At least, I think I was 8, which was my age in the spring/summer of 1977. My parents had suddenly decided to take me to a bed & breakfast in Hershey, Pennsylvania. For some reason, my mother and I were left in the car together for a long time. Then my mother asked me this bombshell, "How would you like to have a little sister?"
Like many "only child" kids my age, the thought of having a sibling was pretty cool. I have since learned its a mixed blessing, and it seems fandom has more than their fair share of horror stories relating to siblings. Even as a kid, I had friends who had terrible sibling experiences, although in retrospect, a lot of them were basic territorial/favoritism problems that are common issues since the story of Cain and Abel. So when my mom said this, I was like, "Oh, YEAH!"
"I am pregnant," she said, "and it's a girl."
Now, this also requires some background explanation. When my mother got pregnant in early 1968, she was alone in Italy, I think. She had a lot of British Officer's wives as friends, and one day she said to them, "I am pregnant." They told her to see a doctor. So she saw one on base and he said, "You are NOT pregnant." She said, "Oh, oh... yes I am." A month later, she said, "I am now two months pregnant." "Go see a doctor," said her friends again. The doctor assured her that she was not in the slightest bit pregnant. She wasn't showing any obvious signs, and the tests came back strongly negative. "Your tests are wrong," she said. Her friends figuratively patted her on the head during all of this; it was a common mental ailment among the wives of those whose husbands were separated for long times due to work. "Phantom pregnancies," they called them. Still, my mother started preparing for a birth. A month later, she said, "I am three months pregnant, and I am getting a test off base." "No!" said he friends, "Those village doctors don't know a damn thing! They'll just tell you anything you'll want to hear for the money." My mother went off base anyway, and got a doctor that said, "Senora... you are definitely three months pregnant!" On top of that, my mother got access to the medical records of the base and found almost everyone who had a baby there was originally tested "negative" for all pregnancy tests. Apparently, their tests were so old (pre-WW2), the chemicals had long gone inert or something. When she started to show in the 4th month, she started to tell everyone, "It's a boy." "Don't say that," said the friends, "if it turns out to be a girl, you will be horribly disappointed." She bought boy things anyway. "I always knew," she told me.
So almost 9 years later, she realizes she's pregnant again, and this one will be a girl. I didn't doubt it for a second. "We are here so I can tell your father," she told me, "and I am very nervous." I thought I understood that, but I didn't know until years later that I was an unwanted (by my father) pregnancy. I only heard bits and pieces of what happened my my mother told my father she went off birth control. I don't even know if she told him it was on purpose. I was 13 when I found this out: she had gotten drunk and after a HUGE fight with my father, she did tell me how guilty she felt that she did it because she was SURE that after ten years of marriage, my father would "warm up" to the concept of having kids, and she made, and I quote, "a horrible, horrible mistake," followed by wracking sobs.
But back to age 8. I don't recall how or when she told my father. I only remember going to Hersheypark, and seeing my father really quiet. I never brought it up, and...
... nothing ever came of it. I am not sure why I forgot about it. I don't recall my mother showing pregnancy, but I was pretty clueless back then. I pretty much left my parents alone if they left me alone, so anything could have happened. I recall this was when my mother started her significant weight gain, so maybe that was part of it. Around 8 was when my mother started drinking, too, which leads me to believe one of the following scenarios happened (in order from most likely to least likely):
1. She was never pregnant. She either made it up, or was mistaken.
2. She got pregnant, but miscarried/had a stillborn.
3. She got pregnant, had a baby, but was forced to give it up to adoption.
4. She got pregnant, but my father forced an abortion.
The only time this topic was brought up again was years later, when my mother had a hysterectomy. She spent a night wailing that "I will never have an opportunity another child now..." I never asked what happened to my "sister." I somehow sensed this topic was taboo. I cursed myself later on in life for not "following up" on such an obvious gap. Part of me wonders if I repressed some horrible event and thus, the mystery of my "little sister" shall lay dormant until the right key opens it up.
An item to add here is that my mother once told me she hadn't had sex since 1972, which, if true, would totally center on theory #1. But she told me this while drunk. Up until a few years ago, I had always assumed that what my mother said while drunk was always the 100% truth. I based this on the fact that she blurted out MY secrets, to the fullest detail, to anyone she spoke to while drunk. Her drinking "gave her permission to speak freely," and by the time I was 10, I learned NEVER to tell my mother ANYTHING I wanted secret. She also told me things my father said to her in confidence, like when he had a hernia and wouldn't admit it, or that she had been trying for years to get my father to like me, and at best he regarded me as "an awkward situation." So I just assumed she did this for everything else, which may have been a false assumption on my part. Maybe she said what she wanted to be true, which I knew she did while sober.
As I got older and in my late teens, I felt a bit relieved that I did not have a younger sister. I can't imagine what kind of care she would have received. After my mother committed suicide, I realized that this younger sister would have been about 10. I recall even thinking at that age, "I am grateful only one person had to go through the same hell I went through..."
She'd be 28 now. I have seen how age separations of this nature generally work, and I am sure we'd hate each other. Growing up, competing for scant resources, both material and emotional, would have driven us apart like littermates fighting for survival on the harsh tundra. As dramatic as I was, I could almost see how having siblings would have brought out the worst in us. I am not proud to admit this, but I might have been a cruel brother. My father teased me something horrible, and I am sure I would have passed along the treatment to the next one down.
I bring this WHOLE thing up, actually, based on an innocent comment someone made about a friend of mine. "Hey, you and [person] are SO alike! I bet she's your long lost sister!" The coincidences are pretty amazing. She's adopted, born the same year my sister might have been born, grew up in my old neighborhood, and our personality quirks, even ones she's not aware of that we share... are very similar. Not exactly so, but pretty damn close. The more I asked her about her past, the weirder it got. She never knew her biological parents, but knew that her mom was a blond with blue eyes, and had a baby with someone else who was NOT her husband. Now, I don't think my mom fooled around, or if she did, she hid it well. If this person really was my sister, I could imagine Theory #3 happened. I could see that either my mother was forced to give up the baby because it was from a different father on some wild fling, or maybe even my father got some girl pregnant, and was going to leave her at our doorstep, and my mother got wind of it, but rather than adopting her, they thought it best to have the mother give her up so they could put this mess behind them. But there's one HUGE shadow of doubt: she looks nothing like anyone on any side of my family. She was told she got all her father's looks, so that would point to my mother having an affair. My mother wasn't even allowed to drive, and I certainly don't remember any "uncle" showing up. Visitors were limited to Sonja and Carolyn, both neighbors and best friends of my mom.
Part of me shakes my head like a wet dog trying to shake off a lot of water. "No no no..." I say. "I am looking too hard, the chances of this would be astronomical. This isn't Star Wars, she's not Leia, I'm not Luke, and the similarities in behavior would stem from the fact we were both only children, and grew up in McLean." Another part says, "get a blood test!" and the censor part goes, "Blood? This is all kinds of creepy up in here, yo..."
Still. If this girl IS my half-sister? That would totally rock.
I know she's reading this, and I didn't mention her name because she hasn't given me permission at this time. We talked about this yesterday, and it just got real weird (as in exciting and fun kind of weird) there for a bit. I still think, in all honesty, I never had a sister (or one that lived), and what really happened that summer of 1977 has been lost in time, and even if I did know it, it would be some boring one-line answer like, "Your mother thought she was pregnant, but wasn't," and not, "You remember the hubbub about Area 51? Well, in 1977, the year Star wars came out, your father was asked by his government to..."