Saturday, June 29, 2013

They Say You're Never Too Old .....

My grandmother* was born in 1907 and my grandfather in 1904.  That means when I was born (1957) they were, respectively, 50 and 53 years of age.
 
(*Throughout these musings, I will refer to them as my grandparents.  Even though they legally adopted me and were, therefore, my parents [for a while, at least], the story just gets too confusing if I call them that.)
 
These photos were taken in 1960, but my grandparents really didn't change much during the time I lived with them.
 
My grandfather had his hair cut in a "flat top" when he was in his 40's or so, and didn't waver from that style to the day he died.  I used to love running my hand over his hair -- it was so soft and tickly.

I was trying to smile, but the sun was in my eyes.

Friday, June 28, 2013

And in THIS corner .....

Back in the day, it was commonly assumed that babies are born as "blank slates" -- tabula rasa.  Their personalities would develop solely based on how they were raised, with no input from biology.  Some people still promote this idea today, but in general it's understood that we are all a product of both nature AND nurture.

"Tabula Rasa", the blank slate
 
My brother, adopted at 10 weeks of age, was certainly viewed as a blank slate, to be molded into his new father's image of a perfect child. It's less clear what my grandparents believed about me, since I was already 16 months old.  But I have no doubt that they were certain that their excellent child-rearing skills would overcome all.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What's in a name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet


What's in a name?  Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Recall this, from an earlier post:

The birth notice my parents mailed to my Great-Grandmother

At birth, my parents chose the name "Sharon Kay" for me, and for the first 16 months of my life my mother called me "Sharon."
 
I think most reasonable people would agree that 16 months is long enough for a child to become accustomed to and associate him/herself with a name.  Right?

Right!

New beginnings .....

So, mom just has the twins to care for now.  My younger brother has gone off to live with a successful attorney and his wife in a lovely suburban home.  I'm taken in by my grandparents, with implicit promises of a better life and major spoiling.

"And they all lived happily ever after!"

Right?



Whoooooa there, pardner!  Not so fast ......

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Six minus one equals three .....

No, that's not an example of the "New Math" we were subject to the 1960's.  I'll explain .....
 
Some time after my mother's visit home in early 1958, the decision was made that adoption was the appropriate choice for my younger brother and I.  So, with the departure of our father, my family of six became a family of three (that no longer included me).

This is the last time my mother would hold me in her arms:

My older sister looks very apprehensive. 
Was she afraid these people were going to take her away, too?
 

Desperate times .....

In previous posts, I mentioned that my father was a civilian mariner in the Military Sea Transport Service.  He would be home for one week, then gone for three.  It was during one of those weeks home that I was conceived, and my birth occurred 13 months after my older siblings were born.

Thirteen months after I arrived, our younger brother was born.

And here's where I have to rely on my imagination once more.

The Baby Scoop Era .....

Most people who've been touched by adoption are aware of what's known as "The Baby Scoop Era," a period lasting from approximately 1940 to 1970 during which unmarried (white) women were encouraged to give up their babies for adoption.
 
Well, not so much "encouraged" as coerced.
 
Again, remember that life was different a half-century ago.  Birth control for women was almost non-existent and generally available only to married women.  While available -- for a price -- abortion was illegal, and often dangerous.

Money .....

When my grandfather died in 1993, we found that he'd saved several letters and telegrams that my mother had sent to him and my grandmother.  It's hard to imagine now, when everyone tweets, texts and instagrams constantly, but a half-century ago, many people didn't have private phone service.  When they did, they were required (thanks, Ma Bell!) to rent their equipment from the phone company -- and long distance calls were VERY expensive.


This kind of luxury was not within my parents' meager budget, so when my mother needed to contact her parents, she did so in writing.  Letters could take several days to arrive, so when it was an emergency, she'd send a telegram -- C.O.D.

I imagine .....

For this part of my story, I have to use my imagination.  It didn't occur to me to ask my mother until it was too late, and my siblings don't remember, because they were too young at the time.
 
So here's my early story as I've written it for myself .....
 
Was my father on hand when I was born?  It's possible, but I don't think so.  Certainly he wasn't around too often, since his job would have kept him away from home much of the time.  My guess is that my mother brought me home alone, or accompanied by a friend.

In the beginning, continued .....

Before finishing the story of my arrival in San Francisco, I first need to mention that in March of 1956, my older brother and sister (fraternal twins) were born.  D & G were both full-term and 5+ pounds -- no mean feat for our 5' tall mother!  Our parents agreed that my brother would be named after our father, and my mother chose the name of a then-famous TV personality for my sister. 
 
If you stop and do the math, you'll see that my arrival in April of 1957 was just 13 months after the twins were born.  Again, our father's job kept him away at sea, so my mother was probably alone for much of the time she was pregnant with me.  And the poor thing must have thought she was having a second set of twins (this was long before ultrasound, remember), because she grew to an enormous size with me.

Monday, June 24, 2013

In the beginning .....


1957

Dwight Eisenhower was President, a red Corvette was a thing of beauty, and the US and the USSR were embroiled in the Cold War (which had an occasionally amusing side).

Lee Merlin, Miss Atomic Bomb 1957
 

In San Francisco, the Seals professional baseball team was in its last season, soon to be replaced by the Giants, who were relocating from New York.  In March, a 5.3 magnitude earthquake shook the area, but all in all, life was good.