Wednesday, January 28, 2015
©Linda Goodman, January 2015
In 1972, after a ridiculously easy three hours of labor, I gave birth to a baby girl. After the anesthesia had worn off, a nurse brought her to me and I got my first good look at her. I gasped and cried, “THIS IS NOT MY BABY!”
“Of course it’s your baby,” insisted the nurse.
“But she has red hair!” I protested. “No one in either my or my husband’s family has red hair!”
“Well,” said the nurse, “that can’t be true. Red hair is a recessive gene. Red hair has to be in both the mother’s and the father’s families for a redheaded baby to be born.”
After asking family members a lot of questions, I learned that my mother’s twin brother had red hair before he went gray. I also learned that several of my husband’s aunts had red hair.
So in addition to a new baby, I also got a new story that I could use to entertain friends and family. Every time that someone asked me where my daughter Melanie’s red hair came from, I told that person the story of the day she was born, and how I had insisted that she could not possibly be my baby.
When Melanie was eight years old and in the second grade, I went to an open house at her school. Each student in the school had been instructed to make from construction paper an art piece that would tell people something the student. I walked around the room and looked at the different projects. Roller derbies were quite popular at the time, so many of the students had made construction paper skating rinks and named the rinks after themselves. Two students built churches. Another built a Tastee Freeze ice cream stand. Melanie had constructed a large paper house and had written across the front The Melanie Adams Orphanage.
I was curious. “Why did you decide to build an orphanage?” I asked Melanie.
“Because I’m an orphan,” she replied.
Curiosity turned into confusion. “Why do you think you are an orphan, Melanie?”
“Because you said so,” she sweetly told me. Then, with an innocence that only a child can muster, she added, “I am glad they gave me to you. I hope they don’t take me back some day.”
I could not believe what I was hearing. “When did I tell you that you were an orphan?”
“Oh, you didn’t tell me,” she said. “But I heard you tell Mrs. Michaels. And Mr. Hamby. And that old woman who asked you where I got my red hair.”
I had never even realized that she was listening when I told that story to others. Melanie had thought she was an orphan for eight years, and I had never even suspected that.
Of course, I set her straight. She seemed rather disappointed when I told her I was only telling a funny story to all those people; that she really was my child by birth. “I guess I won’t be as interesting now,” she sighed,” and some poor parents out there are going to be so sad when they find out that I am not their child.”
That’s my girl!