Poor Mom; none of her fevered imaginings could have anticipated the Internet. It must have seemed possible to invent a more palatable past, to stay one step ahead of the truth if one just moved often and fast. No, she could never have predicted a few keystrokes would undue all her careful work.
And so, it was a Saturday when the youngest of my mother’s four children (that would be me) typed a name into Facebook’s search and the wall between her two lives went poof! with a phone call between two middle aged women a thousand miles apart.
The funny thing is, for many years we were just a few miles apart, attending different schools in the same district, separated by a zip code and a name change.
For me, there were flashbulb memories, overheard snippets of conversations which made no sense at the time, yet seemed important enough to save for later sorting. Six months old when our mother closed the door between her life and the one that would include me, my sister tells me she has always felt abandonment, something always missing. Questions were met with silence, or the highly suspect information left by an apparently runaway mother and wife.
The childhood provided by a woman running from her past was messy and dysfunctional; so too for those left in her wake. The grass was not greener, my siblings did not escape unscathed.
In a long phone conversation with my sister and dozens of texts, we’ve compared the stories we were told (just when I thought the ones I heard couldn’t be matched in egregiousness, I am proven wrong) and I’m feeling unusually protective of our mother, whom I long ago forgave in order to survive. (What’s that old saying about carrying a grudge? Something like, carrying a grudge is like eating a lump of poison, then waiting for your enemy to die.)
Answering my sister’s questions clarifies what I was too young, angry, and misinformed to know when our mother was alive: that circa 1960, her only options were ones resulting in chaos and dysfunction.
My husband says, “Someone should have told you, should have told them, after she was dead,” and he’s right, but no one did. We also marveled at the anxiety she must have lived with every day of her life, trying to keep two lives and four children apart, weaving her tales, changing the spelling of her name, changing my name, moving us constantly, keeping those cards moving so she wouldn’t have to answer questions and face the shame, or face her past, and how god-awful that must have been. In the end, it was all for naught; lies always catch up with you.
She’d be 86 were she alive today and I like to think, all these years later, she might be glad two of her scattered children connected. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. You always did say I was too smart for my own good. That’s not such a bad thing now, is it?
“What though the sea with waves continuall
Doe eate the earth, it is no more at all ;
Ne is the earth the lesse, or loseth ought :
For whatsoever from one place doth fall
Is with the tyde unto another brought :
For there is nothing lost, that may be found if sought.”
Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene