Here’s what I know. Mom and Dad were living on Neat Lane in Albuquerque’s south valley. There were four kids at home, three girls and a boy. Larry had been the youngest, he was four, and Mom and Dad were hoping for a boy to play with him. That’s one of the details of my birth that I grew up knowing.
I also grew up knowing that I was named after my mom’s mom and that Dad hadn’t wanted to name me that but they’d run out of names. They’d named the oldest daughter Patricia, after mom’s brother Pat. The next one Roberta, after Mom’s other brother, Robert. Janet must have gotten a name that came with no obligations; just a name that Mom and Dad liked. Larry, or Lawrence—his must have been a name they liked, too. I can’t think of any Larrys in the family. And then when I was girl, they gave me Roma. And Mom always says that grandma was “tickled.”
Mom had me in a hospital. The old Saint Jo’s. Whenever we drove on the freeway out to Los Lunas, Mom would point off toward the new St. Joseph’s and say, “See the older building? That’s where you were born.” All these years I thought it was this really old building that is about two or three stories, made of thick granite stone that has turned a sooty gray. I had taken to pointing it out whenever we were near there and telling my girls that that was where I was born. But just the other day, when I took my mom to the new St. Jo’s to get eye surgery, she pointed to a different old building and said that one was the old hospital. “Well, what’s that building over there,” I asked. “Oh, that’s the old sanitarium.”
So all this time, the place where I thought I had been born was actually the old mental institution. It was a letdown to know that the old St. Jo’s was not nearly as old looking. It just looked like a lesser, worn-down hospital.
I do know that back in the days when Mom had her kids, they let mothers stay for three or so days afterward in order to recuperate. I imagine that must have been the calm before the storm. Back home, waiting, there were a 4-year-old, a 6-year-old, a 10-year-old, and a 12-year-old. Wow. Just tonight I went shopping with the girls for two hours and afterward, on the drive home, the girls were chatty and excited, and I had to say, “Hey you two, I’m a little overwhelmed so can we drive the rest of the way in silence?”
They were good about it, and so was I. Mom would have just screamed, “I can’t stand it anymore!” Poor Mom. Five kids is an awful lot to have.
That’s about all I know of my birth story. Everything fast forwards from there on out to when I got sick with the croup and the emergency tracheotomy. It’s funny, though. I can picture them coming back home with me. I think in those days moms held their infants in their laps in the car. I’m pretty sure Dad had a big car. I’ve seen a big car in the old photos. And I picture Dad and Mom walking into the small house they had, and all the kids being excited. I wonder if Larry was disappointed. I bet he was.
I think I slept in a crib in Mom and Dad’s bedroom for my first year, maybe two. I remember sharing a room with Janet, and did Larry share a room with us, too? I know the house only had a couple of bedrooms. Dad converted the garage into a den. There are a lot of gaps in my memory about the house on Neat Lane.
I don’t have a baby book, but we had lots of old pictures. I was in plenty of them, often being held up on Dad’s knee for the camera. And we have lots of old movies. Jim took them and had some made into a video for my parents’ 50th. Or was it for their 60th?
-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 (by 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); PRACTICE: Do You Know The Circumstances Of Your Birth? — 15min (by Bob Chrisman)