I was so embarrassed that I didn’t have a mother. It was worse than a thousand pimples on my face. I hated being different from other kids and having a dead mom made me the biggest freak of them all. I tried as hard as I could to blend in by emulating others. I wore Abercrombie & Fitch cargo Khakis, a monogrammed L.L. Bean book bag, a silver tulip neckless from Mignon Faget (a fancy jewelry designer in New Orleans), Adidas tennis shoes with alternate shoe laces that were a different color other than just grey or black, anything with a Ralph Lauren Polo logo, I got my haircut where they got their hair cut… But no matter what I wore or what I did, I always stood out. I could never fit in. There was never enough Dream GAP perfume to disguise how inferior I felt or really, how inferior I actually was.
But there was one time, and I mean, one time, where I wanted to bring attention that my mother had died. And of course that one time was for a 7th grade English writing homework where we were assigned to write a poem.
Now I’m about to confess something that I hope I won’t get in trouble for because I know some of my old teachers are reading this, but my dad would sometimes do my homework. Well, not math or science, but mainly he would write my English or History papers. Again, only sometimes. For my older brother, it was always. My dad insisted to do our homework. He got upset if I didn’t let him. He would shrug his shoulders and shake his head disappointingly as if I was making a huge mistake. Suit yourself.
I actually won a lot of awards in high school for papers that my dad wrote. I even got an honorable mention in a national Princeton poetry contest awarded by Toni Morrison. I read the poem out loud on TV for my high school homeroom classes. But, my dad didn’t write the poems or papers either. He would mix and match, word for word, from obscure authors to not so obscure. This was before the internet so it was harder to confirm plagiarism. When my brother went to college in New York, he made sure to buy a fax machine so my dad could continue to do his homework.
But I liked writing. I always had. By this time, my grandmother was living in Los Angeles with my aunt and uncle. My aunt would fly me out for whole summers, Mardi Gras and Christmas vacations. That is when I would really create. I scribbled short stories that I would give my uncle, who was a legit writer, to read. He loved them and encouraged me to write more. I wrote plays that I would cast him and my grandmother to be in. Usually my grandmother would play the villain for comedic effect. I was so imaginative during my vacations. I would perform characters and invent games. My family would play along with me. It was like summer camp, but with me being the only kid. I felt funny and smart…and free.
But at home, I knew my dad read my diary because he was sloppy when he snooped. So I didn’t write as much. Also, he thought he could write my English papers better than me, so I should just let him. He would typically get an “A,” and I didn’t always get an “A” if I turned it in myself. But whenever I did get an “A,”I felt like I was on cloud 9. But overall, my dad wrote almost half of my papers starting from 6th grade.
But this one poem, I kept secret from him. I had an idea…