The topic this week is: Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else? and I can say,” Yes, many times”.
Most of the time, I was mistaken for my sister. She’s seven years older than I am and we don’t look alike at all anymore, but for decades, as soon as I looked like a young lady, the trouble began.
Most of the problem was that strangers would wave at me and I would not respond. Rumors would fly that the person had fallen out of favor with my sister and feelings would be hurt. More than once mutual friends were called upon to straighten out the non-existent problem, and sometimes the calls would go to my mother…who, before she figured it out, would blame my sister’s nearsightedness! As much as we seemed to have looked alike, apparently we sounded even more so over the phone. Whenever I answered the phones I was often greeted by ,”Nickie?”, especially by family members. It drove me nuts that it continued long after she had moved out and I was still living at home. It only got worse when we worked in the office of a small business together, believe me.
Only once was she ever mistaken for me, and it was a set-up. The fellow had not seen me in a while and was running into my house in the rain. My sister met him at the door and through rain-splattered glasses he saw what he assumed was me and called her my name, as my sister had hoped…I married him anyway.
In last week’s post I mentioned that a friend’s small children saw Teri Garr on TV and thought it was me, but that hardly counts. Here’s the biggest mistake, or, rather, series of mistaken identities.
Nearly 30 years ago my husband was teaching at a small, private academy in Colorado. We lived in a house on the a property to supplement his meager salary and with only a little lawn-mowing or snow shoveling on his part, and door-keeper on my part,(letting people in after hours and weekends), we lived there other-wise rent-free. You can imagine, I was always there for one reason or another even when school was in, if any kid needed something or someone forgot anything, I was available for quick loans of anything from Tylenol to crockpots. I enjoyed the diversion, since I had two children under two when we moved there.
One day just before the beginning of term I entered the school and the headmaster said, “You were just here.” He explained that a woman came in to register her 3 kids in middle and high school grades and said, ”I thought, ‘It’s Tonette!”.
I met Diana a few days later. She was a taller, bigger and a little older woman than I was, but I could certainly see a resemblance. We became very friendly. Her children were reserved kids and Diana told me that she never saw them warm up and speak so freely to anyone before. We both came to the same conclusion…The felt that they knew me. Subconsciously, I was another “Mom”.
In fact, one day I as I walked up to the school, I saw her husband sitting in his car and I stopped to speak to him He was grinning greatly and had trouble not laughing as we spoke. Finally he said, “I have to tell you, when you came walking up from that way I thought, “What the hell is she doing coming from down there?” Diana had gone in the school in the opposite direction; he thought I was her.
I had also made friends with the new first grade teacher that year. Her husband would come in to help her set things up, or to see their son, who was a student there and we also got along very well. Don was Italian from the Northeast, like my mother and relatives; we had a lot in common.
At graduation, Roberta, the first-grade teacher, waved me down at the reception in the lower-level.
“Have you been down here all evening?”, she asked me. “ For most of it, yes”, I answered. She said, “Don just came up to me with his eyes big and round. I said, ’What’s the matter?’, he said, ‘ I was just upstairs talking to Tonette and then I realized it wasn’t her!’ Who was it? I asked him. He just said,’I don’t know!” I knew what had happened. I found that Don and Roberta had never met Diana. “Where is Don now?” I asked. Roberta said, ”He’s in the car. I better take him home.” So while she drove her rattled husband home, I found Diana upstairs and I shared a laugh. “Is that what that was?” she asked. “I thought he was just very friendly and all of a sudden he just…left”. Poor Don thought he’d entered The Twilight Zone.
Diana and I tried to find common ancestry. She was German and Irish, my Joyce side is Irish, so we thought, you never know. She knew a few of her family names from Ireland, but although the names are Irish as far as we can trace on Dad’s side, we haven’t found our way back to the Old Sod.
My husband and I bought a place of our own and coincidentally, it was very near Diana’s house, but her kids had left the school. We remained friendly, but we traveled in different circles. We kept in touch occasionally. One day I went into my regular gas station to pay and the cashier said to me, ”I’ve been meaning to ask you…do you have a sister in town?” I said that I did. She said, ”I thought so! She looks like you?” I told her, yes. “She has a big boy with her, right?” I said, “No, she has a really tall daughter.” The cashier said, “No, this is a really big boy. He’s nice; he comes in and pays, he pumps the gas…” She shook her head.”Oh, I guess I was wrong.” On the way home I thought of Diana’s son, who was a large fellow. I called her and said, “You go to the Amoco station on Wadsworth, right?” She was surprised that I knew that; I told her how. We laughed again.
Time went by and Diana called me for the first time in quite a while. It was on an election day. “Did you ever work as an election judge?”, she asked. I had for several years previously. “It had to be!” she laughed. She had voted earlier in the day and a woman judge insisted that they had worked together at previous elections…and she wouldn’t let it go. Diana thought the woman was crazy since she told the woman she had never been an elections judge… until it dawned on her that maybe it was me. It was. The funnest part was that I had just gotten back home from voting. I had seen the woman judge and wanted to speak to her, but when we made eye contact, she dodged me, and went in the opposite direction, which I thought very strange .I guess she just couldn’t face going through all that again! Diana and I really had a good laugh then!
Some years later an Irishwoman who worked with my sister loaned a book to us about Ireland and in it was a map of with Irish family names and the location of their ancestral homes. “Joyce’s Country” caught my eye and there, next to it, I saw the name “Taller”; that was one of the family names that Diana had given on her Irish side. Again, I made a call to her. But this time, we didn’t laugh, we were in awe. I guess we’ll never know, but perhaps we have a common ancestor…and in the past we could have been mistaken for her.