My mother always made sure we had the best of everything so that no one would look down on us because our father was in prison. She grew up in an impoverished household, and she said she didn't want us to experience the same humiliation she did at the hands of other children.
All of our clothes were from Saks, and every year Amie and I had new real fur coats to wear to school. We looked beautiful, but we just wanted to be normal. Finally, after months of begging, my mother let us wear jeans to school like our friends did.
As much as my mother tried, she couldn't protect us from everyone. Our backyard neighbors had a son, Scotty, who was relentless about teasing us. It seemed like every time I went in the back yard, he had something cruel to say, but I never said anything back to him. One day I couldn't take it anymore. Amie and I were in the backyard and Scotty yelled over the fence separating our yards, "Your father's in prison!"
My retort was absolutely classic: "Yeah, well YOUR father had a vasectomy!" I had no idea what that meant, but it was the first thing that popped into my little head to defend myself and my daddy. My mother and grandmother laughed hysterically when I ran into the house and told them what happened. Sure, my response to Scotty was nonsensical, but he didn't say another word to me for years after that.
Scotty's silence was broken many years later in the parking lot of the mall. He asked as I walked by him, "Is your dad still counting his stolen money?"
My retort was a little wittier than the last time we interacted. I looked him straight in the eye and said, "He sure is, and today he counted more money than your worthless father will see in his entire life!"
That was, officially, the last time Scotty ever harassed me.
The situation with Scotty was the only time I recall that my feelings were hurt by a child's remarks about my father. All of the other children knew our family's situation, but none of them seemed to care. I was a popular young child at school and my father was never mentioned by my friends.
The adults, however, were quite a different story. My second grade homeroom teacher had plenty to say about my father. One day she was standing about five feet from me, and I heard her her say to the music teacher, "That girl with the long hair is Amil Dinsio's daughter. When I looked at my class list for this year and saw that I had the bank burglar's daughter, I nearly died!" She had to realize I could hear her.
I swear, I could feel a dagger go through my heart as the hot tears welled up in my eyes.
That was the day I discovered that those who should know better are often the cruelest of all.