As a kid, I was a snoop and a storyteller. I told stories based wholly on my findings as a snoop. Since both my parents worked, I had lots of unsupervised time to search our house for ‘objects of interest’. I’d make notes in my Little Twin Stars diary to keep track. I would make connections between very real objects or events that had absolutely no connection whatsoever. From this I would create the ‘truth’. I found that the more ‘truth’ I shared, the more attention I got. I’d like to blame birth order or astrological sign on my need for attention, but really it was/is just my ego.
I still don’t know if my dad knew of my subtle searching and subsequent stories. I still don’t know if he salted my game on purpose or if he was just having a little fun, but one sunny day when I was eight, my credibility as a storyteller was ruined.
I had been snooping through the bookshelves in our TV room, skimming through books and searching behind the stacks when I found them. Proof my dad was a spy.
I had already figured this spy stuff out when I found a small spy camera on the top shelf of his closet complete with a small vial of 110 film. I had never seen such a small camera and since it fit so perfectly in a small pocket, I figured it had to be a tool of his trade. I knew my dad had been in the Air Force and I had seen all his medals. And even though he was nice, he wasn’t like other fathers I knew. He had secrets. I couldn’t tell you what those secrets were, but the drawer where he emptied his pockets when changing after work held many objects of interest. Like business cards or matchbooks from restaurants and coins from places like Mexico. I was sure these were from clandestine meetings with contacts.
The proof I found was in the form of pictures; pictures of space ships and people on the moon. They looked just like the other pictures my dad had from before I was born. Now that I had this proof, I had to confirm my suspicions.
That night, when my dad got home, I waited for him to change from his suit and empty his daily pocket of secrets. Then I confronted him in our upstairs hallway, pictures in hand.
“Dad. What are these?” I asked with my hand outstretched.
He told me they were pictures and asked where I found them. I explained that I found them in a book I found in the shelves I was using for homework. And I explained that I thought he was a spy and since I had already figured it out, he might as well just tell me.
He took me downstairs and started to make dinner as he thought about what to tell me.
“Jennifer, what I’m going to tell you is a secret. You must promise never to tell anyone what I’m going to tell you.”
I promised. I promised even though I had never, ever been able to keep a secret, ever. I promised even though I knew I’d tell my best friend Suzanne and that smug Francie the very next day at the bus stop. I promised because if he didn’t tell me, I would never get to the ‘truth’.
That’s when he confirmed the spy part. He went further. He was the man in the pictures of the man on the moon. The big helmet obscured his face. He told me that before I was born he was on a special mission for the Air Force and they had sent him to the moon. He told me that I was never to tell anyone because the government would find out. Then he told me to stop snooping because the government had placed very small listening devices in the house and would know when I snooping. He told me he had no idea what would happen if they found out I knew about those top secret pictures. He told me I could keep the pictures as long as I never told anyone.
I sat on that secret for about 14 hours. The next day at the bus stop, I pulled the top-secret photos from my Bee Gees lunch box. Suzanne was impressed, but Francie told me the photos were fake. She said that if my dad really was a spy, he never would have told me and I wouldn’t go to our school, but a special school for kids of spies. Suzanne believed me. That was only until she told her parents and they told her that men had been to the moon, but as far as they knew, it wasn’t my dad.
I held on to those pictures for years. I hid them in my Hans Christian Andersen Stories, a book I could never read because the stories were too sad. I knew my dad was a spy because this time the ‘truth’ came from him. It wasn’t just me making it up. I figured someday, he’d need those pictures and I’d have them.
I was 13 before I realized the ‘truth’. I saw a documentary in school about the moon landing and funnily enough, the pictures I had hidden looked rather similar. I asked my dad about it, and he just laughed. Then he said, “Don’t feel so bad. Your brother still thinks you and I are aliens who just look like his family. He’s waiting for them to take your mother!”
Code Name: VanHelsing