On my 56th birthday, I wonder about my birth day

Some facts about the day I was born, mildly amusing and mostly useless. (From dayoftheweek.org)

Some facts about the day I was born, mildly amusing and mostly useless. (From dayoftheweek.org)

I just googled This Date in History for Dec. 14, 1957.

The site dayoftheweek.org tells me it was a Saturday.

A slow day, according to historyorb.com.

A play titled “Most Happy Fella” closed after 678 performances at New York City’s Imperial Theater. “Rumple” closed at the Alvin Theater after 45 performances. An American author by the name of Gary Ferris was born.

And, in a New York City hospital, a thin and quite-likely scared teenager pushed me out into this world.

I don’t remember much, not even from family remembrances on subsequent Dec. 14s.

My oldest sister, Francine, collected my baby pictures, taken before she was born.

My oldest sister, Francine, collected my baby pictures, taken before she was born.

I can piece together facts and snippets of things they did tell me: My mother was 19. My father was 20. I came a few weeks early. They had married 14 months prior. They met while working for the same company in Manhattan. Both their families lived in Greenpoint, a Polish neighborhood in Brooklyn. My dad was an only child. My mom had an older sister, but she and my uncle had no children yet.

I can imagine how bewildered and overwhelmed they all were at the arrival of this first child of their immediate families, no matter that marriages and kids more routinely came earlier 56 years ago.

They did their best within their world. I remember my dad taking me to corner bars and giving me a bag of peanuts and a real glass of Coke to keep me occupied as he socialized like a twentysomething. I remember my mom taking me with her to bingo, which somehow was a favorite even at her young age. It never once struck me that perhaps a kid my age shouldn’t be taken along to either of those places.

I was an only child until a sister came along when I was 8, and another when I was 10. I loved not being the sole focus anymore. I protected these darling little girls fiercely.

Of course I remember good times, celebrations, family victories.

But I also remember arguments, fights, bad behavior, frequent tension. Looking back through the prism of all these years, I think that somehow I was always on edge in the presence of one or both of my parents.

After I graduated high school, I went away to college and never lived at home for more than a summer’s vacation afterward.

My parents got divorced while I was in college. About time, I remember thinking immediately.

They went on doing what adults do, remarrying, taking on new spouses and other people’s children.

I went on doing what college graduates do, building a career, marrying, having a child of my own.

A happy time at the 40th birthday of my youngest sister, Dory (in black). The men, left to right, are me, Dory's husband Jim, and Fran's husband Jack. At bottom are my wife Karen, my daughter Elisabeth and my sister Fran.

A happy time at the 40th birthday of my youngest sister, Dory (in black). The men, left to right, are me, Dory’s husband Jim, and Fran’s husband Jack. At bottom are my wife Karen, my daughter Elisabeth and my sister Fran.

I experienced great joy. I felt major loss. I achieved major accomplishments. I battled personal failings.

You know, life. Highs, lows, ups, downs, in-betweens. Through it all, I’ve tried to remain positive and optimistic.

I accepted my parents for who they were. I knew they loved me. We got along when we were all adults.

They both passed away a decade ago, heart attacks, six months apart, my mom at 65 and my dad at 66.

That’s a lot of birthdays without them already. I am happily remarried, and I’ve watched my daughter grow into a smart and beautiful young woman. I’m pretty good, all considered, on this 56th birthday, mom and dad.

But I wish that I had been more curious about my real birth day. I wish I had asked you both to fill me in about what you were thinking after I arrived on Dec. 14, 1957.

Our beloved Aunt Marian and Uncle Chet are gone now, too. My generation is it. There’s nobody who was there to question anymore.

So it’s left for me to imagine, to picture you two kids, staring at your newborn boy, wondering to yourselves, what will our life bring now?

Did you ever ask your parents about the day that you were born? What did you find out? Any surprises?

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56 thoughts on “On my 56th birthday, I wonder about my birth day

  1. After two previous pregnancies had ended in miscarriage, on September 11, 1958, the former Jean Fessia gave birth at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC to a bambino that she and her husband Pete would name, Jimmy. Despite her euphoric state immediately after giving birth, my mother recalls that the obstetrician turned to my dad (who had arrived at the hospital in his NYC patrolman’s uniform) and asked if he could “take care” of a ticket he had just received for being double-parked in front of the hospital. The kid was almost a 10-pounder and obviously had to fight his way down the birth canal. My maternal grandmother took her first look at her newly-minted grandson and pronounced, “He looks like Ernest Borgnine.” My paternal grandmother peered in the crib and said, “He looks more like Roy Campenella.” And so it began… (Thanks for sharing your story and happy b’day, old friend!)

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  2. Happy Birthday Mark!! I loved this post. You were an adorable child, and you have a beautiful family! And, a beautiful daughter! I too wish I had asked my grandmothers more questions about their lives before they passed away. All of those stories are gone forever now except for the few my one grandmother told me.

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  3. Mark … Beautiful post. You are a good man with a great perspective on life, and the gift of sharing it in a way that makes readers examine their own lives and appreciate all that we’ve enjoyed and endured. Thank you and happy birthday, my friend. (We’re not 38 any more, are we? …) jim

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  4. Well I wasn’t supposed to happen at all. My parents got married later in life. My dad was 40 and my mom was 30. In 1945, that was late. They had 3 children right away….BOOM BOOM BOOM. Then I came as a BIG surprise in 1958. I was born at 1am on New Year’s Day, 1958. My parents told me that they had to call my doctor out of a New Year’s eve party to come to the hospital to deliver me. Instead of it being a bother, he told my parents that he was so happy to leave the party. He wasn’t having any fun! That’s all I know about the day I was born, but I always found it funny.

    Happy Birthday to you, Mark!

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  5. hey mark, our birthdays are very close. (11/18/57). both of my parents are gone too, had many ups and downs with them, but like you, i accepted that they did the best they could. never got any answers to my birth, but i do remember much of my childhood ) happy birthday –

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    • Thanks, Beth. Well, we are co-members of the big boom of 1957. I remember hearing the statistic that more babies were born our year than any in history. Sorry your parents left us without you asking more, too. Childhood in our time was a Wonder (Years) wasn’t it?

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  6. Great post, Mark. I know that I was born on the day after Christmas in 1956. My mother finished making Christmas dinner and cleaning the kitchen when she realized she was about to deliver baby #3. Luckily my Aunt Mary showed up with her new boyfriend and my mother informed them that they would be babysitting my one year old sister and my two year old sister (yup, Mom and Dad were Catholics) while she went to the hospital. I never heard how Mom got to the hospital. The next day when I was delivered my father was out – his father was getting married that day and he was at the reception! btw, Aunt Mary’s boyfriend was never heard from again.

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  7. Wow… I’ve never thought to ask this question, though I do remember my Mom telling me that my four older brothers would come visit in the hospital and ask when they would be able to bring “the baby” home. This post was very thought provoking and it does make you wonder what else was going on in the world when you were born… a few weeks ago I was reading about Chernobyl on wikipedia and realized it happened on the day I was born, so there’s always that 😉

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  8. Wonderful reflection, Mark. I was 9 weeks early … and an only child for 10 years. Like you, other than my Aunt Sue, there is no older generation left to question. I wish I had written down more and recorded more. My Dad told many wonderful stories, and my Mom did, too.

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  11. That’s a pretty cool post (I came by way of Susie’s party). It makes me want to ask more questions about my birthday too. I know that I came early and my mom’s water broke in my grandparents kitchen. When they took her to hospital they said it would be awhile so my family went to have dinner leaving my mom behind. Getting bored she decided to take a walk to the nursery to see all the other babies when I decided it was time to come out and nearly did in the hallway!

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  12. Thanks to Susie Lindau for sending me over here. I just lost both parents within two months, and although I am incredibly fortunate to have a huge and wonderful family of siblings and their children, that feeling of having your history disappear is still so strange.

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  13. Hi Mark, Susie sent me. Nice to meet you. I was born in 1960. My uncle took me and my sister, dressed n cute little dresses and patten leather shoes to the VFW (bar). He sat us down at a table with real coke also and with a cherry in them. All the men cam in and talked to us and told us how cute we were. A dangerous situation today. I never questioned about my birth I was a sick baby and was in the hospital for several months. My brother the youngest was 9 years older than me so I was pretty spoiled. Good o’l days you can say. Hope you had a great birthday and wish you a happy and healthy New Year.

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  14. The day I was born – I almost didn’t make it. Without the gory details, quite a few things were going wrong and the doctor told my mom that if I had taken just a few minutes more to make my way out, it’s likely I wouldn’t have survived.

    So, I started life near-death.

    But your post makes me want to find out more. While I still can.

    (stopping by from Susie’s place 🙂 )

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    • Thanks for stopping by, Amber. That sounds so startling, starting life with a near-death experience. Glad it went the way it did, obviously. I’m going to check your blog out right now.

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  15. Stopped here after leaving Susie’s party. Had to , I’m a fellow Sag — Dec. 20. We get all our birthday and Christmas presents as a 2-for-1 gift, don’t we? Well, the real gift is family, and you wrote a beautiful tribute about yours. I was the oldest until my sister and two brothers came along. Unlike you, I still wanted ALL the attention! My parents are both gone, in fact this year I’m 62 and that’s the age my dad passed away. You perhaps had a couple pangs about being the age you are for the same reason, I assume?

    One interesting thing about my birthday is that my dad was the same age as the year I was born. In fact he was always the same age as whatever year it was, to the day. That’s because he was born December 31, 1899. Your parents were young, mine were old. No matter what age, they are precious.

    Happy belated birthday and Happy New Year, Mark.

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    • I get caught up in the numbers, too, Chaz. Maybe that’s a Sag thing? I’m under a spell right now that this year, me and all the folks born in 1957, will turn 57. A future post for me, perhaps. Thanks for dropping by from Susie’s party. Nice meeting you.

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  16. I’ll be heading back to Wisconsin next week and will have to ask about my birth day! My dad is going to be 88 in Feb and my mom 84. And to think, if I hadn’t gone in for a mammogram, I may have bit the big one at 55!
    Birthdays and a new year always bring life into focus. Family life is always messy especially for previous generations. I could never talk to my parents like my kids can talk to us so we don’t have the arguments and misunderstandings that Ii experienced.

    Thanks for bringing this to the party and Happy Belated Birthday!

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  17. Susie sent me! The one thing my mother has always said about my birth is how thoroughly happy and overjoyed and relieved and grateful she was that I was a girl! I have 4 older brothers. 🙂

    This was a poignant post. You gave your readers good reasons to reflect on their births, parents, and lives. Thanks for sharing.

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  18. Hi again, Mark! I think we are best of friends now that we have visited each other’s blog and danced at Susie’s. 🙂 That was a nice story about your parents and your life. It is wonderful to get along with our parents or kids once everyone reaches adulthood. I am very close to my mother and my kids (20 & 17) are turning out to be pretty awesome little adults.

    My mom told me that she had stuffed herself with tacos right before going into labor with me. She also told me that my dad was taking his time getting her to the hospital because he couldn’t find his favorite socks. LOL.

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    • You will forever have the taco-sock story. How very nice (and that sounds better than the sock-taco story, doesn’t it? I’m glad to hear when generational peace rules. Happy New Year, BHC!

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  19. Sent from Susie’s today… It’s an interesting process…looking back. I don’t think I ever asked my mom what was happening when I was born. What I did ask her was how I got my name. 🙂

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