When she was pregnant with me, my mother gained 70lbs and her doctor was convinced she would be giving birth to twins. In the instinctive way of knowing that predated sonograms, my mother assured him, “there’s just one baby.”
“I don’t know, you’re pretty huge,” he told her as lit a cigarette for himself, and one for her.
His conviction held until several minutes after my birth. The way my mother told it, she had just enjoyed a plate of spaghetti and meatballs when her labor began and, “I walked right into the delivery room with my coat still on.”
A few minutes later the doctor limped in. “He only had one leg,” my mother always made sure to add, “because the other one got blown off in World War II, so we called him Doctor Pegleg.”
This was a lie. He wore no prosthetic at all and lumbered around on crutches, but my mother relished little flourishes like that, so Dr. Pegleg he remained.
“After he delivered you, he kept reaching around and even ordered a sandbag to be put on my stomach! I said, ‘what are you doing?’ and he said, ‘I’m looking for the other baby.’
‘There is no other baby!’ I told him, and when he finally got the placenta out he believed me. Then, standing on the one leg, he lifted you up in both of his hands, like he was making an offering to the sun, and started to sing ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling.’”
“I always tell people I threw away the baby and kept the afterbirth,” she would add.
From there, things went downhill pretty quickly.
I think if I ever write my memoirs, I’ll call it, This is Why I Am the Way I Am! and start right here. At the beginning. A very fine place to start.
Or I’ll call it WHAT HAPPENED?