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of significance to no one but me

1977. Jimmy Carter was president of the United States, Queen Elizabeth II was entering her twenty-fifth year as monarch of England, and the Cold War wouldn’t end for another eleven years. And in a small Oklahoma town, a sixteen-year-old girl ran away from home for the first time.

I don’t know where she went. Maybe she fled to the house of the man she’d lost her virginity to when she was fourteen, who turned out to be gay. Maybe she hitched a ride to Tulsa, and wandered the city streets, thinking through her next move.

After several of these incidents, with the girl sometimes disappearing for days at a time, she was labeled “impossible.” Her parents sent her to live with her aunt and uncle and their two children on the Army base in Fort Benning, Georgia. I don’t know how she got to Georgia, by plane, train, or bus. How many hours or days it took her to reach her new home and new family.

How did she feel on the cross-country trip, this sixteen-year-old girl, shipped out by her parents like an unwanted parcel? Scared? Happy? Relieved? Confused? Maybe she didn’t even know why she was being sent away. Maybe she didn’t care. If nothing else, her destination represented a new beginning, an opportunity—either to start over, or continue her waywardness.

It seems she chose to do the latter, and my mother gave birth to me on September 16, 1978, two months before her seventeenth birthday.

My mother lived at Fort Benning with her aunt and uncle, Sandy and John Christianson, and their two children, Jada and Johnny. She babysat for families on the base for spending money. Sometimes this money was squandered on cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. One family she babysat for was the Rodriguez’s. The father’s nickname was “Chief.” He was Native American and Mexican; the mother was Puerto Rican.

Mom went to high school with Eddie, the Rodriguez’s fifteen-year-old son. Before long they started dating, my mother’s first monogamous relationship. Mom told me that my father was quiet, shy, and had dimples and blue eyes. They went for long walks behind the woods where they lived and just talked, often spending hours laying on a large, flat rock along their favorite path. He wanted to get an engineering degree and return to his mother’s native Puerto Rico, to help the people there. While she listened to him weave fantasies about his future, my mother ran her fingers through my father’s long, wavy hair.

But unlike my mother, who had received a book from my Grandmother Connie at twelve called Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask, Eddie was naïve. When my mother seduced him, how could a fifteen-year-old boy refuse?

My mother says neither Eddie nor his parents knew about the pregnancy. If they did, she said she was positive his Roman Catholic parents would have forced them to marry. However, my Grandmother Connie told me that Chief and his wife did know. And that the Rodriguez’s offered their home to my mother, to raise me as one of their own.

At the time, Sandy was planning the Christianson’s move to Fort Hood, Texas. She gave my mother the choice of staying with the Rodriguez’s or going to Texas with them. Mom did neither. She moved back to Oklahoma to live with Grandmother Connie, her husband Merle, and their five-year-old daughter, my Aunt Edith. My mother kept her baby a secret until she got sick and had to visit the doctor.

Grandma Connie was outraged when the doctor asked her if she knew her daughter was pregnant. Grandma may have been frustrated that her attempts to make her daughter a responsible young adult had failed, or perhaps at thirty-six-years-old, she wasn’t ready to be called “grandma.” Grandmother Connie and the doctor both suggested that my mother have an abortion, but she refused. Mom’s Christian faith taught her that life began at conception, and she trusted that God had a plan for both her and her unborn child.

After I was born, Great-grandmother Millie asked Mom what she planned to name me. Without knowing if her child was male or female, Mom hadn’t picked out a name in advance. Great-grandmother Millie told my mother to name me after her, Amanda Caroline. Grandma Connie said, “Well, you’ve never let any of your children name their children after you. Why the hell should we name a nigger baby after you?”

Great-grandma Millie said, “To be blunt, the baby’s got ten fingers and ten toes, beautiful hair, and Amanda Caroline suits her!” Challenged by the family’s matriarch, Grandma Connie stormed out of the room.

Mom stayed with my grandparents until November. Apparently, Grandma Connie was still upset. To her, there were only two races—black and white. My mother worried that she might try to put me up for adoption. Not only this, but my grandparents wouldn’t help her take care of me. Perhaps Mom had expected to have less responsibility.

So my mother moved in with the Christiansons again when I was three months old. By this time John had returned from Germany and been discharged from the service due to bypass surgery. Sandy took over my upbringing, and my mother was a carefree teenager once again.

12 responses to “of significance to no one but me”

  1. Avatar WreckedUm says:

    I would call it significant. I think. By many of our respective ages, the broad "history" we've book-learned tends to lose it's meaning,-impact,-charisma,-give-a-shittedness, because most of us tend to have little effect on what, how, why or to whom it is written. But, a personal history of an individual you have met, read, spoken with, etc, is more than interesting, it can be, at times, essential. Thank you for sharing this story, and thank you for being the first I have read this month that offered such a detailed personal history. Sometimes avoided, sometimes embraced, our personal histories tend to have a greater impact on who we are than many of us wish to admit. As a sum of our parts, we tend to stand against conflict, scrutiny, etc, as individuals, but to break ourselves down and see where our history touches, experiences we've had, family we've been a part of, it is interesting to see how things may have formed, be it ideas, interests, beliefs, intuition, or actions. The cheese may stand alone, but the cheese's mom and dad certainly had their own stories to share long before the cheese itself was a tear in God's eye. More than world history, I think the history of people we know on a regular basis can offer a greater insight into our present and futures. Thanks again.

    • acbauch123 acbauch123 says:

      Forgive me for being so ridiculously behind in replying to the comments to this post. It's been a rough few weeks…
      I agree with you that for the individual, and perhaps even for the family and community, personal history overrides the "book history" we learn in school. I know that I've learned a lot more about different eras, countries, and cultures from reading and hearing accounts of those who lived it than from anything I ever learned in school.
      Such thoughtful and thought-provoking comments. Thank you! :0)

  2. Avatar McKnight says:

    This is such an interesting story; when is your memoir going to be published?

    • acbauch123 acbauch123 says:

      LOL! You are much too kind, McKnight. :0)
      Well, publishing the memoir depends on how soon I want to get disowned by my family.
      In all seriousness, I've had this debate with myself many times, especially after I finished my MFA thesis, which was a complete initial draft of my memoir. For a number of years, I had the attitude of "If my family wasn't so psychotic, I wouldn't have all of these scandalous, negative things to write about them!" But as I get older, and God has brought much healing about in my relationships with my family, I realize that, for the most part, they did the best they could at the time.
      I know there will come a time when it feels right to pursue that adventure. In the meantime, I am satisfied sharing my vignettes with the world.

  3. Sam Sam says:

    Fascinating story; thanks for sharing it.

  4. Hi Amanda: first off, thank you for sharing this. I think there is nothing more tender or signficant than our birth stories, and all that led up to the moments of our birth. And I have to say I'm very happy for you that you have so much information about it already–or POVs on it, for as you show, there is still so much more to know and wonder about regarding your mother's feelings, decisions, etc. I have always found it difficult to get good information from my family members. Like digging for buried treasure. Sometimes it just reveals itself in conversation but usually it requires work on my part. Digging, digging, digging. And I am the child of a mother and a paternal grandmother who have definitely felt that "less is more" when it comes to revealing personal history. So I hope that you will have continued luck and blessings as you learn and write about your past. Many people will enjoy and no doubt benefit from reading your stories.
    P.S. just came back from Jacksonville last night. Good girlfriend of mine teaches at Florida State College @ J. So wonderful to leave NY and be in the sun for a bit!

    • acbauch123 acbauch123 says:

      First, how amazing that you were visiting a friend who teaches at FSCJ, as I teach and work there too! I do hope you enjoyed your time down here, and you came at the right time–we were experiencing "Florida cold" until about that time, when things started warming up. Where do you live in NY?
      It literally took me years to piece together all of this information from my family, and in all honesty, I'm still not positive it's completely accurate. My mother is a compulsive liar (and her memory has also been affected by drugs and alcohol), my grandmother always tells the stories to make herself look good, and my guardian, Sandy, chooses to not speak of the past, willfully forget the past, or she's incapable of remembering (due to a childhood accident and years of alcoholism). And since I don't know my biological father at all, there's a whole other side of the story I don't know, but hope to one day fill in the gaps.
      It is a process of life excavation, to be certain.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond! :0)

  5. Avatar llxt says:

    amanda, i've read this several times, and–reading it now–after so much of the other posts have "theorized" about history and it's meaning/meaningless, i can't help but think that your writing is often about how important history becomes when you don't know that much about it. i believe that you are working this out beautifully, in life certainly, but also by writing about it. or as stacy says "digging" into it. 🙂 thanks for sharing.

    • acbauch123 acbauch123 says:

      I think that you're right that history takes on a new significance when you don't know much about it. At least this has been the case for me. I have many friends who can trace their families back for generations, and they have little to no interest in this information–they're more focused on the here and now, and the future. Although I understand this, I can't help but be envious sometimes that they can situate themselves in this rich context of life.
      But at the same time, my lack of knowledge has provided a lot of fodder for my writing! :0)

  6. Avatar here says:

    what’s popping grandpa break on there adult dating

  7. I chanced upon your internet site via a review from another law blog and I am satisfied I did. Wonderful stuff you’ve got here… With thanks!

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acbauch123 About acbauch123

Amanda C. Bauch, writer, editor, and teacher, has an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University and is currently working on a young adult novel and a memoir. In her “free” time, she works as a freelance dissertation editor and formerly served as Assistant Editor for Relief: A Christian Literary Expression. Her short fiction has appeared in Tattoo Highway, Bent Pin Quarterly, The Hiss Quarterly, and nonfiction pieces have been published in Writer Advice, Empowerment4Women, as well as two print anthologies, Tainted Mirror and MOTIF: Writing By Ear. She also won an honorable mention in the 2007 Writers’ Workshop of Asheville Memoir Contest and second place in the 2006 Lantern Books Essay Contest. Her viewpoint often derives from her dysfunctional family history, relationships, Christianity and spiritual issues, and random nonsense.

Read more by this author on 30POV .


December 2010
November 2010
On My Honor
October 2010
Witch Hunt
September 2010
If, Then.
May 2010
Small Crimes
April 2010
February 2010
"It's Complicated"
January 2010