On my father’s side of the family, I have an uncle who tells one story about his mother whenever the family gets together. Same story. Every time. When he was in the second grade, he had an accident at school and was sent home early. When he got there, the house was locked, and he couldn’t find his mother. Because he didn’t want anyone to see his wet pants, he hid on the porch for what seemed a very long time. Turns out that his mother had been at the movies, something she did every Friday afternoon with money she saved from the groceries, but she never told anyone, and she made him promise that he wouldn’t tell either. His father was never, never to know.
His mother died first.
Still, my uncle kept his promise. It wasn’t until after his father died that he began to tell the story of his mother’s Friday afternoons. Now he tells it and retells it—like it’s been bottled up too long. Like he still can’t quite grasp the fact that his mother had a secret life.