I am the youngest of four siblings but they are all half siblings. I have 2 brothers from my dad and a brother and sister from my mom. Growing up I didn’t even think about that we had different parents, they were just my brothers and sister.
My mom and dad tried years to conceive before they had me. I didn’t find this out until I was 15 and I found out in an odd way. My parents were still finalizing their nasty divorce, I was dating a boy at the time that I thought I was in love with, and my mom was treading lightly on egg shells trying to be my friend so I wouldn’t cut her out of my life and run away, which by then I had already done once before. She let Cris (boyfriend) practically live with us, to keep an eye on me I know now, and to make sure I was still going to school. It’s not like his parents noticed or cared. His father was some sort of rich businessman that had divorced from Cris’s mother years earlier. He had a thing for money and mail order brides and instead of burdening himself with raising his son, he paid the monthly child support directly to Cris in cold hard cash. A high school kid with a pocket full of hundreds is a pretty damn popular kid. Cris practically raised himself and did whatever he wanted to. I know now that my mom tried her hardest to keep me happy so she wouldn’t lose me to him and his world. She eventually did, but that’s another story for another time. Not ready to talk about that yet.
Mom had taken us out to dinner. Coco’s I think it was. ( Mom had started to notice that I wasn’t eating as much as I used to. Especially when Cris was around. ) We were sitting there laughing, talking, eating (or me pretending to) when a family walks into the restaurant and stands patiently waiting to be seated. An older man and woman, with a girl a little older than I was. I was assuming their daughter? The girl obviously had some mental issues. When she stood behind her parents waiting to be lead to their table she let out a loud whoop and looked around laughing. Cris and I stared at the family. Mostly I was just mesmerized at the fact that the parents weren’t affected by their daughter’s outbursts. No reaction whatsoever. My mom leaned in towards me and did one of those angry hiss/whispers “STACEY, stop staring!!!” I didn’t understand why she was getting so worked up over this. All I was doing was looking over at them. Not laughing, not pointing.. in fact I wasn’t the only one in the restaurant that was staring. I tried to explain that to mom but she didn’t want to hear it. I had really upset her and I had no idea why.
Later on that night at home mom called me into her bedroom. She was sitting on the edge of her bed by the nightstand with a small folded bundle of papers sitting in her lap. “Do you want to know why I was so upset at dinner? It’s time you heard this” She opened the packet of papers and handed a picture to me. It was a picture of a tiny doll laying in a satin box. There were a few pictures of her, all laying in that box surrounded by flowers.
This wasn’t a doll, it was a baby. And she would have been my sister.
I then was told the story about the difficulty my parents had to conceive. Mom had several miscarriages and one had gone full term. On the 21st of June, 1968 Jenny was only a few minutes old when she died. The umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around her neck and, if she had managed to live the doctor told my parents that there would have been significant damage to her brain. She would have required constant care and most likely wouldn’t have been able to ever care for herself. My parents bought a plot for her in a section of ‘Baby land” in Green hills Memorial Park in Palos Verdes and held a funeral with close friends
Mom kept everything having to do with Jenny in that little bundle of pictures and papers and hid them away from me until that night. They tried another 2 years for a baby and then I was born. Mom said everyone in the delivery room cried and hugged when they saw I was healthy. Years later after mom passed away I found that packet of Jenny’s memories along with the certificate of ownership of her grave. A few times I visited her and brought her a flower. Her plaque reads “Baby Girl Norris”
Mom never had the name she intended for her on the plaque, I don’t know why… and I’ve often thought about buying her a new one.
I understood now though why she was so upset at me that night in the restaurant. She wanted me to see that it wasn’t polite to stare… even though it was out of curiosity it was still rude and unacceptable. That could have been Jenny and to think what my parents would have been going through with a room full of people staring at them and whispering. Those people just wanted a nice evening out with their family getting out of the house and having dinner. They didn’t deserve that disrespect.
Mom and i never went to Jenny’s grave together. I don’t know why, maybe I asked and she declined but I don’t remember. Mom grieved for her up until the day she went to be with her. Months before we had a grief counselor assigned to our family so we could discuss what we would expect as her brain cancer continued to progress. I hated that guy! He seemed more interested in plugging the book he wrote about losing a loved one to cancer than actually helping us through this hell. I asked him if he had ever gone through losing a loved one to cancer and he admitted to me he hadn’t, but he was supposed to be an expert? Mom expressed interest in being buried with Jenny, which we found out wasn’t allowed since only infants were buried there. With mom out of the room my sister and I talked to the grief counselor about this. How would we tell her that we couldn’t honor her wishes? The counselor shrugged and said “Don’t tell her.. she won’t know the difference when she is dead. Let her believe anything she wants”. Well, I would know, and I couldn’t disrespect her wishes. When she passed away we placed her next to her mom and dad in the family plot in Compton.. yes, you read that right, COMPTON.
I have the option to move Jenny to be entombed with mom if I wanted to. I’m not sure if I should though, would that make everything right?