On Christmas Eve, the day before I entered this world, my mom was in a bar drinking, chain-smoking and watching a Cowboys game. Warning labels hadn’t been gracing the packs of cigarettes for all that long and I hope that not a lot of information about fetal alcohol syndrome was known at the time; otherwise, I may have to give Mom the stink eye next time I visit her grave.
This was a time before people cared about your “Baby on Board” or about strapping your kid into a seat. (The laws were a little loose when it came to seatbelts.) Miraculously, I managed to survive at least well enough to type and form mostly coherent thoughts.
The story I was told about the moments before I was born was that Mom believed she was suffering from a raging bout of indigestion brought on by a bad tuna sandwich. The idea of contractions never really entered her mind. Yes, it’s nice to know that my mother heralded my birth by thinking it would be a great time to rummage through the medicine cabinet for Pepto. I’m sure that for years after she still hoped Pepto would do the trick when it came to me; that’s what good children do for their parents and I was the best. In fact, I’m also pretty sure in the last month that I was around Mom she said at least once, “you’re giving me a headache.” You’re welcome!
When Mom arrived at the hospital she made sure to get hopped-up immediately on the all the best medication – she was not a person to embrace natural childbirth or pain. I’m sure she would have preferred to be comatose during the time it took to deliver me. Come to think of it, the first thing she taught me before I could raise my head was how to hold my own bottle. You see, Mom was also not much of a baby person. She loved me, but she didn’t see me as a living doll. She wanted me to hurry up and grow-up so we could talk about movies and other things. I was a mini pre-verbal friend who would take a frustratingly long amount of time to reach adulthoot. There are pictures of her (and my) achievement where I’m maybe a month old tops and I’m holding my bottle. Needless to say, breastfeeding was out of the question. While at the hospital, Mom was high on whatever they shot her up with, and at that moment she decided to try an order from an imaginary drive-thru explaining to Dad that he just needed to honk twice to get the carhops to come to the car. Imagine her surprise when those carhops brought me – a loud baby girl. According to Mom, I was in fact the loudest baby in the nursery. WOO HOO!
Fortunately for me I was born a girl. You see, I was named after grandparents and the story goes that had I been a boy, my name would have been Greene Ottis (after my grandfathers, James Greene and Elvin Ottis). Note the double “t’s” in “Ottis”– that means it’s pronounced a bit like “Otter “ or “Snot” rather than “Otis” your elevator – in fact, had I been named Greene Ottis, I’m confident that by the time I reached elementary school I would have been known as “Greene Snottis”, because really how could you not go there.
Mom said it was a joke. Dad claims he, at least, wasn’t kidding. Bullet dodged. And even though I’m not a huge fan of the name I was given, there is some amount of solace knowing at least it’s not Greene Snottis.