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Knowing Where You Come From

Cecilia knew that Moses had been adopted. They had met at church as teens. Then she had gone to college in the city. It had taken him almost as long to become a firefighter as it had taken her to graduate from college. It was a competitive field and once he became a rookie, they began dating. She went on to get her teaching credentials so they had to wait a few more years before marrying. But they had been patient. His parents had grown old, having adopted Moses late in their lives. His father died before the wedding and his mother’s death followed after their first child, Rosa, was born.

Now Moses had only his wife and children. Cecilia’s parents lived in the Bronx and came to visit often. They were a close family. Moses was a good father. Their lives were full. Moses was now a captain. They were financially stable. Moses had never spoken about looking for his birth mother or finding out the circumstances of his birth. All this Cecilia told Alva. In the end she spoke of her husband as a proud man.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Cecilia said. “I can’t speak for my husband. It’s his decision to make. But then he can’t make it without you telling him. Perhaps it would be best for you to write him a letter. But now that we’ve spoken and I’ve met you, it seems that not telling him would be a sort of cheating on my part. And I would never cheat on Moses. So I suppose we are now, both of us, you and I, in a moral dilemma of some kind. If I do tell him, I risk his feeling – what? – cheated? Angry? Misled? Confused? Maybe all those are things one feels when one finds that one’s ancestry is in question. I don’t know if that’s more upsetting because it is recent. But isn’t that what our people have always had to face? The uncertainty of who we are and where we came from and how our lives were not ours? I don’t want my husband to feel that way. But not to tell him I think would be an even greater wound. Then again,” she went on, looking sideways at Alva, with an expression that told she was not buying the entire story Alva had presented, “I have a feeling you’re not telling the entire truth. Now why is that?”

Alva felt a sudden urge to stand, so she did, dropping her purse and folding her hands one over the other in a sign of turmoil. Tears pricked at her eyes and she did not want to show this to Cecilia, who, over the course of talking out her thoughts, seemed to have distanced herself from Alva in favor of protecting her husband.

“When do he come home?” Alva asked.

“His shift is over at four today. He’ll be home for supper,” Cecilia answered. She stood also and handed Alva her purse. “I suppose you’ll be back later,” she concluded.

“Yes,” Alva said. “Shall I come after you finish your supper?”

“Come at eight,” Cecilia said. “The children and I have school tomorrow. Can’t stay out on account of snow the whole winter.” She smiled as she said this and walked Alva to the door. “We’ll expect you then. I’ll let Moses know you’re coming but I won’t say anything else about it.”

Alva Part 2, Episode Twenty-Six

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