Writing of the Week ‘Winning a game of marbles’

Writing of the Week ‘Winning a game of marbles’

Winning a game of marbles for Sarah Neil


In the ‘Boys’ playground at school, crab-like children flicked marbles in a dusty circle.  My sister and I, a pair of identical, red-headed, freckled-faced twin girls, won the lot. We had a large bag of all the boys’ marbles and felt incredibly proud of ourselves. We were about to go back to the girls’ playground when we were stopped in our tracks.

One of the defeated boys danced around the circle, red-faced and angry, singing out in a loud voice, “The twins are adopted, the twins are adopted!”

There was absolute silence, all the kids staring, waiting in anticipation. Then, as if an invisible thread joined us, my sister and I flew at the boy, hitting him with a bag of marbles. He fell to the ground shrieking in a high-pitched voice. All the other boys ran away in fright.

Ann, my twin, and I headed back to our playground. I started that day a happy eight-year-old but finished it as a dysfunctional adoptee. I can remember this episode as if it was yesterday, yet it was about 80 years ago.

We walked home in absolute silence; we did not mention the word ‘adoption’. My brain had turned to golden syrup. I was walking through this sticky mess blotting out all thoughts. I felt like crying but no tears came, I felt confused and angry. Was this true? Were they not our parents? Were we orphans? Who is my mother? Where is my mother?

We stood nervously at the bedroom door. Thelma, the woman we thought was our mother, did not look up from her book. I do not know who asked the fatal question but one of us eventually uttered, ‘Someone at school says we are adopted’, half hoping she would not hear, just in case it was true.

She put the book down and nonchalantly looked at my sister and I. ‘Yes, you are’ she said. ‘We adopted you in Scotland.’ Then, as if to justify this bizarre statement, she added, ‘Your mother died in a car crash and your father could not look after you, so we agreed to take both of you’, with the word ‘both’ heavily emphasised.

‘Now go outside and play before it gets dark’, she said, with a sort of finality in her voice.

I felt a rage inside my head and wanted to scream out, ‘What was my mother’s name?’ She must have had a name! But I could not open my mouth to say anything. I walked out of her room feeling sad and bewildered. Ann never said a word. I do not know to this day what she was thinking. Perhaps, like me, she was numb.

I spent the rest of my life thinking and looking for my mother. I never believed she was dead. I found her in Scotland when I was 45 and it was a wonderful wish come true after so many years. My mother was 84 years old when I was finally able to look her in the eyes and feel at peace. She died a year later, but meeting her remains the best experience of my life.

Story copyright Jennifer Neil.




Photos credit pinterest.

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