Three Disappointments & A Baby Boy

Friday, October 19, 2001

Greetings,

Visiting with Jenn yesterday [see the My Three Sons entry],  I streamed my thoughts about my family constellation of three daughters and a son, resulting in this entry:  

How we dwelt in two worlds 
the daughters and the mothers 
in the kingdom of the sons.
~ Adrienne Rich

 

My older sister, Sandra, arrived nine months after my parents' honeymoon, on December 27, 1947, two days after Christmas.  Of the "boys are more valuable" mindset back then, my parents were disappointed that their first-born was not a boy.  She was Disappointment #1, albeit a mild one. San was after all, our parents'  first child and down the ways, there would likely be another, very hopefully, a boy.  And besides, San was the first grandchild for Mom's parents, the first niece for her young maternal aunt and uncles, and the first baby born in her circle of friends.

San's birth was a joyful occasion for all, and my parent's tempered disappointment dissipated with the excitement and novelty of first-time parenthood. 

As first-time parents often do, they documented San's first years with pages and pages of photographs. In the family photo album, there are Brownie camera snapshots of San in the buff, with her sparse hair tied up in a ribbon; in frilly, girly outfits; in every conceivable pose and with every emotion on her cute little face; in front of piles of gifts; blowing out candles on birthday cakes; dressed up like a little Japanese doll on Girl's Day; and being proudly held by a smiling Mom and a happy Dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends. 

Most significantly, there were matted  8X10 studio photographs, one framed and hanging proudly above their bed, and many more in the family photo album.  Up to her third year, a 40-mile round trip was made to the photographer's studio to get her young life formally documented.

 

 

When San was three, I was conceived during the holiday season and arrived on September 29, 1951. Uh-oh, another girl. I came into the world as Disappointment #2

Not only born a girl, I was a pale and listless girl baby, according to Mom.  Thank goodness for an astute doctor who correctly diagnosed me as being anemic.  

This health-threatening condition overrode my parents'  disappointment, kicking in their parental instincts.   Cow's milk only worsened the anemia, and my worried mother literally mothered me back to health by breast-feeding me. I was the exception, as my siblings were wholly bottle-fed.

The silver linings of this anemia were the benefits of breastfeeding, including an unbreakable mother-child bonding that has withstood the test of time and heartbreak, as well as the protective antibodies that fight diseases and the building of a stronger immune system in general. 

Once the anemia was under control, the parental doldrums could have set in.  But the angels were watching over me, and they fought off the impulse to catch me as I rolled off the sofa and broke my collarbone. That kept my parents' attention on me for a little while longer. 

I mended quickly, as babies do, remembering none of the trauma. And maybe that's when the ennui -- the satiety of parenthood which leads to benign disinterest -- set in.  Here's the tangible proof:  there is not a single baby -- or toddler --  photograph of me.  

Not a one.  

 

I was four when the first pictures were taken of me, when I graduated from Mrs. Pereira's pre-school.  My cousin, Milton, graduated with me, and since he was the first-born, first son, first grandson, his father's  camera was ever on high-alert and went berserk at this graduation. Fortunately, I happened to be in a few of the shots and Uncle Frank made copies of these to give to my parents. These made it into the family photo album.  

Yes!

Shortly thereafter, Mom was pregnant with her third child, and one evening, reclined on their bed as I rubbed her tummy, she asked, "Do you want a baby sister or a baby brother?"  Maybe, she shouldn't have asked.  

How could she know that God and my guardian angels materialize whatever I fervently want?  San had a little sister, me.  I wanted to be a big sister, like San.  And like San, I also wanted a little sister, like me.  This could be a two-fer, and I announced: 

"I want a baby sister!"

 

 

On January 17, 1956, my wish came true and my sister, Joan, arrived. She was Disappointment #3 for Mom and Dad.  They were so hoping for a boy.  I was jubilant!

The day Mom came home from the hospital with the new baby, she sat me in the middle of their bed and handed her to me. 

"This is your own little dolly."  

Children, at four years old, accept things at face value.  I certainly did, and I accepted Joanz as mine. She was my own little, brand-new dolly, and I was her Mommy.  She was my Joanz [my personal nickname for her, pronounced, one syllable, long o, as in Jones,  or two, as Joan Zee; don't ask why, I don't remember].

God works in mysterious ways, and with the angels, I was given the best gift of my childhood.  Up to that moment, everything in my life -- diapers; my favorite toy, a panda bear; and clothes -- were hand-me-downs from my older sister. When Mom placed Joan into my arms, it was the first time I  had received a brand-new anything (that meant something to me).

Thereafter, dolls held zero appeal for me. No fake doll could ever measure up to my real LIVE dolly. No plastic doll could wrap its tiny little fingers around mine like Joanz did. No doll could coo and smile back at me as Joanz did.  And no doll had Joan' soft baby cheeks that I loved to stroke and kiss.

I loved, adored, and pampered Joan, showering my little dolly with "motherly" hugs and kisses. I am a very affectionate person, and my little dolly never lacked for  tactile stimulation, critical to a child's emotional and physical well-being. 

The timing couldn't have been more perfect, as my parents were distracted by rough times at home and tough times at work, so distracted that there are no infant pictures of Joanz, either. 

 

One year later, my parents finally got to hear the words they were waiting for: 

"It's a Boy!"  

On March 4, 1957, their much desired son, Dean, finally arrived. Everyone, it seemed, was elated, in striking contrast to year before when Joanz was born.

A steady stream of well-wishers -- relatives, friends, neighbors, and  co-workers -- made visits to our home, with arms laden with baby gifts with blue ribbons, to personally congratulate Mom and Dad

Dino [our family's nickname for him] was Mom's pride and joy; she doted on him and lavished him with scads of love and undivided attention. By being born a son, Dino was the validation Mom needed after producing three girls.

After a five year drought, the picture deluge began.  Snapshots filled the empty back pages of the family album. Joanz, as tag-along, finally had pictures taken of her, alongside her baby brother. 

Once again, the professional photographer was engaged for a series of photoportraits over the next three years. 

Two months later, in May, on Boy's Day, there were more presents for Dino and more pictures were taken. The following year, my parents threw a huge baby lu`au, a uniquely Hawaiian tradition for good luck, as it celebrates that the baby has survived the dangers of the their first year. No expenses were spared, and every friend, relative, and co-worker was invited to celebrate.  

Once again, Dino was heaped with presents, and  countless snapshots were taken of him. 

 

 

Growing up, I was very aware that I was the only one without a single baby picture, and believe me, I looked. I said nothing. 

As a little girl, gazing up at the stars, I came to a very clear and logical conclusion why there were no baby pictures.

Simply put, besides being Disappointment # 2 in a family  (and society) that valued male children over females, I was also the victim of the dreaded Middle Child Syndrome.  

I got lost in the shuffle. Kids are inventive. Just as sexually abused children create multiple personalities to avoid shattered psyches, I psychologically defended myself with a fantasy. 

[Be kind, and don't laugh too hard]

I was dropped off by space aliens 
and adopted by Earthlings!

Using kid logic, this precisely explained why I never had a birthday party. How could my parents know when to celebrate it if I was dropped off and adopted by them?  My "birthday" on September 29 was made up.  Not real.

As an adult, more detached from that childhood, I'm thinking, "Wow, pretty wild!"  Not to worry, I'm laughing with you.  

As an adult, I am able to my  parents' world through their eyes.  If these two oversights were my biggest "problems" in childhood, then I was blessed. Believe me, my parents showed me their love for me in countless, myriad ways.  Photos and birthday parties were just not their ways.

I also realize as an adult, that at the time, my parents' plates were full with work and family obligations. They were barely making ends meet back then,  while riding an emotional rollercoaster, trying to keep a rocky marriage together for the sake of us kids. 

Inattention happens. They were doing the best they could. It was benign neglect, emphasis on benign.

 

 



"Life is a Gift."

Sincerely,
Author Unknown

 

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This web journal was created on a September Morn, September 29, 2001.
September Morn 2001