My Scandalous Great-Aunt Rose

My grandmother was the oldest daughter in her family of nine, and the “baby girl” of the family was named Rose, named after her mother. In 1924, Rose was sixteen years old, pregnant, and unmarried.

Teen pregnancy has always existed, certainly, and is still considered to be less than ideal, but in 1924, it was beyond shocking. But there was no shotgun wedding, no rush to legitimize, none of that. I’ve only ever seen photos of my great-grandparents as they died decades before I was born, but I think it’s safe to say that telling them she was pregnant must have been the most terrifying moment of young Rose’s life. To their credit, my great-grandparents supported their child and grandchild, and Rose stayed with them as they helped raise her son, Joseph.

movie star good looks
movie star good looks run in the family

Joe grew to be a fine man, and before leaving to fight for his country in World War Two, he married his love. He was nineteen.

Joe’s wife was pregnant when he died in combat.

Great-Aunt Rose never married, but she helped Joe’s widow raise her grandson, Bobby Joe. I like to think she was one of the many bad ass women in my lineage.

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In Honor of My Favorite Russian

For some ridiculous reason, my parents trusted that I was wise enough to start college early. There were of course some conditions, which included having to live with my older sister and have some “house rules” that most college freshmen don’t have, but all the same, I was a sixteen year-old freshman.

One of the first weekends post-matriculation, an outdoor dance was held on the tennis courts next to one of the dormitories. I knew a couple of girls who were siblings of my sister’s friends, and we were all standing around awkwardly when a confident and gorgeous girl strutted by. While we shuffled our feet around, this girl was full of life, laughing and talking away as if she had known everyone there for years and was their most cherished friend. As it turns out, she was also a freshman, and herself only seventeen. As she started to speak, I noticed her foreign accent – it turns out that in addition to being gorgeous, she had mysterious going for as well.

I don’t remember what it was that everyone discussed, but at this extremely conservative Catholic university, and myself still being fairly conservative, I remember we disagreed vehemently. I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “Oh well, she’ll never talk to me again,” as I went on my merry way, awkwardly bopping along to some R.E.M. I was pretending to know.

Except the strangest thing occurred – I ran into her the next day in the halls of the dorm, and she did talk to me. Which makes her a better person than I, because undoubtedly I had been a jerk. As one does when one is sixteen.

Inexplicably, we became fast friends. We came from very different beginnings – two different continents, in fact – and had nearly opposite world views. She is an only child, I have five siblings. She was a heavy metal-loving skater girl, I spent my evenings sewing dorky jumper dresses in my room.

But no matter who we met or made out with or fought with, she was my person.

Happy birthday to you, Lena-bunny. I wish Moscow were closer.

Yes, we still look exactly like this. I promise.
Yes, we still look exactly like this. I promise.

When a Baby Terrifies You

Being pregnant is not my idea of a good time. But being hooked up to an IV and completely unable to function affects more than just me. Which is why, when I learned that I was pregnant with baby #3 when the first two were only four and two years old, I was a bit panic-stricken about telling my parents as well as my husband.

The whole experience was tragically comic from start to finish. First, after several home negative home tests, I figured I was just having some weird health issues or something. My doctor thought the same after a negative test there, and so she ordered a blood test to check a bunch of levels including my thyroid.

Which is how it came to be that I learned about my pregnancy via email.

EMAIL.

I was sitting in the basement of the townhouse we had purchased less than a month prior, watching the littles play with their duplos and dolls, when I got an email from my doctor stating, “serum positive for HCG.” I spun around in the swivel chair, realized that the littles weren’t a good sounding board for this shocking information, and tried to calm my heart rate while counting down the seconds until I could rush up and grab a phone.

I called my sister and told her first. I asked if she wouldn’t be the one to break the news to my parents, because I just didn’t have it in me, knowing they would have to take over parenting for several weeks. We agreed on a plan of attack, and then discussed just how on earth I would tell my husband.

Lest anyone get the impression that we’re horrible people, I love my babies. So does my husband. My entire family is very “Yay babies!” in fact, but it’s impossible to ignore that having babies means a LOT of work from a lot of people.

I knew that I would eventually be excited about this baby, and that if my husband reacted poorly to the news, I would have a hard time recovering. I also knew that wasn’t exactly fair, considering I had plenty of time to get out all of my “holycowwhatthehellarewegoingtodo” crazy out of my system before he would get home from work, and decided he deserved the same opportunity to work it all out. Besides, as soon as he walked through the door, I would be on my way out to work myself.

So I decided I would write him a note. I waited until naptime, then sat down to compose the “yep, I’m pregnant,” notecard to my husband. My hand was shaking a bit, but I managed to get out the basic idea that we were having a baby, we’d work it out, and everything would be okay.

As I left for work that night, I handed the sealed envelope to him, saying, “read this after the kids are asleep.” Which he didn’t. But I guess as soon as I handed it to him, he figured what it was about. We’re pretty in tune like that.

So by the time I got home that night, my husband had gone through all of the necessary freak outs and we were able to have a few moments of happiness and excitement before getting down to the technical matters. When you have HG like I do, you only get a short window of time before it all hits the fan. And the crazy did not disappoint.

Of course, I wouldn’t change a thing, and we all can’t imagine a world without our muffins, and someday I will show her the note I left for her dad, announcing her existence.

Although I did mention to my doctor that email might not be the best way to tell a woman she’s having a baby.

my little muffins
my tiny muffins – best kind of suprise ever

Famous Family Members

(this is a bit of a gimme, but I’m headed to a pumpkin patch, so it’ll have to do)

I’m always fascinated by my friend’s famous relatives. Growing up, there was the family related to Claude Pepper, which was pretty cool. My sister taught a girl whose godfather was Peter O’Toole – also, very boss. I am college chums with the grand-nephew of Claus von Stauffenberg, as portrayed by Tom Cruise in the film Valkyrie. And a family I adore is distantly related to Danny Kaye – very excellent.

And then there’s our famous relative: Gene Pool.

Yes, my mother’s third cousin is that weird dude who grows grass on everything.

genepool

In his defense, Gene was a trailblazer – caring for the environment, making a statement, and quite frankly, an internet sensation that predated the internet. He has been in a couple of commercials and was featured in People magazine a time or two. And he IS in the Guinness Book of World Records, which impresses grade schoolers around the country.

But I would be pretty excited if somehow I was also distantly related to a Grammy winner or something.