Most writers begin their stories with a hook, scintillating start, or shocking event. [Writing Hint #2: Insert humor or horror.] My birth qualifies for both. Here’s the story pieced together from my mother’s answers to my questions long, long ago.
When I was ten years old, I became self-conscious of a brown arrowhead below the knee on my left calf. My classmates teased me and called it a birthmark. When I asked Mama why my twin sister didn’t have the same mark, Mama replied “Neither of you had a birthmark. You were perfect babies.”
Perfect babies! How could that be? No prenatal care for my mother, already a grandmother the previous summer. Despite my aunt’s midwife expertise, the delivery did not go well. She sent my next-to-oldest brother scrambling to the nearest town to find a doctor, a luxury absent with Mama’s other eight deliveries. My twin and I made our appearance before the doctor arrived. He confirmed the mono delivery, issued birth certificates from scanty information, and departed.
Preemies weighing less than eight pounds combined, we had no hospital care. No incubators to warm us from cold desert nights. No electricity to cool us in the heat of the day. Scarcely enough clothes made for one baby, now worn by two. Without bassinets or cribs, we shared a single pillow.
So identical were we―not a mole, blemish or mark on either newborn―that we were bathed separately; quite an inconvenience for our mother without plumbing in our tent home. One of us wore clothing embroidered with a red French knot to preserve our identities. [Writing Hint #3: This is a red herring because it worked only for our mother who didn’t need it.]
The arrowhead, though faint, is still visible. How and when did it appear? I don’t know. I only know it isn’t a birthmark, because we were perfect babies.
I skipped a suggested writing hint [#4: Crescendo to an arc] because this brief personal memoir weaves a true, but impossible story of survival against all odds during the John Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath era. It is the beginning of a memoir, a sentimental journey for my mother’s great, great grandchildren.