When Mom Has A Secret
By Tara McKelvey
Did Olson's daughter know about her mother's past?
"There would be no reason for her to tell us," Emily says. Her mother, she adds, was a private person most of the things Emily knows about her family history come from her father. "I don't even know if I ever asked Mom anything. I always asked Dad."
What her mother lacked in a past, she made up for in face time with her kids driving them to soccer games, helping with homework. Still, Emily admits, some things were hard to explain like the fact that she and her sisters never saw their maternal grandparents. (As a fugitive, Olson kept her distance from anyone the police might be watching.)
"She was just kind of estranged from her family," says Emily. "I figured she had issues with them as a young adult, and her family had some problems with her views. We'd say, 'Do I have another grandma?' And she'd say, 'Oh, we don't talk to them.' We were like, 'Okay, whatever.'"
So Mom had a secret, I say.
"It's not like it was that bad a secret," Emily bristles, sliding back in the booth.
And what about Fred? After all, he was a bright, curious young doctor when he met his wife. Did he suspect anything?
When I pose the question, Emily watches her father closely. At 57, he looks like the kind of guy you could tell your troubles to maybe even those involving an outstanding federal warrant for your arrest.
"I knew there was something," he says finally. "But I didn't know any details." He speaks carefully. One wrong word and he could be prosecuted for harboring a fugitive. "Twenty years in prison," he explains.
As Fred sees it, his wife's story has been mythologized by the press. "Crime novels from the 1930s have this theme 'living on the lam,'" he says. "You know, The Fugitive Becomes a Soccer Mom. They're all stereotypical images of deceit. None of that applies when you're just living a life and raising kids. People would say to me, 'How could you accommodate such a depraved criminal mind? How can you live with the knowledge of what happened in the past?' It captures the American psychodrama. But it was not real."