Question: Newer readers have asked me questions regarding what I knew about my sisters when I was a child.
Answer: I didn’t know they existed.
What I knew as a child about my family of origin is actually very little.
The subject of my mother was not to be talked about in my great-grandmother’s house. You’d be met with a tense silence if she was even mentioned.
Actually I didn’t even know who she was.
But I kept digging a black and white photo of a little girl out of the steamer trunk in the shed.
The little girl looked to be around three or four. In the photo she had one leg tucked under the other. She didn’t smile. Dark hair framed her face.
Who Was This Little Girl?
I don’t know how many times I ran inside with this photo clutched in my hand and asked who the little girl was.
And I was told, time after time, to take the photo outside and put it back in the trunk.
If the sight of the photo was that upsetting, why didn’t they just tear it up and throw it away?
But then, what causes people to do what they do?
I thought the little girl must have done something very wrong to cause such fraught emotion. It was perplexing to me to say the least.
What could she have done that was so bad that her photo was banished from the house?
I’m not sure when I began to understand that this little girl in the black and white photo was in fact my mother.
My Mother’s Visit:
My mother came to visit one time. She came with my grandmother’s older sister. I think she instigated the visit.
For some reason I was never to understand, this great aunt didn’t appear to hate my mother.
I think I was about three or four. My grandmother and great-grandmother and I all lived in the same house.
The entourage came against my great-grandmother’s wishes. But then, we didn’t own a car and lived out in the country. So where were we going to go to avoid her?
What had my mother done, I wondered, to elicit such wrath? Or was it because she was a product of rape. Which would have been the rape of my child-like grandmother.
This woman who they said was my mother always seemed to have this shadow hanging over her. Was it the fact that she was illegitimate?
Of course, any sensible person with a brain would know that how she was conceived was never her fault.
Still, that may have been what it was like back then.
A little boy and girl accompanied them on the short visit. I had been told to have nothing to do with them. So I hung back, watching.
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:
At some point, I was made aware that there were other siblings.
I was later to learn of a cousin on my father’s side. Her name was Leanna.
I learned that Leanna had been delving into her ancestry and had found me. She began to share with me my father’s family, whom I knew absolutely nothing about.
I received a packet in the mail from her one day. And here were photos of these two little girls. Along with photos of my father and father and mother and my father’s family.
One was blond. The younger one had dark hair like me.
No one seemed to know their adopted names or what had happened to them. But we knew that at birth they were given names that rhymed with mine.
Glenda and Linda? Belinda and Glenda?
Why Did Both Their Names Rhyme With Mine?
Maybe their names having rhymed with mine was my mother’s way to assuage guilt.
In my late twenties I sent my mother a letter, through the same great aunt who had come to our home.
And I asked her why. Why had they left me behind?
Her answer on paper was five little words.
It was your father’s idea.
That was to be our only communication.
My Two Younger Sisters:
I was told that at the time these photos were taken, they were living with some of my father’s relatives. And the relatives’ desire was to adopt and raise them.
But one day people from social services appeared at their door and took the two little girls away. They were to be adopted by someone else.
When I later learned about this, I thought maybe they’d made it out unscathed. I hoped they’d found good homes with decent loving adults.
But now we know that didn’t happen. They were not adopted by people with good intentions. In fact they were horrible people.
“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” – Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
If you have questions about this complicated story, please leave them in the comments. Or email me.
To be continued…