Monday, February 20, 2012

Scandal in Mississippi in the 1920s

Today is my mother's 84th birthday. That's her with her parents, Granddaddy and Mamaw (Emma Sue). She's my grandmother who sewed all my clothes until I was about sixteen, and taught me to make homemade yeast rolls and how to fish in the pond at Aunt Lorena's house. And he's the grandfather who molested me when I was about four. He died just before my fifth birthday.

I wrote about Mom's 81st birthday here
, if you're interested. And links to other posts about her are here:

"Disappearing Stories."

But today I'm thinking about her REAL birthday. You see, a few years ago I was cleaning out some boxes of things I had packed up when I sold her house, and I found her birth certificate. I was about to file it with her other papers when I noticed something odd: the date on the birth certificate was January 20, 1928, NOT February 20. I thought it must be a mistake, since we have always celebrated Mom's birthday on February 20.

I scrambled around for her driver's license, and there it was: February 20.

I checked other papers, like her Medicare and Blue Cross cards, and they all agreed she was born on February 20.

You'd think I would have just dismissed it as an error, but I couldn't help remembering what she told me years ago, when I asked why her parents moved to Tyler, Texas just before she was born, instead of staying in Meridian, Mississippi, their home town.

"Dad was looking for a better job, so they moved to Texas, and I was born there. After a few months, they moved back to Meridian."

With her words hanging in the air, I dug through more boxes until I found her parents' wedding certificate. From JUNE of 1927. If Mom was born on January 30, my grandmother was pregnant with her before they were married. Scandalous in the 1920s. So they simply moved away for a few months and returned to Mississippi with a tiny baby girl (she was small for her age) and lied about her birth date. And her birth certificate actually has a box where you put YES or NO under "LEGITIMATE"! Of course they put "YES".... I can't believe it was even an official question on a birth certificate in 1928.

By the time I discovered this, my mother's Alzheimer's was too far progressed for me to talk with her about it. Surely she knew. I wonder when she found out and how she felt about it. I'll never know. And I guess it's a secret she will take to her grave, since she no longer remembers....

Happy Birthday, Mom! (I sent her a card and will visit later this week.)


Tina Fariss Barbour said...

Your mother had such a sweet face as a little girl. I'm glad you have good memories of your grandmother. And I'm so sorry about what your grandfather did.

I don't have good memories of my mother's parents. My mother now denies it, but years ago she talked about her father's abuse of her and her sisters. I suppose at her age (she's 84) it's easier for her to gloss over the bad when she looks back.

I hope your mother is able to enjoy her birthday and your visit. She's lucky to have such a kind daughter.

Robert O'Daniel said...

Susan, I admire courage. Your post proves you are courageous and a person everyone loves.

Anna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna said...

Families all have secrets like this. Mine has gobs of stories of babies who weren't conceived in the appropriate fashion. When I was 33, I was told that my dad was not my bio father. In fact, a family friend was. I had known him growing up, in the 1960's, somewhat.
When I told a cousin about this, she told me her brother was conceived while her father was working in another state (1940's), and the flood gates opened. Stories just keep surfacing.
We have a saying in our bunch "Mama's baby, Daddy's maybe". That probably sounds tacky, but we just try to have a sense of humor about the whole thing.