On the first day of April, 29 years ago, I was privileged to meet the little booger who’d been keeping me awake night after night for months on end with swift kicks to the ribs. He was a stubborn one, that little booger. First, he was two weeks late of arrival date. In fact, so rotund I was with child, as Momma and I were walking a crafting show a few days prior to the 1st, a man running a booth asked me when I was due. When I told him a week ago, he politely asked me to exit his area for fear he’d have to deliver little booger. Pox on you, sir! I didn’t buy anything from his booth. Then when the big day finally arrived, little booger prompted a C-section in the wee hours after refusing to make an appearance within a reasonable amount of time. To this day, now big booger, is a stubborn one.
Being as my due date was mid-March, I never dreamed I’d have an April Fools’ baby. In fact, I don’t believe it crossed anyone’s mind at all. Even when I missed the due date and went into overtime, no one ever mentioned, hey the 1st is coming up. My sister, however, and without the thought in mind I might be giving birth to a child on April Fools’ Day, being still in high school at the time and not one to be caught looking anything less than stellar, began a ritual about a week before the due date. She would come home from her dates with her beau only to freshen up her hair-do and reapply her make-up. Then she’d go to bed and lay on her back stiff as a stick all night. After a few evenings of this ritual, I asked her what in blue blazes she was doing. She calmly explained to me that she figured I’d go into labor in the middle of the night and damned if she was going to the hospital with me looking haphazard. Well, okay! I always wondered what she might think I’d be looking like by the time the big event came to pass.
You might be asking yourself at this point, what was I doing living at home at 20 years old and nine months pregnant? In truth, I was a soon-to-be single mom who’d had to come home asking for help and shelter in the storm because the boy who’d helped with this situation turned out to be useless and abandoned me. While in the early nineties, being a single-mom didn’t carry such the stigma that that status would have a couple of decades prior, the fact that single motherhood is by no means easy still remained and does so even to this day. The rejection that oftentimes comes with it doesn’t help matters at all. Strong as a woman may be, and determined she can do it on her own, rejection hurts.
More on that conundrum in a moment. Let’s go back to my sister and her ritual. On the evening of March 31, it seemed my sister had given up on me having little booger at all. I’m not sure what she thought would happen, but I’m pretty sure she’d decided I was never going into labor because she came home from her date with her beau, removed all her make-up and didn’t reapply it, and she brushed her hair-do out. She went to bed and not a half-hour later, I was up walking the floor wondering, is this it? Finally? I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, so the little twinges I was feeling didn’t seem at all enough for what other women had described to me labor would be like. Nonetheless, I pecked on my dear sister’s door and alerted her to fetch Momma as I was pretty sure we’d be on our way to the hospital very soon. Her response was something akin to: “Oh, ha ha. April Fools’!” And she started to roll back over when I vehemently insisted that I was not joking. Then she asked me, “Are you joking?!” (Just said I wasn’t? No!) “I finally take off my make-up and now you decide to do this?” (Again…not joking. This is NOT a test!)
An hour later a local cop followed my dad into the hospital parking lot with his lights on. He hopped out of the car and proceeded to make his way to our car then took great pause when I and my enormous belly rolled out of the front seat and stood glaring at him. My dad told him he might give him a speeding ticket but he’d do it as he followed him to labor and delivery. The cop backed off with a warning then attempted to ticket my sister and her beau as they were right behind us in the beau’s car, to which my future brother-in-law gave him the same spiel my dad just had. He also escaped with a warning.
Six hours or so later, I met little booger. When he was seven, I met and married a man who accepted us as the package-deal we were, loves us with his whole heart, and was the man who raised little booger as if he was his own. He was the complete opposite of what it had been to be rejected.
And I have come to believe that this major life event filled with a cornucopia of emotion is where I get a good deal of my empathy for my characters. I’ve found and given romance to my characters through and against all odds, in spite of past hurts and rejection. I’ve given them the support they need in times of trouble, and I’ve shown them that love conquers all, even abandonment. There’s a great deal to be said for life experience as it pertains to storytelling. Experiencing something first-hand lends to being able to convey with all the senses the reality of a situation. By giving something of yourself, you can take your reader into the moment in technicolor. Knowing what it feels like to be rejected then redeemed gives me a special insight into what my characters are going through in similar instances. My female leads are strong women, who believe they can and so they do, but they also need support when it counts and finding true love never hurts.
Happy birthday, booger! I wouldn’t change a thing, and am grateful for all the life’s lessons you came with, the greatest of which was the lesson of having and giving empathy, compassion, and love.