Is there really a big secret in our family? I feel like there is at least one, but I don’t know what it is.
Maybe that sort of convoluted thinking evolves when there is an early tragedy in a family, like my Dad dying of a heart attack when I was twelve or maybe I was eleven. My Dad and President Kennedy both died in November. President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and my Dad died in 1964, so I guess I was thirteen. That awful year is bracketed by the two deaths, like huge, terrible bookends, and every time I think of it, I have to get the order straight in my mind again.
That nuclear blast cauterized our communal memory banks. Mother went crazy. Or crazier. Hell, I don’t know. We’re Southerners. But I can tell you this: by the time I went away to college, she was convinced people were living in our attic and peering down through a peep hole to spy on her and every evening before dark she took large safety pins and a step stool, and then closed up the draperies from top to bottom to be sure no one could see in.
Yes, I know she was a lone woman with children in the house, but this – this is only one example of the seizure-driven meltdown that was in progress. It’s full bloom came later. I do remember that when she would have a “spell” as she called them, she would fall to the floor in what I would later come to realize was a grand mal seizure.
Mother told us these “spells” were caused by “the Change” — menopause was not a word spoken in our house — you can imagine how terrifying it was for me as a young girl to contemplate all of the weird, mysterious, uninvited and seemingly uncontrollable processes that took hold of the bodies of women. Damn Eve! Why did she have to go and mess around with that apple tree? (Talk about baggage. . . wow.)
My mother and father fled the farm before I was born and went to be pioneers in Miami in the late 1940s. I’m sure my mother’s parents did not approve of my olive skinned working class father. But compared to her first husband, he was a prince. Plenty of space for secrets in that script.
But does it matter, anyway? “Secrets” told to everyone are generally revisionist history. Find out who tells it, and you will find a vested interest. Many “secrets” that have been told all around, so-called open secrets, are just gossip with a kernel of truth, repeated for the aggrandizement of the teller.
Let’s make up our own secrets, if they juice up a prosaic past. You tell me yours. I’ll think up some to tell you.