Growing up in New York, my parents would drive to Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens and even Manhattan to visit their siblings. What fun it was to connect and get together with my cousins who were all about the same age. Then something radically changed. As I think and write about this, I feel my muscles tense and my eyes water even after 50 + years when I was falsely accused of taking money from my cousin’s money jar.
When I was 7 years old I was fascinated with counting coins. My brother had a coin collection and every night when my dad would come home from work, he would empty his pockets of change on the kitchen table. My brother and I would go through the coins examining them looking for the dates they were minted. Every so often we would squeal with delight when we found a coin that added to my brother’s navy-blue cardboard coin slot in his collection. I crowned myself my brother’s coin finder and helper. Every chance I had, I would look for coins to count or go through. I was fascinated with coins. One Fall weekend, we drove to Long Island to be with my father’s brother and his family. The kids got together upstairs in the kids’ section of the house. My cousins, brother and I played Parchisi and then the four males got interested in building with the massive erector set. I was left to play by myself. I asked my cousin if I could count and look at the coins that were in a large jar on the shelf in his room. He told me I could. While the boys were in another room, I was lost in counting and examining. I have no idea how much time had passed before my parents were calling us to get into the car to leave. I carefully got all the coins off the floor and put them back into the money jar, placing it back on the shelf.
When we returned home, the phone rang. It was my uncle. He was telling my mom that money from my cousin’s jar was missing. She came into my room and asked about it. I told her that I did not take any of the coins. More phone calls came to clarify and then an outright accusation. There was at least $15.00 missing from the jar and I was the one that had taken the money. I was hurt and outraged. My mom and dad both interrogated me separately and then went through my closet and dresser searching for missing coins. I protested, cried and even remember screaming that I did not bring home one penny. Nothing I could say or do would make them believe me. I felt powerless, helpless and incredibly emotional. I felt shame, frustration and anger. The relationship with my uncle, aunt and cousins was never the same. I lost something very special in this incident… my self-respect, my dignity, my voice and even my attachment to my cousins. I would liken being falsely accused to be a traumatic event in my childhood. It is horrible, and it affects everything. For those who are dealing with being falsely accused or are being set up by corruption, this is not the American way and is hurtful to all involved. firstname.lastname@example.org