At the bottom of a cedar chest that
Had been my mother’s, I found
An old newspaper clipping,
Yellow with age and so fragile
That bits of it disintegrated
When I picked up the piece of paper,
Which had been folded over twice,
But when I opened it up to lay flat
I could see that
It had been folded and refolded many
Times, over a long period of time.
On one side of the newspaper,
There were ads for patterns
To make ladies dresses and aprons,
And when I turned the paper over
I found birth announcements;
Baffled, I read through the list
Of babies born at Bethesda Hospital
During the third week of
And noticed one circled faintly with
Pencil – a baby girl,
Born on the very same date I was born!
But the name of the mother,
One Genevieve Phillips—
Was not the name of my mother.
How curious, I thought –
Someone named Genevieve Phillips
Had a baby girl the very same date
I was born,
Why did my mother keep this clipping?
Why had I never heard the name
And why wasn’t a Mr. Phillips
Listed in the announcement the
Way the rest of the announcements
In the back of my mind, a dark suspicion—
But no, it couldn’t be. It simply couldn’t be.
My mother would have told me.
Then the nagging thought –
Was the woman I knew as my mother—
Really my mother?
Who was Genevieve Phillips?
I crushed the newspaper clipping
And set fire to it in the kitchen sink,
But even as the old newspaper clipping
Blackened and turned to dust,
I knew I would be forever haunted
By questions—questions for which
There were no answers.
Sandra Lee Smith
Originally written May 12, 2009
Updated June 26, 2018