A few days ago I saw a new doctor. He asked questions like “when did you have this done” and “how long since that happened?” I realized all my answers centered on what age my child was at the time. For example, my gall bladder surgery happened when my daughter was eight and that required having to do the math to get the year 1978. Later that same day I had another flash of insight when I realized that the events of my childhood and youth were remembered by how many siblings I had at the time, which allowed me to do the math to get the year.
This is one story that does not require me to do all those mental calculations. The date is fixed in my mind and always will be. It was Friday July 7, 1961. The day started like any other summer morning. I was the eldest of the nine children gathered round the breakfast table. I was passing out plates of pancakes. Not hard to remember because pancakes were not our standard breakfast fare and family tradition allowed that the “birthday boy” or in this case “girl” got to choose their favorite breakfast. This particular Friday it was my turn to choose since I was the “Birthday girl” and this was my fifteenth birthday.
After the shouting for more butter, the jam jar or syrup pitcher, everyone fell silent. That meant everyone was busy eating as my mother began to make her usual morning announcements. Expecting, the litany of chores that needed doing accompanied by the normal complaints over whose turn it was to do them, I was not paying close attention. After all, it was my birthday I was suppose to be exempt from all but the most urgent of tasks. Suddenly, I was pulled from thoughts of how I would spend my special day by the jab of an elbow poking me on each side in time to hear my mother announce from the head of the table that she had decided that today would be the perfect day to give birth to our new little brother or sister. Why today of all days? It was my birthday and the baby was not due for several more days.
As if she had just gotten an injection of some supercharged energy juice my mother started directing all types of chores that did not belong on the Friday schedule. Bathrooms had to be scrubbed, beds stripped, laundry sorted, the first of three old wringer washing machines filled with boiling water and the washtubs of the others filled with cold rinse water. It did not take long to realize that I was not going to get a lazy birthday. Laundry day meant that I was suppose to set out the peanut butter and jelly for a do it yourself lunch and fix dinner between ironing the damp clothes as they came off the line.
By the time the dinner dishes were done and the kitchen set right I had decided that my mother was mistaken about giving birth that day. Not so. Just as the last rays of sunshine was setting and the final load of laundry was coming in from the clothesline, I heard mom sending one of the boys to fetch my father. It was time to head for town and the hospital.
All of us older children were waiting up for the news when Dad came home about midnight. We now had a new baby sister that made the count four girls and six boys. I would also forever be sharing my birthday with my new little sister. The biggest surprise of the night though, came when Dad announced that because the baby came on my birthday, my parents had agreed that I should name her. They had decided that one of her names had to be Louise, but I could choose the other name and pick whether it would be the first or middle name.
Having just turned fifteen I decided that rhyming names would be cute and spent most of Saturday with a tablet going through the alphabet adding each letter to my name and checking them in the listing of saints. After much work and lots of thought I finally decided that the only letter that rhymed with Rita and was a saint’s name was the letter “V” and chose the name Vita that I pronounced V-ta. I couldn’t wait to give this information to Father Pezold at mass on Sunday Morning. Father quickly pointed out that Vita was pronounced Vi-ta and told us the story of St. Vita and the disease known as St. Vitas Dance. He suggested that perhaps the saint I had been searching for was actually St. Veda whose name still rhymed with mine.
So that is how my beautiful baby sister came to be named Veda Louise and received me as her Godmother as well. In three weeks on July 7, 2011 Veda will turn fifty and I will be sixty-five. And yes, we will be celebrating together just as we have done each of the last fifty years.
Veda and Rita. Our Birthday photo taken in 2008
Happy Birthday Veda.
I am linking this post to ABC Wendesday
The featured letter this week is the letter "V"
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