The story began I suppose, before I was born; you know what I am talking about if you have read and believe Psalm 139.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
However before these words became a solid part of my own belief, my painful journey into the scary jungle of infertility began at age 13 with a case of pneumonia that went horribly bad. It was January of 1969, and the last night of our Christmas vacation. My mom was naturally thrilled to have our two week holiday coming to a close, and like any mom, had probably begun to anticipate a more quiet season settling into our expansive, old home on 313. Our father had recently recovered from a terrifying furnace explosion in our basement in October of 1968, and was finally on the mend (another story). Little did she know of the scary path we would all travel during the winter of 1969, or of how her young daughter would live just one floor down from Dad’s burn unit, for a long and terrifying month. And seriously, who wants to know these things ahead of time? At least we had a Happy Christmas as my twin sons like to say. Many years later when Mother and I would talk of this difficult period, she would refer to it as her Annus Horribilis.
Sunday Night Fever
So we kids were at home, and Mom and Dad had gone out for a few hours. The seven of us, or at least five or six, (sometimes we lost count, but we always had at least five partners in crime) had decided that our last night would be spent at a discotechque. For you younger peeps, think Laugh-In go-go dancers, instead of Saturday Night Fever and disco dancing, which is completely different. This meant that we turned off all the lights except the Christmas ones, and got dressed up like cool people, (ok, some of us looked cool and the little kids wore their pj’s) and danced in my parents’ living room (usually off limits for such activities, but they had the 6 ft. long window seat that was needed for our stage, AND they weren’t home. It was a perfect storm.) Our get-ups were very modest, in case you are wondering; for example we didn’t have real go-go boots, (not because we hadn’t asked for them), but we used the totally uncool black snow boots that were like shoes (they weren’t the rubber boots that go over your shoes, thank heavens), but they were by no means cool (wide mid-calf jobs–ugh! They were not even close to Emma Peel’s or Agent 99’s groovy boots). However we needed to make do. I wore my fake brown leather jumper, and gold sweater. Not sure how or why these jumpers came into fashion, but they were pretty hot (as in temperature AND in style) and I was thrilled to have gotten one for Christmas.
We danced to our parents’ records up on that long window seat, and used tinsel from our tree for extra cool effects. Sorry I don’t have a photo, but truly the old Kodak black and white pics would not have sufficiently captured the scene. Just use your imagination. The music was most likely Persuasive Percussion, which while not really discotheque quality, did have a steady beat obviously. Our father had every single album of theirs, and one day I must Google these talented musicians and see who they were. We probably also used my mom’s Mamas and Papas albums even though they were more like hippy music. And I am sure we ran through some Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66. When running a home-grown discotechque, one has to be flexible; having no Internet, mp3s, laptops, Ipads, (or go-go boots) we did pretty well with our stereo housed in a piece of 60-ish wooden furniture, our not quite hitting the mark music, our Christmas lights, and our used tinsel.
As we danced to the music, I knew I felt very hot, and in our cold, drafty old home on 313, that never happened. I blamed my groovy fake leather jumper and matching gold sweater, and all the intense movement. Maybe the tinsel also had an effect. At any rate, I felt kind of queasy, but was not sure why. A tiny voice inside said, maybe you feel queasy because you know your parents won’t be too thrilled with all of you commandeering their nice living room for your silliness. That was a distinct possibility, but we kept on dancing, confident that no trace of the nightclub atmosphere would be left, once we spotted their car rolling up our long driveway. Had we lived in Philly where my mom grew up, and the car was to be parked out front, this important lag time would have been lost, and we would have not been so relaxed (this is in keeping with my geography is destiny theory). As it was, we closed the club, turned the lights back on, put the tinsel back on the tree, and all was well as Mom and Dad walked through the door. We scattered to our usual corners, and in answer to their query about how the evening was, we replied that everything was… fine.
But it wasn’t. I still felt hot and queasy, and of course had no idea that the next six months of my life would overtake our entire family, impact my future for several generations and weave many then unborn strangers deep into our hearts. As I got ready for bed that night, the groovy fake brown leather jumper was hung in my closet, never to be touched again till I returned from the hospital over a month later. I went to bed thinking I must have eaten too much Christmas candy, as was my custom. The next morning the drama began; it was a descent into hell for my young parents, and for me, and one that I only know from a child’s perspective. So that is the version you will get…next time.