The Plums of Childhood

You were conceived in...HUH?

        I was a complete breach birth, for which, perhaps, my mother has never forgiven me, and that thorny emotional issue, combined with entering the world ass-backwards, may well be the only two, or possibly, even one, tale (quasi-pun intended) I have to tell.  
        I read in an old diary recently that my mother's first comment upon my reddish hair and general appearance was: "she looks just like my father!" followed by "what did they name her?"  In those days of pre-history (sorry, Mom, I poke fun at myself here too), women were knocked out completely (Hm: alternate title: Knocked Up to Knocked Out?), so she would have been woozy upon our first meeting.  Whereas I, of course, was completely lucid from the get-go, thinking, "Where in heck am I? " That lucky grandfather!" and "Why is that woman UPSIDE DOWN?" (as though my positioning were my fault).
       Time passed. I was born at 7:46 pm in Kentucky Baptist Hospital, a great place for a nice Jewish  girl to blink her first blinks.  The time that passed was 10 seconds. I was hungry. My mother did not breastfeed so i guess I was given some sloppy gook of milk-like slop, and it did the trick. It knocked me out. I was then ready to have my own baby.  Ok, not quite.
        I was named for my mother's mother Julia, who had died when my mother was only 15, of complications arising from diabetes.  My middle name, Kim, was just a name my mother liked.  My father's people are from Russia, and though I've always assumed that Shavin was a shortening of some long impossible-to-spell or pronounce Russian name, I have since learned that there is a town in Russia called Shavin.  My Hebrew name is Yehudit.  I cannot remember what Julie actually means. Anymore than I can actually remember Phyllis Shavin's saying "she looks just like my father!"
       I weighed six pounds 8 1/2 ounces, which to this day bothers me; I cannot say "six and a half" pounds, due to that annoying extra 1/2 ounce (probably due to  my grandfather's mustache).  Little things like that bother me, by which I mean they are big things...not that I have people chronically asking my birth-weight -- but you know, it COULD happen that suddenly the world and its inhabitants all become psychotically interested.  I can't be the only ass-backward nut-job on the planet, can I? This is a rhetorical question.  I'm afraid of the answer. Silence is everything. So I'll shut up now.
   I haven't yet said much about my father and as everyone knows, a father or something like a father, is involved in the creation of a child.  Having time-traveled like this, however, it is now necessary to include my mother in this wicked little trip into the past (BC, by which I mean Before Chapters).  One day about ten years ago, she stated, "you were conceived in Chicago."  
     Huh?  Chicago? How could she be so sure?  She was speaking of a hotel, and I guess she was good at math, better than she would be eventually, giving birth to two more children (though this insanity has less to do with math than other things), when she already had a perfect child. What was she thinking, that ingrate?  I'll have you know that my grandfather (see Chapter 1) happened to be a stunning physical specimen.  Well, OK, not exactly.  When I knew him, he was short, stout, red-faced and practically bald. However, he was always smiling, much like I as a newborn, after a good, let's say, ending to digestion.
    I know I'm in deep trouble here. I have now insulted anyone with the physical  features mentioned. Pretend that you didn't read the above.  Or know that I must appropriate everything in my cerebral grasp, for the sake of humor. Not humor, you say? to poke fun at my grandfather's (or your)(and by extension, unintentionally) appearance?  You're right.  I apologize. If you knew my family, however, and if you keep reading, (this horrible circumstance may come to pass, if virtually), you would know that my family's main mode of humor involved insult  and other forms of verbal degradation -- oh, not abuse, just the kind of fun wherein one is laughing at and not with. We also, tangentially, experienced problems such as ending sentences with prepositions.
    This is strange, now that I think about it, because I was brought up in a very liberal home, by which I mean, one in which we were taught that one does not slur anyone for any reason: race, religion, shape, political proclivities, financial situation, degree of intelligence, etc.  Apparently, however, we were all fair game for one another.  I guess that being so saintly demanded that we all have an outlet (sort of like testosterone-driven males (oops, I've done it again) which is much safer, say, for those XY's,  playing football or boxing, rather than starting or participating in wars. Now I've got myself enmeshed in a sexist thing.  I am constantly having to eat my words (which as I told a friend recently, is not so bad if there is enough ketchup and beer). 
But notice that I have made it back to discussion of men, and my father was a man, even if he did not warmonger or play sports. He had other outlets. Creating my brother and sister would be an example, so you can see the havoc there, though it's better than, say, shooting someone in the back and stealing pictures from a wallet, of children he'd prefer to have.
     I'm a little off topic here. I am what is called a lateral thinker.  Some have asked, are you ADHD, perchance? This does NOT stand for AuthorsDenHappyDen. You know what it stands for. But no, I have no diagnosis whatever, though it was once speculated I was a borderline personality.  As I wrote to a pal (from AuthorsDenHappyDen) recently, what in hell is THAT??? Does it mean I'm sort of like me but sort of like you? (Who isn't?)  Does it mean that I ALMOST have a personality?   Does it mean I'm part Mexican?
    Anyway, while I was entering this world, my father was undoubtedly in the waiting room, bumming a few smokes from any doctor who'd recently finished bringing another bloody screaming heap into the world. In those days, you could smoke anywhere.  No once looked down on the doctors, first of all, because they were extremely tall back then, and also, because it was then unknown the link between smoking and lung cancer.  Smoking was simply pleasurable and adult-like.   I don't actually remember seeing my father with a cigarette; I remember, later, his smoking those Tiparillo cigars.
     Did I mention that my mother smoked from the time she was 17? And through all three pregnancies? They didn’t know the dangers of all that back then either. I would like to have given my first squall back in the days of ignorance;  in fact, after all that hard work (you think it's easy entering the world in reverse gear?) I could have used a cigarette (maybe after my little nap;  yes, it was good for me, how about you?) and probably a good stiff drink.
   I imagine the doctor went to my father and said, Congratulations, Mr. Shavin, it's a GIRL!  And aside from my normal fee, you now owe me 5,000 dollars in bummed cigarettes.  How my father felt about having a girl I don't know.  I never asked.  Hopefully, he said something like, "and everything is OK?  wonderful!!" finding himself taken aback only by information regarding the mustache.
   It occurs to me to pump my mother for more information regarding this time.  If she can bear the memories. If she bore me, she can bear memories, though they may come out just as backwards.  She will probably say, "well, they knocked your father out, I consorted with the doctors in the waiting room, smoked until my lungs were a volcano, and eventually went in search of a razor. That does not mean she was suicidal, of course (even if being the first woman whose husband did her job). It was just the peach fuzz.   I am referring, of course, to her OWN. What did you think?  Back then, as now, my mother was very particular about her appearance. She too looked like her father.  At any rate, I will assume both parents were happy to have a healthy baby.  I didn't know who in hell anyone was, so I was neither happy nor sad, only hungry or poopy. Much like now.


No comments yet, why not leave one of your own?

Leave a Comment or Share Your Story

Please Sign In. Only community members can comment.

SMITH Magazine

SMITH Magazine is a home for storytelling.
We believe everyone has a story, and everyone
should have a place to tell it.
We're the creators and home of the
Six-Word Memoir® project.