From Forever Autumn: One day during my last year of grammar school, we discovered something about my father that cast a shadow over everything. It happened during the winter when I was ten and Karyl had just turned nine. It was a rainy December day and we’d been playing for hours up on the third floor. Bored with the same old games, we looked in the hall closet to see if we could find anything interesting. We found a box containing Mom’s mementos.
On top were her chestnut-colored bottle curls. She had saved them from when she first bobbed her hair in the roaring twenties. I picked up the netting with the curls and hugged them, imagining how beautiful my mother must have looked with them. Underneath was a pile of cards and letters. It never occurred to us that these might be private, so we began to leaf through them, stopping when we found a newspaper clipping yellowed with age. Attracted by the name Sam Kern in bold print, I began to read.
The article was from the Hartford newspaper and described how Sam Kern was on trial for running a numbers game, a lottery. Neither Karyl nor I were quite sure what that meant, so we brought the clipping downstairs to Mother. When I handed it to her, she took one look, crumpled it up, and threw it in the trash. She was visibly shaken, her voice quivering as she reprimanded us for going through her personal belongings. Then she climbed with us back up to the third floor, retrieved the box of mementos, and took it with her to her bedroom. I kept trying to tell Mother I didn’t care about the article and just wanted to hold her beautiful bottle curls, but she seemed not to hear me.
Karyl and I were upset, not because of the article, but because we had unknowingly done something wrong that seemed to have hurt Mother terribly. It wasn’t until a few days later that I began to wonder about the contents of the newspaper clipping. Had my father been arrested for doing something illegal? Was that why we left Hartford so suddenly a few years earlier? Knowing how bothered my mother had been by the article, I never sought answers to the questions whirling about in my head, but I worried about them nonetheless.