Through Any Given Door

1.21 Where Babies Come From

1939 • Watsonville ~ Our house was right on her way home from the grammar school and Marceline (Uncle George and Aunt Verda’s daughter) loved to stop off and visit mom. Marceline held Babe in high esteem, elevating her to a kindred spirit and favorite aunt. She thought our mother a much better mother than hers: Mom wasn’t as proper and strict as Verda, didn’t fuss about what the house looked like, didn’t care if her kids ran wild, didn’t give a whit about going to mass. She also talked to her niece about anything that she wanted to talk about.

Day family: George Jr, Jimmy, Aunt Verda, Marceline, Uncle George in Watsonville, circa 1939

Day family: George Jr, Jimmy, Aunt Verda, Marceline, Uncle George, Watsonville, 1939

Eleven-year-old Marceline was there so often she seemed to be part of the furniture. One warm afternoon she quickly tripped up the porch stairs just as Aunt Babe woke up from her daily nap on the chesterfield. Babe hadn’t been feeling well, and when Marceline asked why, she confided to her young niece that she would have a third child soon.

Marceline was crazy about babies, and wanted her parents to have another one, too. She loved taking care of Carleen (Marceline was six years older to the day), and wanted more than anything to have a little sister of her own. It had been on her prayer list forever. She’d asked her parents, but they’d emphatically said no, they couldn’t. Left to her own devices, and thinking hard, she worried that perhaps they didn’t know how (disregarding the glaring fact that she already had two older half-brothers and one younger brother, not to mention herself).

Marceline had all kinds of questions for her Aunt Babe: “How did you get Larry and Carleen? How does the baby get in the tummy? How does it get out?”

So my mother—being Mother—took a drag off her cigarette and told her.

At dinner that night, Marceline, beside herself with excitement and thinking they could use this information, explained the process pretty well to her parents­. Levitating from his chair, George exploded, both fists slamming the table. “Cheesus.H.Christ! Goddamnsonuvabitch! Jesuschristalmighty! Who in the goddamsonuvabitchinhell told you WHERE BABIES COME FROM?”

“Aunt Babe,” said Marceline, her blue eyes brimming with tears.

“Now George,” soothed Verda, trying to calm him down. “Babe was only …”

George glared at Verda, “Your goddam sister …”

In high dudgeon, he grabbed Marceline and Verda by their arms and marched over to our house, bounded up the porch, pounded on the screened door, stormed in, and bawled his sister-in-law out royally for taking it upon herself to inform their daughter of life’s private details.

Jabbing his finger with fury towards Babe, he ranted, “You had no goddam business talking to Marceline about this, especially at her age! That’s our job, goddammit! What in the hell were you thinking, and why for chrissakes do you think you had the right to do such a goddamn foolish thing?”

The women in my family don’t mince words, which is unfortunate as it would make them so much easier to eat later. Babe simply looked at him, shrugged, and said, “Well, she asked me.”

Betty Clemens

That December my sister Betty, the third child in our family, was born. And possibly as a result of young Marceline’s coaching, Marceline’s own much-wanted sister Judi was born almost exactly a year later.

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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Comments

  1. Jill Hicks says:

    Oh Catherine love the story can’t wait to read it to my mom she will get such a hoot out of this. I think every parent does the best they can and that subject is definitely a tough one but you only know that if you are a parent. Really, that is the best story I have heard in a long time I wish I would’ve known or could’ve known my grandpa, he sounds like my kind a guy!

  2. No one ever told me… I must’ve heard it through the grapevine. To keep one of the most important facts of life a secret is a criminal act!!!!

  3. Jim Chatfield says:

    You always do a good story and it was just that way back in the 30s and 40s. The indignation, the tempers on certain subjects, and hurt feelings when a situation happened.

  4. Jean E. McQuady says:

    Envious of all the history you know about your family. My parents barely shared any information about the past.

    • My parents shared little, and if and when they did, I wasn’t listening. All of this is from others in the family whom I interviewed. I was on a mission, and this is what came of it. Who knew?

  5. Sharron Kennard says:

    I can remember asking my grandmother what the farm animals were doing when they were locked together in what looked like mortal combat. Her relply, which satisfactorily answered the question, “They’re making babies.”

  6. Todd Mangini says:

    Grampa Day was terrible at shaming Marceline – my mother. There are many stories I have heard where his reactions were so hurtful and shaming from her perspective. One time she was playing a fun game of football with the neighborhood boys, something she had always loved to do because she loved competing and fighting, not a lot of opportunity for girls in the 40s who liked to experience that. Grampa Day was moritified because he thought she was a little too old for that. She was called inside and told she better not do that ever again – it was unladylike and disgraceful!

    • George Day (your grandfather) was my dad’s best friend. I have a sense they were similar in many ways. My dad wasn’t a shamer, but there were many things he could not bear, and any conversation around sex was one of them. It was his house of cards that nearly brought ours down.

  7. This may be my favorite piece yet! I laughed out loud at the end. Being a sex education teacher for many years I can truly appreciate telling the story of where babies come from.

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