In which hospital was your daughter born?” By this time, the registrar at the rather posh private school my mother was bound and determined I should attend had bored me silly. But my job was to sit up straight, say “yes m’am” or “no ma’am” and to be, as my mother put it “sweet.”
“Now, baby, be a pretty girl for mama,” she had said. “Pretty,” you see was the opposite of “ugly” – as in “Don’t be ugly to your mama.”
My heart wasn’t in it. I was a tree climbing, hanging out with the boys kind of girl growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s. At least I looked the part in a pink lace trimmed dress, white gloves and patent leather shoes that kind of squeaked as I walked.
“Well,” I could see my mother’s face turning red. “It was the Allen Memorial Home.”
The registrar looked up showing mild amusement.
“But,” mother’s face was scarlet, “that, of course, was prior to it becoming a home for . . .”
“Unwed mothers,” I piped in. “With illegal babies.”
“Illegitimate,” mother corrected, regaining her composure. I am sorry to say I actually did get accepted to the school.
I was all of five and three quarters at the time and already had a strong sense that these people who called themselves my family were imposters, interlopers, maybe even kidnappers. At this stage, before my blonde hair and blue eyed state had dawned on me, I imagined, fantasized, that my real mother had been an Egyptian princess who had visited Mobile long enough to leave me in a basket on the doorstep of these people who said were my parents. But, when you are a child, unburdened by reality or experience, all things seem equally possible. Later when this version of events appeared to be genetically unlikely and my best friend Kathy pointed out that Egypt didn’t have princesses anymore, I switched to English royalty. After all, my chin was rather weak. Kathy had also been the one to tell me that bacon came from dead pigs. I never ate bacon again. I think she became a lawyer.
As an adult, I left the South to live in England and swore I would never return. And here I am back again, doing what I said I would never do – living in the Deep South. And enjoying it. I still think I was adopted.