My addiction to the mail began when I was fourteen and developed a mad crush on the teenage drummer of a band who came to play at one of our high school dances. Sadly, I wasn’t there with a date, but as a member of a high school service club I was required to stay and clean up after the dance. The drummer’s name was Bob and he had feathery brown hair and a real mustache. He and the rest of his band mates wore matching peach satin shirts and tight-fitting cream-colored bell bottoms (cue Bee Gees soundtrack) and I willingly gave him my address so he could write to me. Every day for two weeks I eagerly checked our rusty mailbox after school expecting a letter—nothing. I’d pretty much given up all hope when it finally arrived—a square white envelope with my name scrawled across the front in untidy black ink. To this day, I still remember the absolute thrill of holding that letter in my hands.
Thus began my life of waiting for the mail. The college acceptance letter. The Christmas check from the wealthy aunt. The airmail letters from my husband (then boyfriend) who, after our intense three-week affair, left me to go back to his hometown in Mexico.
Although I still love to receive letters in the mail, my new obsession is all about email. Instead of running to the curb to check the mailbox for love letters, I constantly check my phone to see if any literary agents have responded to the queries I’ve sent out about my novel. Most agents tell you that it will take eight to twelve weeks for them to respond. I’ve had some responses—so far it’s been mostly No, thanks, although I have had a couple of requests to read the full manuscript. I’m hopeful someone will believe in my work enough to take me on as a client.
I suspect that this time I’ll be waiting quite a while. Good thing I’ve had lots of practice over the years.
Sorry I’ve got to go now—my phone just dinged!
One of the many letters Rene sent to me from Oaxaca while we were apart.
For Mother’s Day, my children got me one of those DNA testing kits where I have to spit into a vial and mail it in to a company who will test it and tell me who I am.
Who am I?
It’s all the rage right now to find out who you are by researching your ancestry. Many of my friends are going onto Ancestry.com to find out more about their distant relatives. Families are truly fascinating. I especially love that PBS show Finding Your Roots where celebrities learn about their backgrounds.
I’ve never really felt connected in any way to one specific ethnic group. Being born a white American I’ve always envied those who come from big families and wholeheartedly embrace their culture. My parents migrated to California from Baltimore in the early sixties and I grew up without any extended family nearby. To this day, I’ve not met several of my first cousins. Beyond my immediate family, I’ve never had that sense of belonging to a clan.
I know some of my heritage. My father was half-Italian but didn’t discover this about himself until he was in his forties, after my grandfather—the estranged son of immigrant Italians—died and his secret past was uncovered. Maybe that’s why I married a Latino man with thirteen siblings and a strong family connection—that little bit of Italian in me was crying out for some familia.
I’m intrigued to find out if there are any big surprises in my DNA—besides being part Italian, maybe I have something else going on from my mom’s side—something other than western European—something exotic.
My kids also got my husband a DNA kit. I think he’s a little hesitant to do it—probably because he doesn’t want to know how much Spanish blood is mixed into his Zapotec blood.
I guess it doesn’t really matter what we find out about ourselves. Sometime in the future, there will be so much genetic mixing that we’ll all end up looking pretty much the same.
Which is really what we all are on the inside anyway—the same.
I’ll be sure to let you know who I am when I find out.
My Italian great grandparents, Giuseppi and Rosa Intrieri (a.k.a. Joseph and Rose Winters)