I was one of those children that always wished (without much hope), that her family had some dark, hidden secret. Perhaps I was somehow adopted or was, in some other way, a much more interesting back story to the exciting person I would one day become. Yes, I was also one of those kids that thought boarding school sounded awesome.
I believe my sister shares my inclination. She once reported to me that mum had said “there’s more to it than you’d understand”, with regard to my classic “odd uncle” who lived with his parents until their recent passing. Of course, my mother was unwilling to augment this deficient understanding of my sister’s. My sister interpreted her comment, to my bewilderment, as meaning that perhaps my mother was in fact my uncle’s mother, as after all he is a lot younger than the other children. Now, I say I was bewildered by this hypothesis, but I was very willing indeed to believe it, so much more interesting it is than the probable reality. In reality, my uncle is just a bit odd, and my mother thinks we might not have noticed that yet, because she’s never explicitly said so.
I never realised how ignorant I was on my mother’s belief in her omnipotence until a discussion about the care of my grandparents. My mother was concerned that my uncle might interfere with decisions about the care of the grand parent, who really did need to be admitted to hospital. “Well, if there’s mental illness there,” I said, reassuringly, “I’m sure that will be taken into account when the social workers consider his input.”
“Mental illness?!” said my mother, aghast, who had just spent about 45 minutes bemoaning his unfitness to make adult decisions. “Who ever said anything about that?”
It turns out, there was in fact a dark secret in my family, but it wasn’t about me. A relation on my mother’s side was, wait for it, secretly adopted. He was not told until well, well into adulthood, and was reportedly horrified to learn that all kinds of random relatives, such as my mother, had known all along. That is not the stuff of childhood fantasy. When my mother told me this, I was actually kind of angry at her (although it is never productive to express anger with my mother). The slight smugness with which she reported how disturbed he’d been that they’d all known – it really irritated me. That is not a juicy secret. That is a pretty horrible situation to be put in.
Of course, there’s more to it than I’d understand.