Part III: What Happens a Cappella? (Chapter 46)

ncle Joe brings to the reunion a large treasure chest, filled with memorabilia, which he drops onto a side table for all to peruse.

Like large birds of prey, family members hover over the 19th century trunk, ready to pick apart the past, anyone’s past.

I squeeze through the crowd, afraid that someone might find what? before I can sort through the mass of yellowed letters and old photographs, mostly school pictures and sepia snapshots from the 20’s and 30’s.

I’m at the front, snatching a handful of wrinkled papers and cracked photographs from the surface.

If only I could grab the whole trunk and sift through it…editing and censoring those parts of my life that belong hidden away in my attic, stuffed into the eaves.

I need lots of insulation between me and “them.” I push my way through my relatives and find a quiet place an empty picnic table in a dark and remote part of the quadrant to work.

As I sort through the pile, I find a letter from my mother to Auntie, Nana’s older sister:


Long Beach, Calif.

Dec. 15, 1953


Dear Auntie,

I hope by the time this reaches you that things will have quieted down

That Unkie is gone seems very remote to me It just hasn’t soaked in I can’t seem to realize it Maybe if I were home I would but when we left he was fine and I have him pictured that way in my mind. When I got Mom’s wire, my first impression was that it was a mistake I must have read it 15 times before I realized what it said. It still doesn’t seem final to me no matter how many times I tell myself When I talk about it, it seems like I’m talking about someone else

Believe me, it would be easier if I could accept it but, Auntie, I can’t seem to see Unkie any place else but sitting in that green chair in the living room. I thought he was getting better and the whole thing has hit like a ton of bricks I had addressed a Christmas card to him and had written in it planning to mail it in the morning Do you want me to send it on to you? Anyway, get a good rest and come see us. We love you very much and want to see you

If Rich is accepted for a second tour he’ll leave Feb.1st. He has already submitted his application and is among the first 20 to apply so there’s a good chance he’ll go. We’re getting along pretty well now, I’m hoping we can make a go of it, put all that awful time behind us. Though I’m a little nervous that I’ll be a whole year alone with Sam out here. I think it would be pretty wonderful if you could come during that time or any time for that matter. I guess I told you French Morocco but I made a mistake it’s the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. Again.

Vesta and Dame stopped in. I had been trying to call them but couldn’t get them and was surprised when they stopped in I called Hilda also. Is there anyone else you want me to call?

Well, I have to go now Sammy is awfully naughty to-day and cried the better part of the night. Don’t know what I’m going to do with her. She’s teething right now.

Still, she turns heads when we go out. Must be all that red hair and cute smile. Tony Vincente, Rich’s army buddy, says she could be in the movies when she grows up though she’s getting a bit roly-poly. Baby fat, I guess.

Please write us soon, Auntie. I haven’t heard from you in months, don’t you think it’s time to put all that bitterness behind us?

What’s done is done.

I wish I could take it all back but I can’t. I’m ashamed for what I did. I’d do anything to change things back to the way they were.

All I can do is look ahead. Besides, Sammy needs you, needs to know you’ll always love her no matter about me.

I’m trying my best to turn over a new leaf and stay sober.

Love Rosie, Rich & Sammy


I’m so used to the long rambling missives of my childhood and young adulthood that this piece of my history feels strange and disconnected.

Why am I surprised at my mother’s sober moments?

Maybe it’s because this small window into the past makes me think about how much like her I really am. And the roly-poly remark verifies what I have already known about my family’s attitudes.

It’s difficult to believe that she and Auntie once loved each other, but this letter is a testament to how much my mother continued to love her, even after THE BIG FEUD. Mother had made it clear she was never going to follow Auntie’s carrot-on-the-string, so her offering of peace surprises me – this does not smack of a woman rebelling for the sake of rebelling.

What awful thing did my mother do that she would practically get down on her knees and beg for forgiveness?

The whole brouhaha between the two might have had something to do with Dick Roberts, the man that my mother eventually moved in with after Rich Kane, my natural father, got shipped, in early 1952, to the Marshall Islands. Although Roberts lived with us for a while, I don’t remember him.

December 15, 1953. The date of Mother’s letter doesn’t seem quite right, and I don’t remember hearing anything about Richard Kane doing a second tour to the Marshall Islands.

Dick Roberts.

If I knew more about this man, perhaps the pieces of my life would fall together better?

But it’s not going to happen.

Nothing shuts up the Mallory clan faster than the mere mention of Dick Roberts.

I slip Mother’s letter inside my purse.

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