Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Fiction and stranger than that

Look: a little vase of polyanthus from the garden. It's spring! (A bit of wishful thinking, possibly.)

Something rather strange happened on Hogmanay (New Year's Eve). Well, firstly, the night before, Mr Life, Daughter 2 and I watched the film "Sunshine on Leith" on television. (That wasn't the strange thing.) It was slightly toe-curlingly Scottish - not sure why my toes should thus curl but they did a bit, probably just imagining what other, non-Scots people would think of the rather thick accents. However, there are lovely views of Edinburgh in the film and I loved the closing scene.

It's a story about a daughter appearing in her father's life - the product of a fling shortly after he got married. Predictably, this somewhat disrupts his current family life with his wife, son and daughter. It's interspersed with songs by The Proclaimers, a Scottish band. After the film, we briefly discussed how strange it would be if a similar daughter appeared out of the blue claiming that Mr L was her dad. (This didn't happen. That would have been strange. I've known Mr L for a long time.)

The next day, Daughter 2 met a schoolfriend for coffee and heard that something very similar had just happened to her: an unknown half-brother had been in touch, the product of a relationship that her (now dead) father had had before he met his wife. So - no element of faithlessness in this story - but it was a coincidence, right after our conversations of the night before. And it was a shock for the family.

Later that day, the three of us went to friends' to see in the New Year with lots of other friends. I got talking to someone I've known more or less all my life and she mentioned that her husband (whom I've known for almost as long) had discovered only when he was forty (he's now in his mid-sixties) that he was adopted. His adoptive father had died some years before and when his adoptive mother died, our friend was going through papers looking for the necessary paperwork to register her death, and found his adoption certificate. Not an unheard-of situation; but as you can imagine, he was hugely upset.

The very strange thing is that I knew, years before, that he was adopted. My mother had mentioned it in passing; I thought nothing particularly about it but did remember it. I - and he - must have been twentyish at the time. I never mentioned it to anyone else because I wasn't sure that it was common knowledge. But I had no idea that even he didn't know.

He has since met up with his birth mother's later daughter and her family, though his mother had died by that time.

How did my mother know? I haven't a clue. We all lived in the same suburb and knew lots of the same people. Some of our friend's extended family evidently knew but had been sworn to secrecy, but of them, my mother knew only one aunt and I can't imagine her telling my mother; they weren't close. And our friend didn't live in the district till he was nine, so Mum couldn't have observed the change from no-baby to baby.

Stranger than fiction, isn't it? In fiction, however, there would be an answer. Mum died three and a half years ago and there's no one to ask.

Heartwarmingly, in all cases (including the film) the new siblings were welcomed into the families after the initial consternation and the outcomes have been happy.


  1. What a tangled web we weave!
    Interesting that so many ordinary-seeming families have such stories and good to hear that the outcome is usually a positive one.

    So good to read your blog again. In my absence you have changed from Isabel to Pam.... Is there a story in that?!

    Happy New Year. DWx

  2. Those were strange. I found out I had a half-brother when I was around 8. My Mother had been married before and my brother grew up with his Father and my Grandparents. That felt really strange.

  3. My mother-in-law was adopted from Canada(Edmonton, Alberta) and I just sent away for whatever records I can get. It appears, through my daughter's DNA and research, that she was Scottish/Scandinavian(probably Norwegian, according to the people whose DNA match hers). My family history is boring, but my husband's side is full of mysteries and twists and turns, as well as half-siblings.

  4. So many family secrets and untold stories from the days when respectability was to be upheld and shame, from whatever, avoided at all costs. I worked in social work for over thirty years and, even then, came across heartbreaking situations.

  5. Ah yes, the world is full of those stories -- I'll bet more than we think. Just off hand, I can think of two among my cousins -- secrets that were kept -- one discovered when the cousins were teens and the other -- still a secret and the children involved are now teens. Such an interesting post Pam -- I can just imagine the fun the three of you had watching the film and discussing!

  6. So interesting Pam and awakened memories of secrets held by people who should not in the normal course of things have had anything to do with these intimate facts. In one case an unlikely co incidence involving some hitch-hikers my then boyfriend and I picked up in Oxford on our way back to my parent's house, revealed to me the knowledge of our young lodger's daughter being cared for by her mother in Wales while she trained in London to be a florist. It was a huge relief to her that I knew and out came the baby photos. It was so sad. She could have told my mother who would not have turned a hair.

  7. My older sister was adopted. When she died,I discovered not only that my older brother didn't know - a mystery to me as my mother, as I remembered, talked about it quite openly, but she hadn't told her husband (he'd been told by my father before they married). Subsequently, her daughter didn't know until they reistered the death and it was an awful shock. What made it even odder is that my sister and her husband adopted a child, my nephew, and he was told byt didn't know his mother had the same experience.

  8. So did you keep it to yourself that you knew when he didn't? Frustrating these questions we can't ask people who've died.

    I've a German friend, quite elderly now, who found out quite late she'd a Norwegian half-brother from the war years, somewhat younger than her so conceived while her father was married to her mother, but away from home of course. The weird thing was her sister had met him years before without knowing at a party in the town where they were both studying, and was struck by how much like their other brother he was.

    I used to rather like the Proclaimers, but I'm not a great fan of musicals really.

    A belated happy New Year to you and yours!