Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Autobiographical Challenge: Days 1 & 2

     My Mom loved the Cartoon about the Flintstones. And in January of 1963 when Wilma announced she was pregnant, so was my Mom. And when Wilma had a red headed daughter in march, my Mom was hanging on every episode and wishing shed would have a red headed daughter too, but her hair was black and my Dad was a brunette, so even though I had redheaded relatives, she didn’t think it would happen.

     I was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming on July 9, 1963 into a world that still had JFK.  My Mom wasn’t due for delivery until the end of August, and the baseball “All Stars Game” was on TV.  It was a Tuesday and my Dad wanted to watch the game, so when my Mom told him it was time to go, he kept saying, “can you wait until the end of the game?”  She did, but by the time the National League won 5-3 she was getting angry.

     They got to the hospital and the Dr. tried to touch her and she screamed at him to keep his hands to himself. She says she knew that the moment she relaxed, it would be over and if he touched her, she would tense up.  I was born within 15 minutes of arrival.

     I was yellow and redheaded and soon my Mom heard a Dr. in the hallway saying,  “kids like that would be better off if someone would line them all up and shoot them.”  But no-one would tell her what was wrong.

     Two days later they wanted to send us home and she kept saying, “No she is too yellow.” But they tried to tell her it was just a redheads complexion. She threw a fit and they did a blood test and freaked out. Suddenly I had to have a complete blood transfusion and my blood was too messed up to type so they gave me 2 ½ times my blood volume of type O-  I had ABO hemolytic disease of the newborn but it had only recently been discovered and no one there had treated it before.  They say I would have died jut a couple years before.

     And yet I lived, and they named me Dixie Dawn.  My Dad had had a dream that he had a daughter name Dixie Anne but he didn’t want my initials to be DAM.  My Mom was happy to have a girl as redheaded as Pebbles and often dressed me in animal print clothing with a ponytail on top of my head.

     My first memory, it is more a blend of sensations than a memory.  I remember something that must have happened over and over, and that I watched repeated with my brothers and my children so that those memories blended with and reinforced my own older memories.  I remember my Dad, young, loud and bearded – with hair I could grab fistfuls of when he lifted me in the air overhead.  I remember that he loved playing with babies and I remember the specific sensation of giggling until I was gasping for breath and my stomach hurt and still begging for more as he made faces and blew raspberries and bounced me on his knee.  I remember him holding both my hands over my head as I toddled and then a few years later I remember gripping his fists and walking up his legs and doing a skin-the-cat through my arms.  I remember holding myself stiff as a board while I lay at his feet on the floor, and he bent over with his hands under my shoulders and raised me to a stand without me ever bending in the middle, and that felt like a victory.  The “planking” win – before “planking” was a thing. I remember him calling me “Charlie and pretending to steal my nose, and pretending to pop out his eyeball to clean it, and making his cheek pop with a quick jerk of his finger or his nose break by making the noise with his fingernails against his teeth.  He knew a hundred ways to entertain a baby but I was never sure who taught him.

     Dad was only 7 when his Mom died of kidney failure, and he was the next to the youngest of a dozen children, and his oldest sister had a couple of her own already but helped raise all the little-uns too. So I know there were a sister and brother-in-law and his Dad, all working hard and pinching pennies, and there were a lot of kids with the responsibility of even younger kids – but someone knew how to do it right and make the very smallest ones feel safe and loved and surrounded by laughter. And my Dad passed that on.

     I remember that every little thing could be a toy, so if there was a piece of string he could cut it in two, tie a knot, sprinkle it with invisible, ground up horse-feathers (wiffle dust) from his pocket and unwrap it to prove it was uncut and the knot had vanished. He would grab a brown paper lunch bag and toss an invisible ball in the air but the bag would pop when he caught the ball in it. He would plunk me in an empty cardboard box and slide it back and forth between my mom and him in the long hallway, and I’d giggle as they played “monkey in the middle,” because I was the monkey and what they were catching.  He had to know how to make toys of nothing because in his childhood, nothing is exactly how much extra they had to spend on toys.
I remember being loved.