Yesterday, as I turned “older,” I was gifted with all sorts of birthday greetings, from family and friends alike. A cousin sent me a picture of me as a child, of which I have no memory. My daughter sent me one of us–and it took me a moment to recognize myself in the picture. It got me to thinking. Time rushes by, filled with moments we really should remember but they just get crowded in with others, our brains having no discernible filing system, until they disappear into the chasm of our being. A wise doctor once told me, our brain has no filter. We just keep cramming more and more in and, sooner or later, our brain will need to make room, so it shoves things to the back, with no rhyme or reason what goes. She laughed and added, “Just be glad you remember your name.”
All this pondering took me back to all I don’t know about me. I know I was born at 7:05 am, December 30th. It was a Saturday. I was born in a Catholic Hospital not to far from a tiny house my parents lived in, called a Tom Thumb house. I know this because my father took me by there once, knocked on the door, and told them he had had it built and wanted me to see it. It was tiny. However, at the time, I was more impressed by the fact the the owners had a huge pipe organ installed on one wall.
The house was close enough to the hospital that when my dad arrived home (I have no idea from where, but I think he was still in the Navy), he found a note on the door saying they’d gone to the hospital. Apparently, he was so shook, he left the car and ran to the hospital on foot.
I don’t know if my mother had an easy labor or a difficult one. I was 5 pounds 4 ounces, but I wasn’t a preemie. Did she miss New Year’s, having to stay in the hospital the then required three days? Was I breast fed or bottle fed? Did I have colic? I don’t know. My mom died on a cold January day after I had just turned nine. She’d been ill with cancer for a while. Her mom followed her within three months. From then on I was shuffled around a lot, not really landing on any permanent ground until I was an adult. Shuffled kids don’t generally ask questions about their memories, more worried about where they will be next and for how long.
Sometime after I’d had my own children and my father had died, my aunt sent me a letter. She wrote me that she had found my baby bracelet among some things in a box of my grandmother’s and thought I might like it. I pulled it out, took one look, and suddenly had a whole lot more questions. You see, the bracelet was made of little blue and white beads with the letters spelling out her name. Next to her name was a white bead, then a blue bead with a big “B” on it. I dropped into a chair and stared. I had been a single birth, or so I thought. And, having given birth myself to two children, I knew I wasn’t a boy. My mom had only two children (and at a later age–me and, four years later, my sister). I called my aunt and asked point blank what this meant. It was the only time she ever hung up on me.
She finally returned one of my calls (this was before texting) and told me a story she’d heard but hadn’t put any credence to, until I called her. Way back when, the story goes, nuns performed all sorts of “charitable” acts, including if two women gave birth at the same time and one had a still-born and the other multiples, they would make sure both women had a baby. (I can hear you gasp. Don’t. This was almost 70 years ago in a hospital run by nuns.)
So, among all my questions about my past, the largest remains. Which mother had twins and where or who is my brother?
And this, my wonderful friends, is one of the reasons I have so much “fodder” for fiction. If nothing else, I’ve lived a complex, complicated, and interesting life.