Mom recently had a birthday. I don’t think I am ready to admit which one, but let’s say that I’ve done enough of them to hope I still have a certain percentage left! I am also old enough to recall getting greeting cards in the mailbox from a generation or two older than my own grandparents. I wish I still had some of these treasures, but I don’t.
Year after year, I recall getting a card from a mystery aunt. I do not recall ever seeing the woman alive. She was the aunt of my great grandmother if you can fathom that! I also don’t think that she ever left her own house at any point during her golden years. Maybe she couldn’t fit through the door? I don’t know. I remember my uncles and dad joking that she’d have to be buried in a piano crate.
Sometimes they would talk about it and laugh and someone would start up a rousing riff of “Fatty Fatty Two by Four” on Gramcracker’s old upright piano. Everyone would sing along. I liked the song. It was naughty…especially the part: “couldn’t fit through the bathroom door–so she pee peed on the floor– poor old Fatty Two by Four!”
I never felt bad about singing along when I was a kid. No one seemed to notice that I joined in on the “bathroom talk.” They were too busy laughing and singing themselves! And I also liked it because they seemed to be crooning happily about this mystery aunt who always sent me empty birthday cards. Never a gift–always a card, with odd old lady sayings on them. “Happy Birthday, and Many Joyous Returns.” No $5. Signed in swirling old lady script (which I have inherited by the way) “With Fondness, Aunt Lolly.”
As a child I was dragged to more than my healthy share of funerals, I’m sure. But since I do not ever recall going to one with a piano case front and center, I’m pretty sure I missed Aunt Lolly’s. Maybe I had tonsillitis or something when she died. I got out of a lot of stuff because of my tonsils. They were pretty much terminally ill.
So, with that off my chest…yes, I’m getting old and I count my unappreciative, non-sympathetic attitude toward Aunt Lolly and her agoraphobia/obesity woes as things to repent for. Let’s move forward with the birthday thing shall we?
I am asking you all to talk about, write down, and reflect on the day and circumstances of your birth.
Wow, did we just step in a little bit of something there? If you are very fortunate, you may now have, or perhaps have had in the past access to an “unfiltered” elder. You know, someone with loose lips and one foot in the grave. I’m telling you now, suck up to these people and then hold on! They are golden if you want the real truth on a whole lot of stuff. Prepare to have your hair curled!
In my own family, my dad has a rather compulsive obsession (see how I skated around that one…I used the words slightly out of their standard order) with calling me or visiting each year specifically on my birthday. He needs to tell me the story of the day I was born. Now, my mom joins in with her part of course, but mostly, this is the territory of my dad. Since they are both past 80 now, when Pop called this year to tell me the story once again, I wrote down the phrases that he uses doggedly year after year to describe that day. Here are some excerpts:
December 11th it started snowing– That morning your mom said she thought she was having some pain– I put the chains on the tires– It was our 57 Chevy–We drove out the old highway–Doc said “get her here”– The snow was “Ass deep to a 10 foot Indian”– You were born 13 minutes before Midnight on the 12th– Mom said she didn’t want any kid born on the 13th.
I’ll fill in the details some day in my Memoir. The point is, I have heard those exact words year after year in the telling and retelling of my birth. I don’t want to forget them, the words. I know the story, but now, the exact words are what I need to get down on paper, for my OCD dad and for me– a chip off the old block–and for my own kids on down to and including Dollbaby.
Of course I have taken to doing the same for my kids now. Boring them each year over their festive dinner and cake…talking about the way they came into the world. One was a late fall baby, two were born in the summer time. I haven’t found colorful words to cling to and repeat…no 10′ Indians or tire chains. But some day, they might be glad that they can tell the stories to their own families. Perhaps they’ll sing naughty piano songs about their crazy grandmother? Who knows.
Maybe someone WILL write that down…