Birthday Murmurs

Portrait of the Artist as a Suckling

I don’t know about my paternal grandparents’ nuptials, but elopement was the means of marriage for both my maternal grandparents and my own parents. Back then, in those pre-FDA-pill-approval [1] days, it seems that some women dare not their chaste treasures open [2] even to the the most insistent importunities of non-husbands.

In my parents’ case, benighted by the long shadow of Victorianism, carnal inclinations short-circuited the pauser reason, so rather than waiting to marry until she finished Roper nursing school and he Clemson, they eloped. Inconveniently, they lived in separate cities until she dropped out of Roper and moved into married housing at the aforementioned land grant agricultural college whose main hall is named for Pitchfork Ben Tillman, a bigot who makes quasi-Klansman Roy Moore seem like Hubert Horatio Humphrey in comparison.

But I digress.

Perhaps my un-and-underemployed parents had never heard of condoms because a mere 10-and-a-half months later, 65 years ago today, on a snowy Sabbath in Summerville, SC, I was born.

It was a difficult birth. Forceps, strawberry hemangioma strewn across my squashed, dented head. On the bus back on his way to Clemson, my father looked so woebegone that a woman asked him what was the matter. “Lady,” he said, “my wife just gave birth to a seven-pound four-ounce monkey.”

So thus began my life, and I’m very thankful for my parents’ lack of discretion. So many little things can make such big differences: my late wife Judy’s not getting into her first-choice graduate school; she and I impulsively riding out to Folly Beach one Saturday and buying that very day the lot where we built our house; and two decades later, on what had been a very sad day, a propitious happy hour at a bar on Spring Street a few blocks from where my father grew up.

To all who have wished me a happy birthday, thanks so much. I feel, if not exactly blessed, fortunate.


[1] Certainly, the Germans have a word for this.

[2] Here’s how No Fear Shakespeare renders Laertes’ pleas: “Then think about how shameful it would be for you to give in to his seductive talk and surrender your treasure chest to his greedy hands.” A more than a little is lost, methinks.

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