Saturday, June 5, 2010
THE FACTS OF LIFE
When I was growing up, my mother and I never had a discussion about sex. I learned about the "facts of life" from other sources--mainly the girls at school--but I saw plenty of animals being born and I knew how they mated, but a lot of the FACTS about human reproduction which I learned from my friends turned out to be FALSEHOODS!
My sister-in-law Jan would get books at the library which were too "adult" for me to check out; she had the books for two weeks and I would read them after she had finished them. I remember the summer when I turned 13, I read "Gone With The Wind", "Grapes Of Wrath" and every other Steinbeck book in the library. When I read in "Forever Amber" about the doctor "kneading" Amber St. Clair's belly to bring the afterbirth, I couldn't ask my mother about that, but I asked my sister-in-law! I remember when my brother Gary and his wife Jan were playing "Password" with Mother and me; Jan and I were partners and the password was "tube"; I gave the clue "FALLOPIAN" and my mother indignantly asked, "HOW do you know that word?" I said, "I READ!" Fortunately, my reading habits were never monitored or censored by my mother; my brother Bode's house was a treasure trove of provocative material. I remember learning the word "undulating" from a Frank Yerby novel. In another article, I wrote about having "Lady Chatterley's Lover" as one of my book reports. My brother Bode would quote Hemingway's line about nobody ever being corrupted by a book.
Every year on my birthday, my mother had a ritual and she would tell about the day I was born. She would always start out by telling me that she "took sick" in the middle of the night and it was cool that morning and then she would relate the minutest details of getting ready to have the baby. I knew about the pads she put on the bed and making sure that everything was ready for the doctor. [After I became a smart-mouth kid, I would always interrupt with, "No boiling water?" because in the movies, they would always talk about boiling the water!] On my birth day, about 9:00 a.m., she had Bode go to tell Dr. McDonald that she was ready and Bode had to shepherd all of the boys away from the house to Grandma Shirkey's house. I knew every single detail up to the delivery--but the delivery itself was never discussed! I was born at 10:30 in the morning.
My mother did not have a birth certificate and to be able to apply for Social Security we had to go to court to have a birth certificate made for her. She needed to have a person seven years older than her to verify that she was born and my mother's Uncle Pearl supplied that. We were also required to provide documents which showed her age at different times in her life. Among the documents we were able to obtain were her school records (she was a very good student) and our eight birth certificates. We were all born at home except for Les and all of our birth certificates (except Les') had been destroyed in the tornado; I was able to get copies from the Health Department.
As I was looking at all of our birth certificates, I said, "This is amazing--we were all born in the early morning hours." She looked a little sheepish and said, "Well, your Daddy always worked second shift!" I asked what that meant and she said, "Well, I figure babies come out when they were got!"
That's the closest we ever came to discussing sex!