I was reading a blog this morning and it was a writing prompt. It said: write about an UNtrue family story
And, just like that, I was inspired. For those of you who follow me but don’t actually know me, here’s a little background before we begin. I am the second of four children. Two boys, two girls. We are insanely close in age…five years for four kids. We also look a lot alike. I don’t have a picture of the four of us, but take my word for it. We’re similar looking.
When we were growing up, our parents’ best friends, the Kranz family, had five daughters, all roughly the same ages as us. We spent many an hour with that family, many a party, many a family vacation. We were one big extended family.
Now, I honestly can no longer remember the exact origin of this particular tale, but it has become family legend. A story to be dragged out at parties and reunions. The occasional allusion in a fit of humor.
Once upon a time, as children, we somehow got it in our heads that it would be fun or funny to convince the Kranz girls that our mother is not actually our mother. Of course, the problem was that the older children could remember my mom (Kaye) being pregnant with the younger kids. So, the legend developed as follows.
John (my dad) and Kaye (his wife) are parents to two children. Zack and Emily. Nick and Olivia, the older two are the children of John and his first wife (unnamed or else I’ve forgotten what we named her). As these sad tales are wont to go, poor unnamed first wife ended up in prison, resulting in divorce and John getting full custody of the children.
Oh yes, it was burglary. We didn’t have much money and she stole to feed her children. (Wouldn’t do at ALL to have her be a complete villain). But, she got caught and in order to create a cautionary tale for mother’s everywhere, the judge threw the book at her. Possibly literally. I was so small when she was sent away I wasn’t actually present at the trial, nor would I have remembered it if I were.
My father, being the brokenhearted, desolate soul that his wife’s perfidy rendered him, decided the only recourse was moving forward. He got a divorce, met Kaye and married her very soon afterward. Kaye, being a wonderful, delightful, warm, and loving woman, took John’s children and raised them as her own, right along with her own. The newly added Zack and Emily.
This was the story as it was created. Mostly. I may have squandered a detail here or there. Like the name of my inmate mother?
Well, one night, hanging out with the Kranz family, we take it upon ourselves to tell them the whole sordid “truth” about our family. They were shocked and….disbelieving. Of course, being consummate storytellers at our tender ages (perhaps I was 12 or 13 when this first came up) we added layers and details to the story. We told of how once each month John would drive us to the prison where we got to spend 30 minutes talking with our birth mother. We told of how we call Kaye “mom” because she is truly the only mother we’ve ever known. We said that we all look so much alike because we DO share the same father.
The girls were starting to believe. We were THAT convincing. But, the ultimate test…if you’re a child and there is something you aren’t sure is true, what is your next step? You ask your parents. Right there, that night, at our house, they marched up to the four adults and demanded to know, “is it true?”
This was it, the con was surely blown.
Frank (their father) said gravely, “yes, it’s true.”
Kaye and Kathy, the mothers, gamely jumped in and confirmed the story.
Then, all eyes swung to John. His hangdog expression was perfect as he confirmed the story of his first disastrous marriage that gave him his two older children.
They backed us up! I think they thought it was funny or else they were just drunk, but either way, they confirmed the story and possibly filled in some details of their own and just like that, we had them convinced.
We were children of a broken home. I am the daughter of a criminal. Kaye is not an evil stepmother, but a benevolent fairy godmother. This is the stuff of legends. Or, at least, movies of the week.
For quite some time, very possibly YEARS, we continued this charade. It didn’t come up every day, or even every time we were together. After all, it isn’t like preteens and teenagers sit around doing nothing but talking about their parents. But, every once in a while, a word or a story or a memory would surface that would drag the story back into the spotlight. “Have you seen your real mom recently?” “Don’t you mean half-brother?” “I can’t believe you’ve been inside a prison.” And we would rehash and maybe shape new details into the lore.
Eventually, at some point, we gave in, we told the truth. It was a dramatic affair full of exclamations that “I knew all along” and “I never really believed it” but the tall tale itself persists. Now, as adults, we see each other less frequently and don’t talk nearly as much, but then, in a moment, someone will mention HER. My long lost real mother.
Most recently it was wondered why she wasn’t yet out of prison (bad behavior, I think. Or maybe recidivism). And we laugh and remember the innocent days of youth, before Google, when it was possible to lie to your friends and have them still love you after The End.