Updated July 5th, 2011. Chapter 2 added.
This is a story I have been working on off and on for about six years. I am trying my best to finish it. As I add chapters I will change the updated date at the top.
I am one of those people born in the backseat of a taxi cab. Or at least, that is what I have been told. After all, I knew my mother for no more than three minutes.
I was born in Dublin, Ireland. My mother, I am told, came from quite an affluent family. She was disowned when she came home four months pregnant at the age of nineteen. Deciding to do the ‘proper’ thing, my father asked my mother to be his wife. I do not know why they did not get married right away, as most people would; but everything I have found out shows they did not walk down that isle. Instead, my parents lived in a cramped apartment for about four months. About a month before I was born, I guess my father got cold feet. Rumor has it he went out for cigarettes and never came back. A very lame excuse, if you ask me. I would have at least said I was going out for something more imaginative then cigarettes.
By the time my mother caught a cab to the hospital, I was ready to arrive; and therefore I came into this world, none to elegantly I would imagine, in the backseat. I am sure the driver was quite impressed with this, but if he picked up a woman quite obviously in the latter stages of labour, one would expect something like this was bound to happen eventually. This blessed event, as some might call it, occurred approximately ten minutes after midnight on St. Patrick’s Day 1981.
Although I have yet to go back to the place of my birth, a friend of mine has and was able to trace the route my mother had taken that fateful night; she lived about 6 minutes from the hospital, and since it is said I came while halfway there, I come to the conclusion that I only knew her for three minutes. When we got to our destination, she was whisked one way and I another. I never really got to say goodbye, and sometimes I wonder if she ever felt the same way.
About fifteen minutes later, my twin brother was born in the proper fashion in a far cleanlier place than I. We were put together in the nursery so our poor mother could rest. The next morning, rather, later that morning, she told the story thus far to the attending nurse. Somehow the story had been passed to many people and told to me many years later. The nurse apparently left to collect us so we could be introduced to our mother, when she got back the room was empty save for a pair of Celtic crosses about two inches high, with a note stating she loved us but could not raise us, and the charms were to be given to us at an appropriate time. This final gift from our mother may be a small one, but to me it is a rare and special gift, a small key to my past.
Some people tell me my mother must have been weak for leaving us the way she did. But I believe our mother was a strong woman. To be able to walk out a hospital mere hours after giving birth, not only once, but twice; not knowing what would happen to your children. But knowing that the hardest choice you could ever make was the best choice; and to be able to make that choice. I believe those types of decisions are what makes a person strong. I have thought of reaching into my past and searching for her, the information I have is a good start. But it is a hard task to continue, especially now. I have come a long way since that night so long ago, in many different ways. Someday I will go back to the Emerald Isle of my birth and hope the one small key I have opens a large chest of information.
After a few days in hospital, my brother and I were sent to the local children’s home. Since we had not been given names by our Mother, we were bestowed with the sensible Irish names of Erin and Patrick. I am told we were the youngest children in the home and adored by all the matrons. Now this may sound like I am tooting my own horn, but I was given this information by someone who was a bit biased, it may seem. This woman was the first person I knew as Mother.
We were approximately six months old when we were adopted, which is quite old as babies are concerned. Our new parents had been trying to get us out of Ireland since we were about three weeks old. Paperwork and red tape prevented us from leaving our birth place, hindered further by the search for our birth parents. The government types on both ends wanted to be absolutely sure that there would be no claim for us later.
Our new Mom and dad lived in a whole new country, the United States of America. We moved to a farm outside a very small town in the state of Kansas. It was well known as farm country. Of course, we were too young to worry about the change from city life to farm life, we just absorbed everything and adapted. One thing that did change, though, was our names. Erin and Patrick were to traditional Irish for our American parents. As well, they thought twins should match, no matter the gender. So our new matching American names were Toni and Toby; and to go with our new names we were honored with the completely boring (in my opinion, anyway) and normal name of Smith.
We grew quickly, becoming absorbed into the daily farm life. As soon as we could walk, we helped Mama and Papa with small farm chores, I remember from an early age sprinkling feed for chickens. I also recall searching for eggs, but only after an adult had chased the hens so we would not be pecked. We had huge gardens and grew everything from apples to zucchini. My favorite time of year was picking potatoes, we were too small to lug a basket around, and so Papa or one of the helpers would put a basket at the end of a row and we would scurry up and down picking potatoes out of the dirt as someone pulled the plants.
When we were three years old, it was decided we would be sent for tests, just to see if we were getting along alright. I can just barely remember the day Mama got us all dressed up and we drove into the city to the Doctor’s. Well, it turned out we were quite smart for our age; and because of this our parents decided to enroll us in a preschool for gifted children in Kansas City. They did not mind that there was a 45 minute drive each way; they wanted their children to have the best education possible, even at that young age.
The first day of preschool came and went without incident. It was the second I had issues with. Toby had always been smaller than me; not by much, mind you, but enough to make it matter to the other children, especially boys. When I said the first day went off without much incident, I admit there was one small one. One of the older boys pushed Toby and called him shorty. And, Toby being the way he was, took it. My brother had never been a fighter; he usually kept to himself and let me stand up for the both of us. The boy who had pushed Toby made me angry, but my brother had told me not to worry about it, and that day I did just that. The second day of school the older boy did the same thing, pushed my brother and called him shorty. This set off my stereotypical Irish temper. I told the boy to leave my brother alone; unfortunately, this provoked the boy further and he started teasing Toby about his sister protecting him. Although my brother tried to stop me, I dove on the boy and managed to get in one good punch before a couple of adults pulled us apart, a fairly easy task when you work with preschoolers.
Our parents were called in and the boy and I were given one more chance. Now, usually a three year old can stay out of trouble when it comes to something like fist fights, but I guess I was not your typical three year old. About a week later, the boy I had fought with tripped and bumped into Toby, knocking him down. I know now that it had been an accident, but I didn’t know then; so once again, I dove on him kicking and swinging my fists. This time, it was he that got in the good shot. I ended up with a nice black eye.
I was really proud of my black eye; after all, I had been protecting my brother. My parents and teachers were not so proud. Both the other boy and I were expelled from preschool. Toby was allowed to stay, but our parents pulled him out as well.
Because of my temper and ‘inability to get along with others’, our parents kept us out of preschool, choosing instead to take us to a playgroup that met once a week. We got along fine with the other children, as they were all farm kids like us. By the time we were five, Toby and I were ready to give the school system another try.
In 1986, Kindergarten was not mandatory, but because we were supposed to be bright, our parents enrolled us, and once again we travelled to Kansas City. The Kindergarten was a private one, about two blocks from our former preschool, so a few of the same children were in our class. I got along alright in kindergarten, I made a few friends, but Toby liked to keep to himself. Or mother had taught us the basics of reading, so he would sit in the story corner a lot, looking at and reading the books. Because of this, the teacher thought he was antisocial, since boys were supposed to be rambunctious and into everything! They tried to force him to join group activities, but eventually my brother would always gravitate back towards the books. After a couple of months of this, the teachers contacted our parents. They thought Toby might have something wrong, and may need a special class. My parents believed twins should always be together, so they told the school this was nonsense and that Toby was just a little shy and bookish.
So we were kept together in Kindergarten, and I did my best to coax my brother out of the story corner. Eventually he did come out, but usually he stuck close to me. Fortunately this was good enough for the teacher, and by Thanksgiving she had changed her mind about her initial concerns over my brother’s antisocial behavior. Everything went well until Christmas vacation that year. That was when our lives were turned upside down.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~