Wednesday, July 16, 2008


In July 1965, my mother was 23 years old. I was her sixth baby born alive.

She did not have a high school diploma, I don't think. She had no training to speak of in the world of commerce or business, and in the 1960s in Massachusetts, a woman had very limited options. Many did not work outside of the home. Certainly not while the children were little, unless they were in the care of a grandmother or old auntie. I know of no such support system for my mother back then.

My mother was married, but her husband had left for parts unknown after presenting her with three daughters. Divorce, like birth control, was illegal back then.

After he had left, she met another man, probably someone she thought would take care of her and her babies. But then he left, too, after giving her a daughter and a son.

Before too long, my dad came into the picture. Tall, handsome, fresh from the Navy with funny and wild stories, he and she were one day apart in age. My dad was a good-time guy who seemed good with her kids. She tells stories of him and her and the kids all piling into his Jeep and tearing through the sand dunes down on Plum Island. Today it is a wildlife refuge and nature preserve. Oops.

So in 1965, they were together, as much as a young not-quite-married-but-certainly-not-divorced woman with kids and a young peacetime veteran could be. And on the 16th of July, I was born. I do not know if there were celebrations or not. For my mother, I cannot guess. Would a sixth baby in her world at that time be seen as a blessing? I don't know.

My father was probably proud to some degree, but I am sure his parents were not. My grandmother was very conscious of what people thought and how others judged. Such a birth was shameful, scandalous even. But she would have pursed her lips and remained silent, denying its existence and thereby denying the shame that accompanied my diapered little bottom into this world. My grandfather was probably at sea and did not know of this development until much later. I have never met my mother's parents and know nothing of them, so I cannot guess what their reaction to my arrival was.

I don't know at what time my father and mother split up, but I know it was after I was born and before I was a year old. When I was eight months old, I came to live with my father, his sister and his parents. Primarily, my aunt and grandmother were my caregivers. I saw little of my father in those early years, and I think we both preferred it that way. But that is another post.

I think of my mother on this day each year. We did not meet again after our early separation until 1995, the year I turned 30. We are still not really close. It is awkward with us, bound by biology, but separated by decades of absence in each other's lives. I wonder what it must have been like for her, sweating in the July heat to deliver a baby into the world, unsure of so much, and with such odds stacked against us all. She had very few choices back then. I do not envy her that situation.

But I am grateful to be here. Even through the long, weird, circuitous path that my life has taken, I am glad to be here, to see what I have seen, to learn what I know, and to have felt what I have felt.

It is a good day.


MRMacrum said...

I am guessing your dad and your mom were not married. If I am mistaken I apologize. But I can relate. I was conceived out of wedlock. My father (already twice divorced) and my mom (a WWll widow) got a tad too frisky and well, I happened. Back in the day, a man did the right thing. He married my mom. This created a relationship built not on love but duty.

Long story short - I grew up knowing none of this. I had to figure it out when going through old papers after my mom died. I always wondered why I was basically ignored by others in my family. Including my step brothers.

And by the way, Happy Birthday. I think.

toklas23 said...

What a wonderful leaves me with many thoughts to chew on, and maybe someday I'll be able to articulate them to you. Suffice it to say, I am moved by your words. And happy you are in this world at the same time I am.

Happy Birthday Friend.

Dawn on MDI said...

mrmacrum, you are correct. She was married, but to someone long gone from her life. My father was not married, to her or anyone else. I was led to believe that my father married her when I was little, but learned the truth as I got older (late in high school, I think). In fact, my name was not his until I started school - we had to go to a judge who approved the adoption and changed my last name to his "to avoid embarrassment." The embarrassment, of course, would have been my grandmother's, not mine, but that is who those kinds of laws were made to protect. My memory of that event is very cloudy. I remember I had to dress up like for church, and talking to a man in a suit and sitting on my father's lap. I remember that it was sunny and there was polished wood and lots of books and a great big desk, and then I remember it being over and I got to go home like always. The adults seemed to be stressed then relieved, but I was the same and could not understand what they were worked up about.

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday. :)