By Bob Chrisman
It was a dark and stormy night on May 3, 1952. I’ve always wanted to write that cliché opener. Flood waters had swept across the area around St. Joseph, but the Missouri Methodist Hospital was high on a hill. My mother delivered a healthy baby boy. The nurses told her that I looked just like my father because I had thick black hair and sideburns like my father.
I thought I was the second child. My sister was almost ten years older than I was and no one talked about another pregnancy. Had my parents not decided to go to the World’s Fair in Montreal, Canada in 1967, the year I turned 15, I would have lived and died not knowing about the other pregnancy.
Someone told my mother that we needed certified copies of our birth certificates to come back into the United States so she ordered a copy for each of us. They arrived one morning in the mail and she took the official looking, Manila envelope into her bedroom to open. I sat on the floor in anticipation of seeing my birth certificate.
She handed it to me and I read every entry. “Mom, my birth certificate is wrong. It says you have had two other children by live birth.” I showed her the line of the certified copy.
“No, it’s correct.” She walked to the chest of drawer and put the other birth certificates in the box where she kept all the important papers.
“Was the baby a boy or a girl?” I asked because the idea of a missing sibling intrigued me.
“I don’t remember. It was a miscarriage. Something was wrong with the baby.” She kept moving away from me and I was too enthralled with this new knowledge to let it go.
“But, how could you not remember?’
“It’s been a long time ago. I don’t remember anymore.” She walked out of the bedroom.
I let the topic drop because she wouldn’t give me any information. I didn’t take up the question again until years later when my mother, then in her 80s, wrote a short autobiography at my request. She mentioned the loss of a baby somewhere around 1946. My sister would have been going on four years old.
My sister doesn’t remember anything, but she would have been three going on four. My favorite aunt and uncle said they didn’t know anything about a pregnancy which seems hard to believe if the child was a live birth.
As I reflect on that lost baby, I wonder how that colored her reaction to being pregnant with me and to my birth. Maybe that accounts for the way she protected me against everything and everyone. I’ll never know the answers to my questions, which are a circumstance of my birth.
-Related to topic post WRITING TOPIC – 3 QUESTIONS. [NOTE: This is the third of three questions mentioned by actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith in an interview with Bill Moyers (see link). She talked about the questions in the context of interviewing people and listening to them. The three questions came from a linguist Smith met at a cocktail party in 1979; the questions were, according to the linguist, guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves. QuoinMonkey, ybonesy, and frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman take on the three questions by doing a Writing Practice on each.]
-Also related to posts: PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by ybonesy), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by Bob Chrisman), PRACTICE — Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (QuoinMonkey), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Been Accused Of Doing Something You Didn’t Do? — 15min (by Bob Chrisman); PRACTICE: Have You Ever Been Accused Of Doing Something You Didn’t Do? — 15min (by ybonesy), and PRACTICE — Have You Ever Been Accused Of Doing Something You Didn’t Do? — 15min (by QuoinMonkey)