History from five perspectives


It’s funny how family stories get told and retold in so many different versions that no one really remembers the truth. As daughter number 1 says, these variations may be “interpreted as you will”. She should know — she’s a direct descendant of two families who are masters at “remembering” events in colorful variations. For some reason, though, she thought only the Steiner relatives did this until my four brothers came through with their own memories of August 11, 1956.

I can’t speak much for the truth of any parts of this story since it so happens that it was the day I was born, and I can recount only what I’ve been told. This I know for sure: I was born at Bluffton Hospital and because we lived down the alley from the hospital, my dad — always one to avoid unnecessary use of a vehicle — carried my mother to the hospital after her water broke while she was hanging clothes on the line.

Okay, that might not be true. Maybe I just think she was hanging clothes on the line because that’s what moms did in those days — pregnant or not. 

I’m going to blame a recent revival of this story on my brother, John, the historian. He came across some records about our paternal grandmother, which led him to remember Aunt Dora and Uncle Dave, who lived next door on Kibler St. Somehow that reminded him of August 11, 1956 — more likely because it was the day before his eighth birthday, as opposed to the day of his baby sister’s birth.

Anyway, this perpetuated a series of e-mails between my brothers, my daughter, and me, followed by a brief comment from our mother. This is kind of how this went:

John (one day less than 8 years old on August 11, 1956): Aunt Dora’s and Uncle Dave’s alley is the one that Dad ran
down August 11, 1956 carrying Mother and Mary to the hospital. Still quite a vivid image in my mind it seems. Do any of the rest of you remember that?

Me (tongue-in-cheek): Yeah, I kinda remember being in a nice, warm, floaty place and all of a sudden, things got kind of bouncy and no longer fun.  You probably have a different visual of that day.

John: My visual is one of the back of Dad running with a horizontal-type package down the alley to the right of Uncle Dave’s house, but with the “package” at an angle, seeing only the back of Mother’s head and feet off to an angle, with me standing with Mary Naas on the other side of the alley from our house. Was this funny at the time, or only later? Then waiting for about 15-20 minutes and Dad coming back down the alley. Was this possible (that fast)?

James (age three in 1956): Mine is remarkably similar to John’s, except I was in the yard of the red brick house (our house).  I first thought Mother was sick, but when someone reminded me she was going to have a baby, I felt confused about how you could be “healthy” but need a doctor and a hospital.  I also seem to recall Dad coming back fairly quickly before disappearing again.  Was he checking on us kids, to be sure Mary Naas had us under control?

Me (tongue still firmly in cheek): Probably didn’t trust the four of you.

Tom (age two in 1956): I thought he had left me in charge, but I don’t recall a single thing.

Phil (at age nine, the eldest): All right, let me interrupt my busy day to clear this all up.  As I recall, we were on the porch swing initially, then probably ran around all over after Dad took off with Mother.  Elaine Naas was there too.  I’m sure Anna Mary was too, since we were still pretty young.  And the picture is still clear in my mind, as is that of Doctor Rodabaugh in his Ford Thunderbird flying down Kibler and squealing around the turn onto Harmon Road a few minutes later. 

The only trouble is I remember a 58 T-bird and even though he bought them as soon as they came out, that T-bird wasn’t around until a couple years later.  I guess that shows how clear my memory is.  I do remember a nice sunny day.
James: Thanks, Phil, for clearing things up.  Of course, Mary, you realize this means you’re not as old as you thought you were, and it also explains why I remember that day so well (I was 5 instead of 3). 

Lindsay (born in 1983 with a Pannabecker silver tongue in her mouth): It’s nice to know that my Pannabecker family has the same tendency towards story “variations” as my Steiner family. Interpret “variations” as you will…

Mother, who must have her own memory of that day, chose not to correct any of us, or even add her own variation, instead simply commented: I love to read the things you remember from when you were “young”.
 
It’s just too bad Dad and Doc Rodabaugh aren’t around to add their own two cents worth. Especially to clarify that question about the 1958 T-bird. Of course, knowing the two of them, we still wouldn’t know the real truth.
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