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.
5 thoughts on “Good Old Massapequa High”
I have one daughter who is green-eyed, blond, thin and relatively fair but tans easily. Our second daughter has dark auburn hair, dark brown eyes, freckles and burns easily, is very tall and has to watch her weight. So, DNA does win out!
While I am opposed to lying and raised my 4 children with this value (I, too, am glad that my children are grown and I don’t have to chime in with a parental opinion about something they have said or done), sometimes a tender-hearted action such as the one your daughter chose to take because the damage was only to her (especially from the subsequent consequences!) seems to be the right thing at the time. I’ve spoken to elderly individuals who have mistaken me for someone else. If the elder would become agitated by correcting them, then why do it? If, however, they are completely lucid and would be receptive to a conversation about the mistaken identity, then the discussion would occur. Sometimes we just have to make those tender-hearted decisions quickly based on the facts and circumstances, our morality and then live with the consequences whether they bring joy or pain.
Let’s say that I was very glad that Michelle was an adult so that it was no longer my job to have a parenting response to the story, that would stress how wrong lying is. The ability to keep a straight face while not being truthful is something we struggled with when she was a little girl. Not surprisingly, she is a top rate actress as well. As she has grown we are confident that she doesn’t use her ‘talents’ for wrong goals. And sometimes that ability is a needed one. I frequently think that if, God forbid, a time arises when an honorable underground needs to fight an evil government policy (think Underground Railroad, World War II…) , Michelle would make a good agent/spy.
How alienating to be an ‘outlier’ in a family, with a different appearance or a different disposition or a different inclination! If your ‘outlier’ daughter had been born into our family, she would fit in and accept it with a grin. Of the nine brothers and sisters in my father’s family, some appear just off the boat from the County Cork, some have the straight black ‘horsehair’ of the Amerindian, and others, like my father, are as dark in complexion as some Portuguese.
We knew about the English, the Irish and the Germans, and the recent admixture of Cherokee three generations ago. However it took genetic analysis to reveal the significant bolus of DNA matching that from Spain or Portugal. The culprit was born in Antrim, today’s Northern Ireland, around 1700, but had a Spanish surname from his father.
My father started a tradition, strange but true. He had two children: the first dark, the second pale. We had two children, the first dark, the second pale. My oldest daughter has two children, the first dark, the second pale. The truth will out, so they say. And so will ancestry.
To reconnect with anthropology, Phillip K. Hitti (The Arabs) suggests that the Arabs, many of whom are quite dark, are likely the closest to the primordial ‘Semitic’ type of the Arabian Peninsula, and that the Jews actually result from an early intermarriage between the Semites and the Hittite Hurrians. Today’s Armenians, another type descending from a branch of the ancient Hittites, demonstrate some physical characteristics similar to those of the Hebrews. Whether or no, the moral of the story is: in the ancient Middle East, everybody is a distant cousin, and all these cousins make for complex heredity. Nature can shuffle the cards of heredity in strange ways. Not all family members look alike. We are products of our DNA, and if we favor a distant ancestor in appearance, disposition or inclination, we are still a function of God’s plan.
That is amusing :)…funny stuff.
Michelle’s decision to go along with the non-truth to make someone save face reminds me of one of the myriad lessons from Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends and Influence People.
But it is not clear if the walkaway lesson is that that is the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do?
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