Recently, I stopped off to take a few pictures at my alma mater, Massapequa High School. While, admittedly, most readers will gloss over those words, those of you who have known me for years will say, “Susan, you didn’t go to Massapequa High. You didn’t even live anywhere near there. ” They are correct, and therein lies a story.
Recently, one of my daughters and sons-in-law were guests at a wedding. To protect the guilty, for the purposes of this Musing, I’ll call them Michelle and Andy. (Though 99.9% of those who know our children will accurately guess which girl this is.) Since Andy was participating in the ceremony, when they arrived at the hall, he left Michelle and went to confirm the details of his duties. Waiting for him, Michelle became aware that a man, about her parents’ age, was staring at her. She looked elsewhere, but kept on feeling that she was under scrutiny. After a few minutes, the gentleman came over to her. “I have to apologize for staring, but are you by any chance Susan’s daughter?” When Michelle said yes, he burst out, “I knew it. You look exactly like her. Your coloring is different, but you have the identical smile and eyes.”
These words were a balm to Michelle’s soul. As a young child, she harbored suspicions that she was adopted based on how different her complexion was from her mother, father and siblings. In the timeless manner of overflowing love that brothers and sisters accord each other, one of her sisters confirmed her fears, adding that she was originally born to a local Indian tribe. Since Michelle kept her concerns from her father and me, we inadvertently added proof by giving her a “make your own moccasins” kit as a Chanukah present one year. While the adult Michelle had long since accepted that her childhood misgivings were incorrect, we never quite outgrow ideas that dominate our early years. When as a teen, Michelle met my Uncle Freddy she felt an immediate kinship based on his coloring. Similarly, the stranger’s words at the wedding delighted her.
The man, Mark, carried on, telling Michelle what good friends he had been with her mother and how they were both part of a close group throughout high school. While a small part of Michelle’s brain thought it odd that I had never mentioned such a merry band, she enjoyed hearing of high school exploits that I had, for some unknown reason, kept under wraps. The conversation ended cordially as Michelle went to look for Andy and the festivities commenced.
Somewhat later in the evening, Michelle and Andy were standing at a buffet table when Mark happened to be in line right behind them. Michelle proceeded to introduce her husband, telling Andy that Mark was a high school friend of her mother’s. Andy commented, “Oh, you went to Flatbush,” naming my high school, whereupon Mark said, “No, Massapequa,” and turned back to the table. This is the point where 99 out of 100 women would realize that there must have been a case of mistaken identity, blush, giggle and set the record straight. It is the point where Michelle made a split-second decision that since she would never see Mark again there was no reason to dent his obvious joy at reliving school memories. A tenderhearted soul, she never likes to disappoint people. Her perplexed husband looked at her confusedly, but she signaled him to silence as well. The deed was done and Sir Walter Scott’s words, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive,” kicked in.
The wedding was a large one, and as she anticipated, Michelle was seated nowhere near Mark. Aside from the usual wedding chatter, there was quite a bit of buzz around the room that a Hollywood actor was among the guests. To Michelle’s amusement, she actually recognized his name. When she was growing up, our family didn’t watch many movies, but there was one children’s film that we showed annually on a VCR on our summer boating trips. Even after not having seen it for years, lines from this movie serve as shorthand in family communication. This actor played a prominent role in that film.
During the meal, Michelle noticed the eyes of her tablemates growing larger as they looked over her shoulder. She glanced behind her and saw Mark, accompanied by three other men, including the much spoken about actor, heading her way. At this point, Michelle started channeling Lucy and Ethel when one of their innocent plots began exploding. It turns out, all these men were part of the “her mother’s” high school clique and coming to meet Susan’s daughter! Feeling the hole she had dug to be too deep to climb out from, Michelle posed for pictures with the group.
In today’s social media world, Michelle is sure that her unintended deception has been uncovered by now, and that a group of men is wondering why anyone would pretend to be Susan’s daughter. Michelle shared her story with my husband and me, and considering my complete lack of a poker face, I began to wonder if perhaps we are not truly related. Nevertheless, when my husband and I were on our way to an event and saw signs for Massapequa from the highway, we couldn’t resist taking a side excursion and sending Michelle and Andy the picture above.