The Impoverished Gentlewoman

A '60s woman lost in the woods.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Prequel or When I was a blank slate

Sometime in 1940, a city bus was lumbering its way through the streets of Princeton, West Virginia. A man, who was obviously drunk, was singing loudly. A young woman told him to shut up.
These people were my parents..and that was how they met. My father was thirty. My mother was all of seventeen.

My parents were married on Jan. 3, 1941 in Pikeville, Kentucky which is the middle of Hatfield-McCoy country. I have faint memories of a visit to Kentucky as a small child(visiting Aunt Polly & family). I remember incredible expanse of forests and a little general store that I visited with my cousins. My cousin Bobby told me not to talk to several dirty,shoeless children who were sitting out in front. One foggy morning we passed a lone man in our car. He was very tall (to me) and was carrying a shotgun. He turned his head as we passed. Scary stuff.

I was born four and a half years later. A not so welcome surprise. However, one thing my parents agreed on was that my birthplace would be in Virginia. Facts are sketchy on where they were when I was an unsuspecting fetus but they managed a move just in time. I was born in Roanoke...a week late and thus a gemini. My mother hated the whole "hillbilly" prejudice associated with her homestate and would always remind people that W. Virginia used to be Virginia (that troublesome John Brown!). My father? He was a real native son and moved back to Virginia after he abandoned me in the unfriendly tropics.

Following custom (superstition?) my parents didn't buy any baby things until I came home. But they were a bit extreme. My mother told me my first bed was a dresser drawer. I had visions of them slamming it shut at night, like covering up a parrot cage. Is that why I've always liked Poe? A more romantic spin, I know.
I was named Victoria after Betty Grable's daughter and given a middle name of Ellen after my grandmother (who was Ada Ellen). My father had opted for Veronica for a middle name which drove my mother insane which of course was the main idea.
After I was born, everyone came to visit. My grandmother (Mamo) came with a 13 year old Jack, My Aunt Polly came with Uncle Harold and Bobby. The doctor who delivered me came to check me out (who does that anymore?). He was one of the few Jewish doctors in the Commonwealth but he was considered one of the best so my parents opted for him. He took one look at my cousin Bobby and said,"Get this child to the hospital NOW". Bobby practically had no white cells in his body. Dr. Schurneman (spelling?) saved his life. They talked about that for years.
These facts are for posterity, for my children and their children. Oh can read it too.