I am jumping right in. Actually, that’s not really true. I am being pushed in with the loving hands of my sister. Regardless of how I got here, now I am here and need to make the best of it.
My life, up until this moment, has been two parts my reality and one part my imagination-incorporated with the ideals of the life I always thought I wanted.
My reality, today, is that I don’t think I was ever happy. I am racking my brain to come up with a happy memory or two to focus on, to begin figuring out who I really am, and I can’t. Honestly, the only thing popping into my mind is my good friend, Anne, sprawled across my sofa after we had put my kids to bed and had our usual celebratory glass of wine marking the end of another day. We were talking about someone commenting on how sweet I was, just so happy all the time. Anne looks at me and says, “I don’t think you are as nice as you try to be. I think you are actually pretty void of joy.” This was jolting, sickening and possibly the truth. I think. And here lies the problem. I have no idea if she was right. This wavering back and forth between she said and I think is ultimately my doom. I am sure of that. Maybe I am really a sad soul, the kind of person who doesn’t care at all for humankind, cute little puppies or whether or not we are globally screwed.
So who am I and how do I figure out where it all went downhill, to hell in a handbasket, or just plain wrong? I was advised to start at my beginning and this journey would bring me to my true self.
So here it goes. My deconstruction.
My story begins, according to truth and legend, as I slid right out between two legs that were being held up by my father and a nurse, like suspension wires of a bridge. This was due to my mother’s mental state being controlled by substances that induced a twilight sleep, so anything needing to be lifted had to be supported by others. This relaxed, detached state also made it almost impossible to aid in my delivery since the words, “Push, push,” floated like soft marshmallow clouds into my mother’s brain and then disbanded into little white dots of pastel green, pink and blue until finally dissolving into the humming darkness near her ears. This cycle began again with the next urges from the nurses who were waiting for the drop. That’s when I made my first appearance. It was 1967.
When my mom finally came to and was aware of my existence, she instantly had to have her sinus cavities flushed out due to all the pain she was having before I was born and after. The misery of such a headache caused her to have great waves of nausea as well, so holding me was out of the question. Instead, I was passed from nurse to nurse as one shift ended and another began.
My daddy used to tell me that the nurses and doctors described my birth as one of the easiest deliveries they had ever witnessed. “She just popped right out,” one said. “And so serious, too. Not even a little whimper of a cry,” said the other. And this was true. I was born without any consequence at all except for my mom’s sinus issue. I was on time, took only a few pushes from my mother and was as healthy as could be.
As I was tended to by the nurses there, I was told stories of their mothers, fathers, boyfriends, and coworkers with a sing-song voice of sweetness that is suitable for infants and old people who can’t understand normal speech patterns, so words go up and down hoping to soothe and supplicate.
“…and when she comes into work late, I have to cover for her. She doesn’t think about how that affects the rest of us, that selfish slut.”
“My mother died when I was born, so you are a lucky little girl. You have a mommy and a daddy.”
“My father is in prison for killing my uncle, his brother. You don’t ever want to go to prison, sweet Janey. You’ll be a good girl, won’t you?”
So I began my life between the legs of my mother, the walls of the Methodist Hospital, the names of two aunts, and the many stories that were whispered to me as I was swaddled and fed by nurses in starched white hats.
There is a picture of my mother and me in the hospital the day we were leaving. Whether it’s the picture quality or the cigarette smoke lingering in the air, it’s hard to see me all bundled up in my mother’s arm, but you can see my mom’s face clearly. Her dark short curls are teased upon her head a bit, she has a light blue house dress on, and there is a very stern look on her face, either from pain, exhaustion or both.
As we left that day, it occurred to my parents that I did not have a name, so I was named after two aunts, one on my mother’s side and one on my father’s side. On hearing this news, Aunt Jane and Aunt Gillie gave nods and looks of approval as I was presented to them sitting in the living room of our little house on Kingston St. It was decided right then and there that I was to be called JG, short for the two names. My mother later explained this decision to me, that having a nickname would clear up any confusion when someone hollered for Jane or Gillie from the yard or downstairs rooms. My father disagreed completely, refusing to call his third daughter “letters” of any sort. So Janey was what my dad called me and JG is what the rest of the world called me.