Myrna, is there anything your parents forgot to mention?
Episode #
Thursday, April 11, 2024

Myrna, is there anything your parents forgot to mention?

The Storyworth Podcast
Episode Description

This week, storyteller Myrna reflects on her family's hidden past and the impact it had on two generations of her family. Myrna's story delves into the complexities of family dynamics and the lingering questions that arise from untold truths. Then, Krista chats with Myrna about what it was like growing up in a secretive family, and the ways she's helping her children and grandchildren know her better.

Several years after my grandmother had passed away, I returned to college and married shortly after graduation. The following year, my new husband and I moved to Ithaca, New York, where my husband would attend law school and I would teach first grade. Several months later, I was newly pregnant. 

We were visiting my parents when the conversation turned to naming the baby. That's when my mother casually mentioned that I am named after her mother. In the Jewish religion, you can only name a child after a relative that has died, never a living family member. So I was confused.

I said, "what are you talking about? Your mother's name was Rose, and she just died a few years ago."

My mother responded, "Oh, Rose wasn't my mother. My mother's name was Mary, and she died when I was eight years old."

I was shocked. The woman I had always thought of as my grandmother was not my grandmother, but a great aunt or a step-grandmother. How could I not know this?

I felt angry, but I wasn't sure where the anger was coming from. I thought, if we had never had this conversation, would I have ever known this? Probably not. 

The abbreviated version of the story goes something like this. When Mary died, my grandfather was left with two small children, my mother and a 10-year-old brother. He couldn't raise them and run a business, so his solution was to send for his late wife's unmarried sister. She would come from Europe. They would be married and have another child, a daughter, Hilda, my mother's half-sister. 

I had known my Aunt Hilda my entire life, but never knew that they had different mothers. Unfortunately, I never heard the details, except that as my mother grew up in this new household, she wasn't treated very well by her stepmother and couldn't wait to leave home. 

Now, when I look back to my childhood, I can understand why she was so strict and always seemed so angry with my grandmother. 

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