Newer readers have asked me questions regarding what I knew about my sisters when I was a child. I’m addressing this in a series called Sisters…
My mother was not to be talked about in my great-grandmother’s house.
I didn’t even know who she was, the black and white photo of the little girl I found in the trunk in the shed.
She looked to be around three or four. She had one leg tucked under the other. She did not smile. Her dark hair framed her face.
I don’t know how many times I ran inside with this photo and asked who the little girl was.
I was told to take the photo back out there and put it right back in the trunk. It was easy to see how angry this made her.
If it was that horrible to them, I don’t know why they didn’t just toss the photo and be done with it. But we never know what causes people to do what they do.
I thought the little girl must have done something very wrong. I was perplexed. How could a little girl do something so bad that no one wanted to even look at her picture?
Of course, in my child’s mind, she was still a little girl. I had not matured to the age where I realized she might not be a little girl any longer.
I’m not sure when I began to understand that this little girl was in fact my mother.
Once my mother came to visit us, against my great-grandmother’s wishes. We didn’t have a car and lived out in the country, so where were we going to go?
She came with my grandmother’s older sister, who had instigated the visit. For some reason I was never aware of, she didn’t seem to hate the woman who was her niece. The product of rape.
My mother always seemed to have that specter hanging over her, the fact that she was illegitimate. Though of course anyone with a brain knows that how she was conceived was never her fault.
Still, that was how it was back then.
Accompanying them on their short visit was a little girl and boy. I had been told ahead of time not to play with them. So I hung back, watching.
I don’t know what I was afraid of. I just knew to be frightened about all this adult stuff that was complex and fraught with emotion.
They didn’t stay long. I don’t recall my mother reaching out to me in any way. If she spoke to me, I have no memory of it.
Fast forward to adulthood…
I’m not sure when I first became aware that there were other siblings.
A cousin on my father’s side, Leanna, who had been delving into her ancestry, found me about seven years ago. And she began to share with me my father’s side of the family.
I received a packet from her one day, and here were those two little girls. One blond, one brunette. No one knew their adopted names. But at birth they’d been given names that rhymed with mine. Glenda and Linda.
I always wondered if my mother had given them the names that rhymed with mine because they’d left me behind at six weeks of age. I’d been “sold” to the landlady for an undisclosed amount of money.
Maybe it was a way to assuage guilt, if she had any. In my late twenties, I sent her a letter through the same aunt, and just asked her why. Why they had left me behind.
And she answered with five words: It was your father’s idea.
That was to be our only communication.
When my maternal great-grandmother learned of my being left, she sent her two youngest sons to Arkansas to get me. To live with her and my grandmother, my mother’s mother, in Oklahoma.
What transpired between her and this landlady, if anything, I just don’t know.
I now had faces to put to their names. Albeit childhood faces.
I was told that at the time of these photos, they were living with relatives who wished to raise them. But one day social services appeared at the door and took them away to be adopted.
I thought maybe they’d made it out unscathed. I hoped they’d found good homes and were happy adults.
But now we know that wasn’t true. They were not adopted by people with good intentions. They would not make it out unscathed at all.
If you have questions, please leave them in the comments, or email me.
To be continued.