Recently I picked up a project I began working on about 9 years ago. It was shortly after my parents died, both of them, just 19 days apart. I wanted to write about our family and how my sisters and I grew up, in a family rich with Eastern European heritage and culture. But it was just too soon. However, when I began working on it again it began to take on a life of its own, and I realized I had to go back further in time and dig deeper, including the lives of my parents and how they grew up. Here is an excerpt from Mara’s Garden.
“I was born on July 9th, 1930, in Aliquippa, a small but thriving steel town in Western Pennsylvania on the banks of the Ohio River. My parents were both working in the garden when my mother suddenly disappeared. Since it was close to noon, my father naturally presumed she was going inside to prepare lunch. A short time later, when he went inside for his lunch, he found my mother in labor. So, instead of having lunch, he sent for the midwife, and three hours later I came into the world.
At least, this is only one version of how I was born. When I was a little girl, my older brother Brownie told me the “real” story about my birth. Brownie was three years older than me, and was always full of helpful information. It took me many years to realize that most of his information was made-up, and even longer to discover his penchant for playing tricks on me. Regarding the details of my birth, Brownie carefully explained that he himself was brought into the world by a doctor carrying a big black bag. But I came into the world into a far different way.
According to Brownie, he and my parents were walking along the bank of the Ohio River when they spotted a big, ugly fish defecating on the river bank. It was during this process that I suddenly popped out, landing squarely on top of a steaming pile of excrement. When Mama saw me, she picked me up, cleaned me off, and wrapped me in a towel. She and Tata (my father) decided to take me home to live with them and be raised as one of their own. Of course, I believed him, just as I believed everything my brother told me.
But for years, every time the subject of where babies came from came up, I would clam up and never say a word. I didn’t want another living soul to know the true story of where I had come from, and Brownie was kind enough to swear never to tell the story to anyone, and to keep my deep, dark secret between the two of us. He even went so far as to reassure me that he would never even mention it in front of our parents to spare me any embarrassment. Although Brownie could torment the hell out of me, he could also be very considerate when he wanted to be.”