Juju sat under the bridge and listened as her neighbor and sister convinced her that she was, in fact, adopted. Look how old our parents are, Junene said….they don’t even sleep in the same room for craps sake! Rod, their cross the street neighbor, and Junene started to weave a story that flowed as easily from their mouths as the slow stream of water at their feet.
This explained everything Juju thought…she knew she was different, suddenly all the pieces were falling together in her mind! She quickly ran down the creek bed, up the concrete side behind her neighbor’s house, and sprinted across Oak Street to her front door. Juju had a sick feeling in her stomach, but was excited at the same time. No wonder her siblings were so much older and a mystery to her, she was adopted!
Juju’s mother was washing dishes as she bounded into the room. Where is your sister? Juju, thought quickly of a fib, not wanting to tell her mother that Junene was at their secret hiding place smoking cigarettes with their neighbor, Rod. I think she walked up to the 5 and Dime. (Juju had to cover for her sister often and resented the fact that she had become adept at being a liar, maybe it would help her in a future career choice) She felt double guilt because she had seen on the TV news that menthol cigarettes could make your lungs bleed and she knew Junene preferred Kool Menthols…..because she thought they were kool.
Juju entered her bedroom and pulled out a photo album, she turned the pages to a group shot of her family. Scanning the picture, she started to notice dissimilarities in herself and the rest of the family. It was scary it was so obvious! Who are these people!?! What did Juju’s real family look like?? Thoughts were racing through Juju’s mind….what did her real parents do? Surely her real father was an US Ambassador to some country she had never heard of….and her real mother….oh, wouldn’t it be grand if her real mother was Rosalind Russell? Ever since Juju had seen the movie, The Trouble with Angels, she had loved the actress Rosalind Russell. She imagined visiting the film set and spending weekends on a California beach where the movie stars all lived.
Juju decided that her adopted parents had done a really nice thing taking her in….she loved them, but she would have to tell them she knew the truth now. Why had Junene waited until she was 9 to tell her? Maybe the tickle feeling in her stomach when she saw Captain von Trapp kiss Maria in The Sound of Music had something to do with her being adopted. Did other little girls want to kiss Maria?Maybe there were more people in California that felt the way Juju did?
Juju was sitting in the living room listening to her older sisters talk back and forth. Sometimes it felt like they were speaking a different language, or in secret code. It was Sunday afternoon and they had come by to eat dinner. Junene joined their conversation effortlessly as Juju sat on the green bean bag chair and listened. She had decided that she would confront her adopted mother Jewel that night.
Juju watched as Jewel sat on the couch reading the Sunday newspaper. Her father was sitting at the kitchen table, eating his second piece of pie. Junene was in the room she shared with Juju, listening to music. Her sister had purchased two, new 45s the previous day at the record shop in the Bellaire Shopping Center up the street. The records cost .95 cents each and after much thought, Junene had selected Sly and the Family Stone’s Family Affair, and Brand New Key by Melanie.
Juju noticed Jewel’s eyes peak above the top of the page of the newspaper. She looked at Juju sitting on the bean bag. I thought I told you not to eat in this living room? These are Smarties, no crumbs, said Juju. Before she could change her mind Juju blurted out to her mother that she knew the big secret! What secret, Jewel asked? Junene told me your big secret yesterday when we were playing down by the creek! I know what you and Daddy did to get me!! Jewel was taken aback and instantly furious at Junene for talking to a nine-year old child about the birds and the bees.
Juju listened intently as her mother began to talk about what happens when a man and a woman meet and like each other. There is more than kissing, Juju was starting to get disgusted and stopped Jewel! Stop, yes stop….that’s not the secret Junene told me! Jewel, looking somewhat relieved, pressed Juju for the story. I want to thank you and Daddy for taking me, but I know now that I am adopted! Juju’s father yelled from the kitchen, “what the hell did that kid just say?”
It took about forty-five minutes for Juju’s parents to convince her that she was definitely a part of their gene pool. They were somewhat upset that this didn’t completely make Juju happy! Juju still didn’t know what sleeping in the same room had to do with it…or what came after kissing and that was just fine with her. She knew now that even though she was in the right house, with the right family, there were still differences in her that someday needed to be answered.
Until that time, Juju delighted in watching her mother chase Junene around the house with the fly swatter, yelling, “I am going to make you wish YOU were adopted!!” Jewel was 49 at that time and didn’t catch Junene and Juju too often….she looked at it as her cardio.
Juju heard one of the swats connect on Junene’s backside and yelled above the commotion….SHE ALSO SMOKES KOOL CIGARETTES!!
What happened to sister loyalty? Well, that along with the big secret of the summer of 71 …it was all just water under the bridge now.