Have you ever had a memory of a childhood event that your older relatives insist could not have happened as you remember it? This is my little personal mystery:
I have a distinct memory of my parents dropping me off at a particular relative's home several hours drive away from my hometown the summer before I started kindergarten.
I'll call my host "Aunt Edwina". Aunt Edwina lived near a big city, and as I remember it, my parents left me with her for the day so they could go shopping in the big city by themselves. Edwina and I were alone that day because her husband was away on a business trip and her teenage children were both away at church camp for the week.
I remember staying long enough to have a nap on a particularly oddly shaped couch there. I remember Aunt Edwina fixing me a meal after I awakened, and I remember some very strange things she said to me while she was cooking.
While Edwina was standing at her kitchen sink she launched into a strange racist monologue, pointing to the birds on the birdfeeder outside her kitchen window, and telling me that sparrows only married other sparrows, blue jays only married other blue jays, finches only married finches, etc. She told me when I got older I needed to remember that and be careful who I married. (I remember thinking she was odd.)
Here's the mystery: Both my mother and Aunt Edwina's only surviving sister insist that I was never left alone with Aunt Edwina.
This came up after Aunt Edwina's death about ten years ago. I wrote condolence letters to her grown children. Trying to be polite, I mentioned remembering that visit and how kind Edwina had been to me when I was little. (Of course, to be polite, I didn't mention her odd monologue.) Well, Edwina's sister said to me later that while Edwina's grown children appreciated my letters they (and she) were all convinced that I'd never really visited Edwina alone.
My own mother was still living at that time, so I asked her about it. My mother, too, insisted that she and my father had never left me alone with Edwina.
OK, no big deal, but what about my distinct memory of visiting Edwina by myself? Did I imagine it all?
A year or so ago I was visiting with one of Edwina's nieces. I mentioned the mystery of my memory of a visit that my mom and Edwina's sister said never happened. Well, when I talked with my mom and with Edwina's sister I had left out the part of the story about the racist monologue. (I guess I didn't want to speak ill of the dead or something.) But when I spoke with Edwina's niece more recently, I did tell her about the monologue.
Well, as soon as I mentioned Edwina talking about birds getting married, her niece started laughing and laughing. She said, "Snappy, that is exactly the kind of racist comment Edwina used to make. She said the same thing to my own boys when they were little - I heard her! And she did have an oddly shaped couch like you described. If you remember that, then I'll bet that you really did stay with Edwina when you were little.
OK, mystery solved. (But I still wonder just a little about why my mom and Edwina's sister were so insistent that the visit never happened!)