“The popular idea that a child forgets easily is not an accurate one. Many people go right through life in the grip of an idea which has been impressed on them in very tender years.”
It seems I can’t pick up a book or a magazine, watch a television show, or even have a conversation these days without adoption somehow wending its way into the picture. So imagine my surprise when I picked up Agatha Christie’s autobiography, and on page five– yes, a mere five pages into a 529 page autobiography–I came across Dame Agatha’s no holds barred views on adoption.
It turns out that Ms. Christie’s own mother, Clara Boehmer, was an adoptee. Clara suffered an enormous tragedy in her young life when her own father was killed in a riding accident, leaving behind a twenty-seven year old widow and four children. Agatha’s maternal grandmother, now in greatly reduced circumstances,–and I’m sure in those days most women had a terrible time scraping together a living without a husband–had an older sister who thought she was making a kind and generous offer by offering to raise one of the now fatherless children. Unfortunately, Agatha’s desperate grandmother decided to take her sister up on the offer and chose her only daughter (Agatha’s mother) to be the one to leave her immediate family and be adopted by kin.
Although Agatha’s mother, Clara Boehmer Miller, had the opportunity to pour out her true feelings to a doctor while she was still a child, and even though it was a kinship adoption, according to Agatha, her mother never got over her feeling of “not being wanted.”* A feeling, Ms. Christie says, that lasted throughout her mother’s life and which caused her ongoing pain. And the resentment Mrs. Miller harbored toward her own mother for not keeping her never went away, either.
I have read quite a few of Agatha Christie a.k.a. Lady Mallowan’s books and adoption has been featured in a few of them. Usually the issue was some scandal of the ‘illegitimate’ child sort, or when a wealthy elderly widower takes a shine to a pretty young thing and wants to adopt her to bestow his riches, as in, The Body in the Library. But I don’t recall in any of her books where she really delved into the topic insofar as how it had affected her own family life.
But Dame Agatha certainly held very strong views about adoption. As she says in her own words*: “My mother had all the so-called advantages of a comfortable home and a good education–what she lost and what nothing could replace was the carefree life with her brothers in her own home. She goes on to say that whenever she hears anxious parents asking if they ought to let a child go to others because of “the advantages she will have which I cannot provide”–such as a first class education. I always long to cry out, “Don’t let the child go.” Her own home, her own people, love and the security of belonging–what does the best education in the world mean against that?”
Yes, I must say, the woman who has been dubbed “the greatest mystery writer of all time” got it right when it comes to adoption. And she even solved the mysterious effects of adoption without the help of her world-famous fictional super sleuths, M. Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. 🙂
*Disclaimer: If anyone has an issue with use, please contact me at Robin@allinthefamilyadoption.com