Two weeks ago, my 81-year-old Aunt Deba and her husband called to wish me “Happy birthday!” I asked her if she remembered the day I was born, and she did. I’ll tell it in her words, but be sure to read it with an extreme Southern accent.
“Of course I remember! [Uv coh-us I remembuh!] We were all sound asleep in our beds and Miss Vida Dorris came in the driveway, lights shining in the windows, and leaning on the horn.
“Mama went running out to see what was wrong, and Miss Vida told her that your mama and daddy were at the hospital in Franklin, Kentucky, and your mama wanted Mama to come. You know Miss Vida was the only one around with a phone. We didn’t get a phone for a long time after that.
“Mama was always a quick thinker, and she knew that they didn’t have enough ration stamps for gas all the way to Franklin, over an hour away. She told Miss Vida to call Doc Hardcastle and tell him to be at his gas station ready to sell them gas.
“Miss Vida agreed, and Mama came in and told Carleen [age 25] and Evelyn [age 20] to get ready and drive her. Mama said that when they got to Goodlettsville, there was Doc Hardcastle, standing by the pumps in the pouring rain, dressed in his yellow slicker. He sold them all the gas they needed and they took off and got there before you were born.
“And that’s the way I remember it.”
I’d surely heard that story before, but I have no memory of it. I do know that a few years ago Aunt Evelyn wrote me a long rambling letter ending with how well she remembered going to the hospital in the middle of the night and seeing me right after I was born.
And my mother’s story, told with a head-shake of embarrassment at her own foolishness: When she saw Daddy after I was born, the first thing she said was, “Honey, it’s a girl. Is that all right?” In her own mule-headed way, she had been sure it would be a boy and they would name him for Daddy.
On the way to the hospital, again he had encouraged her to have a girl’s name, “just in case.” So while she was in labor, they came up with “Lanita,” for Aunt LoLA Mae and Aunt JuaNITA, and “Carlyn,” for Aunt CARleen and Aunt EveLYN.
And that’s what I’ve gathered from relatives about my birth. I guess that’s the way they did things back in 1945. But calling on friends and relatives for help and combining family names for little girls still lives in 2015.