I recently spent some time flipping through my baby book. It’s been quite enlightening.
The best part about the baby book is that it is written by my mother, who passed away in 2007. There are no home movies or audio recordings of my mother, so these words, scrawled in a baby book decades ago, are the last that I have of her. Reading them makes me wonder what her life was like back then, when life seemed so full of hope and expectation, and it breaks my heart to think that by my seventh birthday, which is when she would stop writing, her marriage was falling apart and she was finding love with a man who would ultimately ruin her.
Sometimes I think that my mother lived two entirely different lives: a life of simplicity, intellect, and vigor with my father and a life of guilt and regret and spoil with my step-father.
But I also know that you can never know another person's marriage, so my idealized version of the life that she had with my father might be just that.
Nevertheless, there are many times when I wish that I could find a way into the past and warn my young mother about the awful repercussions of leaving a man who loved her.
I am sometimes so angry with her over the life that she wasted in so many ways.
But then there also are times when I smile, like this morning, after reading the list of Prominent People from the page in my baby book labeled Headlines on Baby’s Birthday. My mother listed four people who were prominent in the news in February 1971, and I’m not sure whether she intended this list to make me laugh or scratch my head in bewilderment years later. The list:
Ralph Nader, who at the time was a well known consumer advocate and burgeoning political figure who had announced his first run at the Presidency in 1971 and who would later be blamed for the disastrous election of George W. Bush after taking votes away from Democratic candidate Al Gore.
Charles Manson, the mass murderer who remains in prison to this day.
Lt. William Calley, a convicted war criminal who was responsible for ordering the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam in 1968.
Richard Nixon, the only President to resign from office following his role in Watergate
A mass murderer, a war criminal, a shamed US President, and the man who helped George Bush ascend to the Presidency?
Was my mom clueless as to what belongs in a baby book, or did she share the same spirit of dark humor that I also have?