I heard an interview with the author on the radio yesterday and this is a story of adoption and the secrets that often are kept to protect the adoptive mother. Like my own self, the author is the natural daughter of the adoptee.
In 1929, a little girl was kidnapped, snatched off a beach in England. Five anguished days of searching ensue, and then she turns up in a neighboring village perfectly fine, wearing a red dress instead of the blue one she’d had on when she disappeared. She was only 3. She had no memory of it. And she didn’t even learn of it until she was well into middle age.
Her parents knew exactly who kidnapped her, and they knew why. And they never told. When she was 13, she was on a little country bus – little green country bus going through her very, very flat landscape from school to home one afternoon – short journey. Front of the bus is a woman in black. This woman comes down the aisle of the bus towards her and says, your grandmother wants to see you. And my mother didn’t have a grandmother, so she immediately knew something terrible was wrong. Everybody on the bus except her knew who the grandmother was. And the woman in black had in her hand when she said these words a tiny, little sepia Brownie camera image of my mother.
She goes home to her mother, and her mother says nothing and summons the father. And eventually, there’s a scene and – the mother and father sitting opposite my mother. And they just tell her that they took her in as if a kind of kindness – that she was a sort of waif or a stray and, you know, it was a charitable act. So she immediately began to feel that nobody wanted her.
My book is a campaign against collective silence. And why ? I think that they were protecting one particular person – my mother’s adopted mother. Had they not all been so kind to her and protected her, she might have felt shame. I think that it damaged my mom in ways she can’t even see. You know, there were traits that she has – she’s incredibly socially anxious. I know why.