This is not a Country Song

January 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

I was born the day George Jones married Tammy Wynette. It was the Sunday after Valentine’s Day, February 16, 1969. It was years before the D-I-V-O-R-C-E. It was long before He Stopped Loving Her. I imagine that as my parents brought me home from the hospital, nestled only in my mother’s arms in the front seat, my three older sisters squirming in the back seat, some dj sent one out to the Possum and his newest bride.

My parents were not hippies. If they recognized anyone as a hippy in 1969, my mother probably said, “He looks like he needs to take a bath.” She said this about people on several occasions during my childhood. Bathing, hairspray, makeup, and bras were the touchstones of her world. She had gone to beauty school for six weeks in New York, after all. Tammy Wynette, a licensed cosmetologist, blonde by choice, was someone my mother could relate to. George was a star, handsome and dangerous. He was her kind of man.

My dad spent too much of the sixties studying or working in hospitals to get involved in any counter culture. He wanted to bring his new and growing family up and out of the mountains he and my mom came from. They wanted what the hippies were leaving behind. Maybe “I’ll Share My World with You” came on the radio as they drove their fourth baby girl home. Maybe my dad put his long arm around my mother’s small shoulders, careful not to muss her bouffant. She was definitely Standing by Her Man.

In November last year, my sisters and I went through my Mom and Dad’s things, even the notorious White Suitcase: a sixties era vinyl suitcase that held all of their important papers and photos. It has survived many tragedies, including a house fire. In it, my sister discovered both my mother’s and my hospital bracelets and a hospital portrait of me on the day George and Tammy wed. I had never seen it before. I wasn’t a beautiful infant, apparently. I was what my husband calls a “squash-faced baby.” He tells the truth about such things. Another thing my sister found was a card that referred to me, newly born, as “Tuffy.” I earned this name because my Mom was in a car accident and had an appendectomy while pregnant with me. My birth was the stuff of country songs. I was determined to get here and jump into the chaos of a family George and Tammy could relate to on their wedding day: hopeful, but certain to find trouble, always cruising down the highway toward some bigger dream, knowing it was going to get better down the pike.

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