only children

A Work in Progress

My friend Beth Kephart instigated a flurry of writerly activity this morning when she "tagged" her Facebook friends to post some lines from their "work in progress." Since she was kind enough to include me among that number, here is a snippet of memoir resulting from the online class I've been taking (led by the incomparable Andi Cumbo).

Over the years, I gathered enough information from innuendo and overheard conversations to understand why I was an only child. It was a reason that I’d probably never share with any of the people who asked me outright about my singleton status, but one that made perfect sense to me.

My mother didn’t have more children because she didn’t like children, especially babies.

The story of her unexpected pregnancy was legion in our little family. She told it to me every year on my birthday. “I was so mad at that doctor when he told me I was pregnant,” she would say, as she brushed my long, wavy hair and fussed with the bow on the back of my new birthday party dress. “I came home and cried and threw things. ‘Damn that doctor!’” She laughed. “And your Granny would say, ‘Well, missy, it’s not the doctor’s fault!”

Then we would both laugh, even though I wasn’t sure what was so funny about that comment.

But rather than making me feel insecure or unwanted, my mother’s professed dismay at my impending birth always made me feel a little smug. Because my mother (and my father and my grandparents) obviously loved me so much when I arrived, and continued to love and pamper and adore me more every year, I must have been something very special in order to change those initial feelings. So the thought that my mother at one time didn’t really want me – well, that was just laughable in the face of her abiding love and affection, as well as her obvious happiness with her role.