Born on the same day at the same time in Mercy Hospital were two beautiful baby boys. Both had gossamer flaxen hair and skin the color of translucent Easter lilies. The nurses marveled at their incredible likeness, remarking in their sing-song Irish accents “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, would ya look at that! These babes could be twins!”
One baby was born to the sovereigns of high society, Carlton and Evelyn Winslow of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The couple were like bookends – fair skin, blond hair and bright blue eyes.
The other baby was the illegitimate son of Rosa Guarinos, an impoverished cleaning lady from the slums of East Harlem. Her complexion was creamy, hair light brown and eyes green like her ancestors from ancient Persia.
It was fate that brought these two women from such divergent stations in life to the same hospital on the same night.
Evelyn’s luxurious penthouse was located across the street from Mercy Hospital; she had reserved an entire suite in the maternity ward of the hospital where she was currently in labor under the watchful care of a team of doctors and nurses.
Rosa was sweeping the floors of Ken’s Tailoring; the little shop where she worked was adjacent to the hospital. It was there that she also went into labor. Her kindly boss Ken Siegel gently and attentively escorted Rosa to Mercy Hospital; she was brought to the public maternity ward where she labored with other women of her lowly station, alone and frightened.
Five days later the new mothers were discharged from the hospital. Evelyn and Carlton Winslow brought Maxwell home to their posh apartment where his elaborately decorated nursery awaited him. A specially trained nanny took care of Maxwell’s every need.
Ken drove Rosa and her baby Victor to her basement apartment in Harlem. Ken offered his help getting Rosa and Victor settled but she declined saying he had already done so much for them. In the corner of the basement Rosa found some canvas tents and set them up to create the illusion of separate rooms. One tent was their bedroom; Rosa slept on a cot and Victor in an old borrowed cradle. Another tent became a makeshift washroom, enclosing the toilet, sink and wash basin. Yet another tent became a work area where Rosa could iron clothes and prepare meals while Victor slept in the ‘bedroom’.
The identical babies grew into identical toddlers. The Winslows celebrated Maxwell’s first birthday with a spectacular party at Tavern on the Green attended by their many acquaintances. Rosa and Victor marked his first birthday with a simple cake, Ken and a handful of trusted friends.
When Victor was two years old Ken proposed marriage to Rosa; he had always been in love with her and Rosa knew he was a kind and decent man and she cared deeply for him. She believed in time she would grow to love him. They got married and the family moved uptown where Ken had expanded his small tailoring shop into a successful men’s clothing business. Their lives improved significantly and they were very content.
The years went by; Maxwell and Victor were now teenagers, entirely unaware of each other’s existence even though they lived just two miles apart. They attended different schools and their paths never crossed. They were both happy, well-adjusted boys yet sometimes Maxwell felt an inexplicable void in his life – something he couldn’t understand or dismiss.
One day Carlton brought Maxwell to Ken Siegel’s shop for a new suit. “We’re closing early today – it’s a family matter. I’m sorry but you must come back tomorrow.” Ken stated nervously.
“Oh, come on, Ken. You always make time for me.” replied Carlton. “I brought my son Maxwell in for a suit. Are you trying to get rid of us?”
“Please, I really must close now!” Ken insisted.
But it was too late for just then Victor and Rosa emerged from the storeroom. Maxwell and Victor stopped short, staring at each other in amused bewilderment, unable to deny or explain their identical appearance.
Upon seeing each other after so many years, Rosa became faint and Carlton gasped in shock. Rushing to Rosa’s side Ken whispered “I’m sorry, my darling. I tried to keep them away. I never wanted him to see you or Victor and I failed you.” Rosa reached up and tenderly caressed her husband’s face, now wet with tears. “Oh, my darling Ken. This day was inevitable and you are not to blame.” Rose whispered.
Composing himself, Ken stood up proudly and addressed Carlton. “Mr. Winslow, as you know seventeen years ago I ran a small tailoring shop. After Victor was born, I was able to acquire this lovely store where you have been a regular customer. Rosa has worked as my assistant, sewing and ironing in the back rooms since day one. We fell in love and have been married for fifteen years. Sir, Victor is my adopted son and he’s very precious to me. I love Victor and Rosa dearly but even someone as self-centered and obtuse as you would know at first glance Victor is your biological son.”
Carlton stammered “Rosa, why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant? I loved you!”
“Because you were married and you never would have accepted us as family” Rosa cried.“
“But you deprived me of a son and Victor of a father! I could have provided for him.” Carlton argued.
“Victor is MY son. I lovingly and happily provided for him and Rosa!” shouted Ken. “I don’t believe you would have done so even if you knew about Victor. You and your kind always take the easy way out. Now I must insist that you leave!”
“Victor” Carlton said haltingly, “I didn’t know. I hope some day you can forgive me.” Victor simply stared impassively at Carlton and said nothing.
“Maxwell” said Carlton. “It’s best we leave here, son. Let’s go home.”
“No, dad. I don’ want want to but you can go” Maxwell said. “I just found the missing piece of my life. I’d like to stay and talk to my brother, if that’s ok with Mr. and Mrs. Siegel.“
Rosa, Ken and Victor looked at each other and nodded in agreement. “You’re always welcome here, Maxwell” said Ken.
Carlton made no further attempt to reach out to his son Victor or embrace this new-found family. Instead, he left the store and walked home, wondering how he could ever explain all this to Evelyn. It wasn’t going to be easy but he’d figure something out. He always did.
NAR © 2019