Chapter 20: 1939 • Watsonville, California ~ Our house was right on her way home from the grammar school and Marceline (Uncle George’s and Aunt Verda’s daughter) loved to stop off and visit mom. Marceline held Babe in high esteem, elevating her to a kindred spirit and favorite aunt. She thought our mother a much better mother than hers: she wasn’t as proper and strict as Verda, didn’t fuss about what the house looked like, didn’t care if her kids ran wild, didn’t give a whit about going to mass. She also talked to her niece about anything she wanted to talk about.
Eleven-year-old Marceline was there so often she seemed to be part of the furniture. One warm afternoon she quickly tripped up the porch stairs just as her Aunt Babe woke up from her daily nap on the chesterfield. She hadn’t been feeling well, and when Marceline asked why, she confided to her young niece that she was to soon have a third child.
Marceline was crazy about babies and wanted her parents to have another one, too. She loved taking care of my sister Carleen (Marceline was six years older to the day) and wanted more than anything to have a little sister of her own. It had been on her prayer list forever. She’d asked her parents, but they’d emphatically said no, they couldn’t. Left to her own devices, and thinking hard, she worried that perhaps they didn’t know how (disregarding the glaring fact that she already had two older half-brothers and one younger brother, not to mention herself).
Marceline had all kinds of questions for Aunt Babe: “How did you get Larry and Carleen? How does the baby get in the tummy? How does it get out?”
So my mother—being Mother—took a drag off her cigarette and told her.
At dinner that night, Marceline, beside herself with excitement and thinking they could use this information, explained in detail the process to her parents. Levitating from his chair, George exploded, both fists slamming the table. “Godamnsonuvabitch! Jesuschristalmighty! Who in the hell told you WHERE BABIES COME FROM?”
“Aunt Babe,” said Marceline, her blue eyes brimming with tears.
“Now George,” soothed Verda, trying to calm him down. “Babe was only …”
George glared at Verda, “Your goddam sister …”
In high dudgeon, he snatched Marceline and Verda by their upper arms and marched over to our house, bounded up the porch, pounded on the screened door, stormed in, and bawled his sister-in-law out royally for taking it upon herself to inform their daughter of life’s private details.
Jabbing his finger with fury at Babe, he ranted, “You had no damn business talking to Marceline about this, especially at her age! That’s our job, goddammit! What in the hell were you thinking, and why in the name of Jesus H. Christ do you think you had the right to do such a goddamn foolish thing?”
The women in my family don’t mince words, which is unfortunate, as it would make them so much easier to eat later. Babe simply looked at him, shrugged, and said, “Well, she asked me.”
That December, my sister Betty, the third child in our family, was born. And possibly as a result of young Marceline’s coaching, Marceline’s own much-wanted sister Judi was born almost exactly a year later.
To be continued…
Catherine Sevenau is a writer, humorist, and storyteller living in Sonoma, California. The stories in this series are excerpts from her book, Through Any Given Door, a Family Memoir, available as a series at Sevenau.com. A longtime Realtor and Owner/Broker at CENTURY 21 Wine Country. [email protected]