mom grew up in typical American fashion. White picket fence, board games on a Tuesday night, girl scouts on the weekends. She had lived a charmed life in a suburb of Los Angeles. where her parents had worked in the entertainment business. As an only child, my grandparents spoiled my mother and she got away with pretty much anything you could get away with in the late 70s. She flat out denies any lewd behavior, but as a red head, my siblings and I knew she got up to no good. She didn't pass down her prissiness to me, but she certainly passed down the fiery locks.
Her maternal grandmother, my great grandmother, had died when she was young and she didn't remember much about her other than she was English. There was also some rumblings that there was Russian blood mixed in there but my mom's family adopted the stiff upper lip approach to life. The rest of my mom's family was German, so that could also be why the Russia connection would have been kept on the hush hush.
Ironically it was only after my dad's parents and my mom's father had passed on, they both got a sudden interest in finding out their true backgrounds. My dad always figured he was Hispanic as he had dark eyes and hair, and he always got a good tan. I think mom was just prodded by the idea that there was a part of her that she did not know about. As I was studying for finals as a senior in UCLA, I paid no attention to my parents' newest obsession. I wanted to graduate and get the hell out of dodge. It was always my dream to travel abroad to Europe once I had graduated, and my parents' fascination with swabbing the inside of their cheeks was not going to sway me from passing these exams.
Against my parents' wishes, I studied theater in college. I was always good at pretending to be something else as a child, and my sisters and I would always stage extravagant productions for guests who came to visit. As the oldest, I always directed the shows. My grandmother had been in the business her whole life, and she was my biggest fan. It was in my blood. Once I had graduated I hoped to travel and perform if I could as a means to keep myself afloat…Eventually I had hoped to teach theater to children. My siblings had been good guinea pigs.
May had come and gone and I passed my exams. My parents were fervently awaiting the results of their genetic testing, and my graduation from college just seemed to serve as a distraction. Then, three days before I was due to graduate, their results arrived. The mailman got a fright when he saw their reaction to seeing the envelopes.
"Oh my God! It's here, Larry! Get in here!" my mom yelled from the front door. I joined my mom at the door and met the mailman who was ashen from the screaming and shouting.
"You'd think we were filming a commercial for Publisher's Clearing House, right?" I said rhetorically as the mailman smiled awkwardly and walked away.
My dad rushed to the door where they stood like two giddy teens after finding their father's old Playboys. My younger sisters Lizzie and Alex were also startled by the commotion and emerged from their rooms. "What's going on?" they asked almost in unison. "Mom and dad found out they're brother and sister," I replied nonchalantly.
"Maggie that's not funny..." my mom scolded as my sisters shrieked in horror.
"I think we should open these in the living room with all the kids," my dad said calling my brother Nick. "Gimme a minute!" he shouted back, which was usually code for playing video games, smoking weed or both at the same time. "Ok then, I'll go first!" my dad said slicing open the envelope with his pointer finger with such excitement that he gave himself a paper cut which he subsequently ignored. Sinking into his chair he read the results, his eyes paced left to right across the page, seeming pleased. "Ok….I am a mutt…" he concluded.
"Don't talk about my husband like that" my mom chuckled. "C'mon Larry, what does it say?"
"Well…33% Spanish or Portuguese, 15% Native American, wow…24% German, 16% Dutch, 10% Scottish, and 2% Sephardic. What the hell is Sephardic?"
"You're Jewish dad. From Northern Africa." I replied.
"Jesus…" he said, the results seemed to hit him like a ton of bricks.
"No not Jesus, but close." I must have inherited my wise-assery from my Dad's Sephardic side of the family.
"How awesome is that…" he mumbled, reading over the results now with his eyes squinted as if that would make them seem clearer.
"How exciting!" my mom said, kissing him on the cheek as if to bring him back to reality.
"Yes…pretty rad…" he paused before demanding "open yours Annie!"
My mom shrugged with excitement as she opened her envelope. Her expression was not as animated as that of my Dad's. "What is it mom?" asked Nick who had emerged from his bedroom with the tell-tale enlarged pupils. "Hmm…there must be some mistake…"
"Let me see," I took the report off her to study for myself. "It says you're 75% German, that makes sense, and 25% Irish. Explains the red hair. Sorry mom, you're white." I handed it back to her and she mulled over it again.
"My grandmother was English," she muttered.
"Mom, I mean these tests aren't 100% right half the time." I said as if consoling her. "And besides, Ireland is basically a hop, skip, and a jump away from England. The genes aren't that much different I don't think. Are you surprised we're not related to the royal family or something?"
"I think I would have known if we were Irish. There would be some family lore, some stories about going to England, escaping the famine or something. Where did the whole 'we might be Russian' come from then?" She pondered.
"Better ask babushka," I advised.