Each of us carry myths our families told us. These myths may have a kernel of truth or be blatant lies; both kinds can be buried deep in our psyche. Myths were stories told over and over to children with hopes that the stories would make everything fine for everyone. Or at least for the day. Over time and with repetition, the stories took on a life of their own and intense meaning. Children often overhear adult conversations and arguments and integrate them as truth.
- Good people know that a man like you is no good.
- Women in our family are submissive to men so they will stay.
- You're just like your dumb Aunt Jean.
- Women in our family are privileged.
- We don't associate with those people.
- We never talk about the family to outsiders.
- We came from royalty and don't take help from anyone.
- Santa is everywhere and watches your every move.
Familial myths may stay hidden for years like an IED until something triggers a neural connection: we are suddenly five years old again and hearing an adult voice telling us the myth. When I was a child, many myths came my way, most are funny now and few survived into my adulthood. I was a skeptical child and the phrase that got me into the most trouble with adults was the infamous, "Why is that?" Grownups came up with big myths simply to shut me up.
One big myth was that gypsies stole children, especially those who questioned what they were told. Said Gypsies roamed the countryside stealing chickens, laundry from clotheslines and naughty children which they sold like the chickens. Once a summer or so, bands of Gypsies looking for odd jobs did come along in rattletrap trucks with rusty trailers attached. Gypsies were real and their appearance now and again was enough to scare me into acceptable behavior like a dog on an irregular feeding schedule. If my behavior and questions were too bothersome, the adults threatened to give me to the Gypsies and not wait for them to steal me. Hard times indeed.
As I crossed the parking lot a bit later that afternoon, the Gypsies rolled past me in a new black car with arms holding cigarettes out all four open windows -- no funny smells were welcome in the new car, obviously. The car had an antenna for On Star. I somehow never thought of Gypsies needing directions. Funny what we survive and what survives in us.