“He gets it honest.”
And they would be right. Both of my parents were spectacularly attractive, stylish, spoiled, and selfish. And they made a very nice representation of their love. In little old me. I have tried to carry that banner with pride.
I should have known I’d be in for a lot of conflict in life when my mother first told me the story of how I acted as a baby. Not even 6 months old and home from the hospital. According to LaNita, I was a willful child. Hyper. Excitable. Loud. But mainly, the story I love the best is the one where she tells me that I would hold my breath. Not for a while. Not for minutes. I would hold my breath until I turned blue. Purple. “Dead lookin’” is how she described it in her lilting, cultured drawl. Also, according to her:
- I would hold my breath for attention.
- I would hold my breath to be left alone.
- I would hold my breath to be held.
- I would hold my breath to be put down.
- I would hold my breath for food.
- I would hold my breath to have her stop trying to feed me.
I, of course, have no real memory of this. [NOTE: In full disclosure, I must say that my older sister has corroborated this story.] My father has said it was true (eh, less able to take everything he says to the bank). And my grandparents assure me that while I was a precious gift from the Lord Most High, himself… It is sadly, very, very, very true. If you could hear that, my grandmother’s voice would drop two octaves and her “soft-r’d-dulcet-old-south” accent would sound like a baritone’s “ver-uh”. Naturally, as I retain no actual memory of the accused actions, I refuse to acquiesce to the allegations.
The first time this happened (again…ALL of this is hearsay up to this point) my mother called my grandmother, cried hysterically, and prayed. She said she threw me on our tasteful davenport (pronounced in the south as dah-vin-po-aht) and ran from the room. Then she heard me cry. (I am assuming the feeling of falling, or hitting the couch, jarred me and woke me from my “sleep”). Now, if you like coincidence, irony, or any dark twists in old Southern Gothic stories, THIS is where the story gets complicated. I would LOVE to take credit for being this mischevious, but you just can’t make this kind of true life mess up! I was born almost 2 months premature, and was very small. If you see my massive frame today, I know…you wonder how in the world I survive (being so frail and thin. ;-))But, I was a tiny, tiny, small thing that came to the party too early and my lungs were moderately underdeveloped. Later in my like, whenever she was angry with him, my mother would say it was due to my father’s smoking around her. I think it’s because she liked her glasses of “tea”(bourbon and water mixed to that lovely shade of Southern Sweet Tea). Anyway, there I was: a weak, mewling thing that was recently born too early with bad lungs. And I would just “suddenly” stop breathing and turn that frightening shade of blue and purple. She took me to the Doctor, but he told her my lungs were coming along just fine. Obviously, in her mind, he was incorrect as the same occurrence happened over and over. She was afraid I was allergic to different foods, that the sheets on the crib were wrong, that I would somehow starve if she couldn’t get me to eat or sleep or rest. She took me back to the Doctor, and I was still fine.
“Okay then”, I can hear her drawl, “I’ll just take him to someone that WILL help me fix this mess.”
She took me to a different doctor. Still fine. This was getting awfully frustrating now. Okay fine, then. She took me to a preacher. I was fine, but at least well prayed over and annointed with oil.
Unfortunately, my mother did eventually (after months…
“Oh, honey! He’s not dead… He is just playin’ possum!”
Then this obviously-too-good-with-children-overtly-pious-snitch proceeded to smack my legs with the palm of her hands!!! Can you believe that?? Someone spanking a willful child? In America? In the 20th Century? Well, gentle reader, calm down. Take a moment to let it all sink in, and after you catch your bated breath, and realize that I did, indeed, live through this heinous and most hateful of ways to get a child to behave, then go on and believe it. It happened.
My mother learned a new skill that day. Not just the one that gave her permission to spank me or discipline me. She learned a little more about the tiny person God had given her to deal with. Armed with this new knowledge and a little more confidence, said I only tried that about twice after that day. Also, and more than she could ever guess how prophetic and right she was, she told me that she learned that we were much, much more similar than she had earlier guessed.
Later on in my life (and not so long ago), she confessed that her pregnancy with me had been a surprise pregnancy. [NOTE: Interestingly enough, my own father had drunkenly beaten her to telling me that story. Good times, Dad! But luckily, her presentation of this information was much more subtle and becoming of her social stature.] And it had been a hard pregnancy on top of that. Allegedy. She said for the last six months of her natal stature, she cried every day over silly commercials and craved a box of banana popsicles. Really, Mom? Every day? Well, LaNita, I guess that’s a small price to pay (a pittance, even!) to deliver a treasure like myself to this world! Of course, I like to think that even in the womb, I would hold my breath for what I wanted.
Of course, I am assured that once I have children, MY precious angel would never do that to me. Right??