After Fern left, the Cookes tended to travel during the Christmas vacation. However, after Lowell left, the family largely stopped celebrating altogether. When Rosemary arrives home in the Christmas vacation of 1996, she has already decided not to tell her parents about seeing Lowell until after Christmas is over. This year, they spend the 25th with the Cooke grandparents, and Rosemary’s father drinks “like a fish.” Rosemary is suffering from premenstrual pain and thus goes to lie down in the bedroom where she stayed after Fern left. She wonders if she made up the story about Fern and the kitten. A mix of conflicting feelings washes over her. Eventually, she feels certain that she didn’t invent the story. She goes to sleep.
Rosemary continues to frame human behavior in animal terms, such as when she describes her father with the cliché of drinking “like a fish.” Furthermore, notice that there is a parallel between Rosemary’s memory of the kitten and the memory of her father running over the cat. Both memories are connected by the fact that they feature the murder of a feline, and by the fact that Rosemary is not sure if they are true or not. It is possible that she has made them both up, but also plausible that only one of them is true and the other is a projection.
A few days later, Rosemary tells her parents about Lowell’s visit, although she leaves out any mention of Harlow, Ezra, the UC Davis Primate Center, or any other incriminating details. However, she does admit that she is worried about Lowell’s mental state and newly horrified by animal abuse. Rosemary’s parents cry, as does Rosemary herself. Rosemary is surprised to hear her parents say that they avoided mentioning Fern on her account, because she reacted so badly every time they did. There are many other memories that Rosemary’s parents remember differently than she does, and they are stunned at her idea that the incident with the kitten was the reason why Fern was sent away.
This passage illustrates the potential danger of remembering family stories by oneself. Because Rosemary has spent so many years reflecting on her past in silence and not discussing it with anyone, all her assumptions and memories have been solidified to appear like the truth. In reality, human memory is highly unreliable; furthermore, Rosemary never had a proper understanding of much of what happened while Fern lived with her because she was only a child.
Rosemary’s parents list other memories that she has no recollection of, such as Fern biting Peter’s ear and biting a grad student’s hand so badly that the student had to have surgery. Fern had also slammed another grad student against a wall. Rosemary’s parents explain that although Fern was good-natured, she was simply too dangerous to keep as she got older. Rosemary is forced to admit that she didn’t know Fern as well as she thought she did. She hadn’t really known what Fern was capable of.
The end of this chapter confirms the idea that Rosemary has been living in a state of denial all her own—denial over the threat Fern posed to her family and the unsustainability of them living together in the long term. Rosemary may have grown up as Fern’s sister—even her twin—but Fern is still ultimately unknowable to her.