In this week’s column, Candis editor Flic Everett takes a puzzled look at her family secrets…
It’s hard to have secrets in a family when there’s only three of you. Being an only child, I assumed I knew pretty much everything about my Mum and Dad, through a combination of proximity, staying quiet, (“I’m just under the table reading, don’t mind me”) and light eavesdropping from the top of the stairs. Mostly, I just overheard chat about the gas bill, so there were no serious revelations.
But when I got older, I started to wonder about the rest of my family. Every child wants to believe they were secretly a princess, kidnapped by violin-playing gypsies and raised in a dull suburb for their own safety, or the adopted child of someone too famous to cope with a baby, who felt so guilty they left millions in a trust-fund, only to be mentioned when I turned 21. It seemed that someone had gambled it away, as no trust fund was forthcoming, but I was hoping to discover at least some deposed kings and a couple of gold prospectors.
As it turned out, the only secret on my dad’s side was how he’d spent an entire summer with a factory job squeezing the jam into doughnuts and managed to stay thin.
My Mum’s family history, however, revealed the secret that I should have been American. (Although strictly speaking I wouldn’t have been born at all, and would now be someone else entirely, possibly called, say, Kinsey Brookes-Mendoza and working in a laundrette on the Lower East side). My great grandparents were Russian refugees, who left Odessa for a better life in New York sometime in the early 20th century. But speaking no English, they arrived in Liverpool, where their ship was stopping off, saw tall buildings and seagulls, and assumed they’d docked on the Hudson.
Somehow, they ended up in North Manchester, with a grocer’s shop and a sideline in egg importing (I never have understood why you would need to import an egg, but it was there on the sign in big letters). They never got to America, but they did, eventually, have someone in the family who introduced the scatter cushion to Manchester (or so family history claims).
So no, I do not have any compelling family secrets. One glance at our faces is instant proof that my mum and dad really are my real parents, and if any lost inheritance was going to be discovered, it probably would have happened by now. Though I did get a sewing table and a box of watercolours in my grandma’s will, which is fine with me.
If, however, you like a bit more drama than I can provide, you might want to turn to your September copy of Candis, arriving any time now. Three fascinating people tell us about the astonishing family secrets that they uncovered, involving Victorian asylums, lies, and secret adoptions. I wish I was that interesting – but it’s really not my fault they got off the ship a stop too early…