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.