This book is about being a woman, trying to be a mother, having a family, trying to make a family work, failing and succeeding. Essays run from family estrangement to reconciliation, adoption struggles and recognizing the other mothers of adopted children, strengthening family ties by fighting the rats in the basement together, and realizing that, fundamentally, we all have it in us to be mothers if that is what we want for ourselves. The book is short, just 15 essays, each chosen because it represents an important event or point of view. The stories are not all happy ones. Raising children is a long tale that, if honestly told, has many regrettable chapters. Those chapters have great value if for no other reason than they make the happy times truly remarkable instead of common.
This is a story about adoption. It is about direct adoption and family adoption. It also involves keeping a secret from one of those who is adopted. It forms a family secret that defines and destroys as it gets passed along. It is the story of my mother and her sister who get cast out into the cold and are taken in by family. However, they are split up by the family and live in two separate worlds. My mother is taken to California and never told the secret. Dorothy, mom's sister, knows she is adopted and knows she has a sister. My mother is raised as the only child of the Haughts. She knows she was born in Ohio but knows nothing else. This is the way Norden and Mabel want it to be. They would be the only ones knowing the family secret. Mabel is paranoid that someone would find out and attempt to take Zona away from them. After mother learns the truth she takes on that paranoia. She lives and breathes it and it eventually takes over her life. Everything is done to protect that secret. Yet, when I turn 17 she decides it is time to tell me "the secret" and to take me back to meet my real aunt and uncle and cousins. This is a story of how the family secret transcends time and touches many lives. It is a story of how people react differently when told the secret. My cousins David, Barbara, and Joe are amazed that I just found out about them a few months before meeting them. They have known about me all their lives. They knew who I was and where I was and what all was going on. For me, all of that was shut out. I had to ask them tons of questions to find out about them. Even when doing my final research for this book I was still asking questions to all that were still alive. I am glad I went when I did because death would take the ones who knew the answers. Imagine if I would just now be finding all of this out at the ripe old age of 60? There would now be only a handful of people left to tell me and they would only have part of the knowledge. This secret has led me on many adventures. I am glad that I know the secret but sure wish it had come about differently. But then I would not have had to write this book. So welcome to Our Family Secret, My Mother's Lie.
Swimming in Memories - A Mother's Journal