Gold 104.3 presenter Brigitte Duclos delved into her family history with her mum and uncovered a story that had never made it into the tales told around the dinner table. It prompted her to ask her listeners about their own family secrets.
It’s funny how some of the most important things come to you at the most unimportant times. I was folding the washing when it struck me quite out of the blue that I needed to find out everything about my mum, her life with dad before us and their lives before that…
Here’s what I found out: My great grandmother brought up a baby that wasn’t hers. The little boy belonged to a young cousin who kept his birth a secret – society was different back in those days. According to my mother, her grandmother Catherine “put him in the pram next to her baby and brought them up as brothers”. His real mother used to visit regularly but it wasn’t until he was an adult he found out the truth.
I told my friends this story. They flooded me with their own examples:
My friend Natalie was shocked and horrified to find out her grandfather had killed a man. The victim fell on her grandfather’s knife and bled to death. And while her grandfather was never accused of any wrongdoing, the story has left Natalie understandably ill at ease.
That’s nothing compared to another friend, Kelly. An ancestor of hers fled to Monte Carlo to escape gambling debts. His demise came when he was arrested at a train station with a suitcase that emitted a peculiar odour. It turns out he had chopped up a man he owed money too and stuffed him in the case.
Debrief Daily did some digging around to unearth other family secrets.
There was this:
"My dad's brother married a lady named Carol in like 1960-something. She was, um, difficult. Horrible. For example, when Mum told her she was going to adopt children, she said: 'Oh, but how will you love a child you didn't give birth to? It's disgusting'.
"She made Mum's life pretty hard throughout life. GET this: she fell in love with a priest, GOT PREGNANT to him, had the baby and gave it up for adoption before she met my uncle. Then fell in love with another priest and her second son is HIS. Mum divulged that to me but my uncle doesn't know that."
"I know a guy who found out when he was 20 that his much older sister was actually his mother. His mother was his grandmother. I wonder if as we become more open as a society this will happen less and less."
I've heard many stories from my parents over the years, but the “when we were young...” monologues and the “mum and I met in a tree house” romance were tedious when I was a teenager, and by now were going in one ear and out the other.
When my father died I wished I’d listened harder to the stories of his life. I wished I knew more about my beloved grandparents Muriel and Raoul Duclos.
Most of all I wish I’d cared more.
I could blame life for getting in the way: Marriage, kids, divorce, Downton Abbey. But I truly think there’s a reason why now is the right time. My beautiful, incredible mother is getting older and the thought of not learning everything about her life is unthinkable. That's why I had the “folding the washing” epiphany.
Twice now, I've sat down with my mother when we both do our best work, over a chardonnay at 5pm, surrounded by photos of our family in mum's cosy living room. We've talked and talked and talked.
It's been fascinating to me.
I have only just begun my historical journey and while it lacks scandal, I know the meeting in the tree house led to 50 years of blissful marriage. Every detail of it has become precious.
I’m excited about what’s to come. And mum and I have agreed if we can't meet once a week at five o clock, we can still have a chardonnay because let's be honest “it's five o clock somewhere"!
Does your family have any secrets?
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