We were born on the same day, to the same mother; same father. Twins? No, not exactly. He was raised purposefully. I, on the other hand, was not. I wasn’t acknowledged because they of course, didn’t know they had me. They couldn’t, and therefore didn’t, see me. I wasn’t a figment. A figment is something feigned, imagined; not real. I was very real, but at the same time, very hidden. He was beautiful to look at and they took lots of pictures. What they didn’t know, was that they were taking pictures of me too. Anyone who could look at him, and not see me, simply had to be blind, especially in retrospect.
Being born in the north central panhandle of Texas was not an ideal environment for self-acknowledgement in the mid forties. It wasn’t an ideal environment for acknowledgement of anything that wasn’t an absolutely normal protestant behavior or characteristic. So when the doctor slapped us on the behind, he started crying, and the doctor announced, “Congratulations! You have a boy!” it meant that I wasn’t going to receive an ounce of acknowledgement, or attention, for a long time. It’s not that I was anymore aware of my presence than he was at the time, because obviously I wasn’t. What it did mean, was that we were both going to be raised as a male child. The male plumbing was clearly the deciding measure of things.
An accurate perception of self is often the most difficult assessment one can make, even in the most nurturing environments. When the environment in which one is shaped, is one wherein the guiding belief is that a child is more a thing to be shaped and molded to the vision of what the parents wish for, than one of guiding the child toward its natural inclinations, failure is generally the result. That isn’t a nurturing environment; that’s a controlled environment.
Spontaneous reactions, for the most part, resulted in sudden and often severe reprimands, followed by what Mom and Dad considered discipline appropriate to the act. A case in point occurred after we had left the Texas Panhandle and moved to Houston. Georgie was less than four years old when Mom announced at dinner that she was taking him to the show that night, to see a “real shoot-em up western.” If you’re very much younger than, say fifty-five years old, you’re not going to appreciate how momentous that announcement was. That was big, I mean really big news, and it was going to be a shoot-Ã¢€˜em-up western. Wow! After dinner Georgie wandered outside for a little after dinner adventure before it was time to get ready for the show. It was getting dark, when Mom hollered out the front door, that it was time to get ready. That’s when he did it. He knew he should wait until he got inside. But no, he just had to do it, right there in the gutter, in plain view of the entire neighborhood and Mom. Ziiiipppp! Down came the zipper and out came “Fred”. (I called “it” Fred. What else is a girl to call that thing?) The sound of that splitter, splatter in the water in the gutter was humiliating, and Dodo was just as relaxed as Fred was. Well, Dodo was relaxed until he heard: “Georgie! You get in this house this instant!” I thought he was going to lose Fred in that zipper it came up so fast. (Not that I would have minded that…it’s just that, well, you know.) I don’t honestly think it occurred to him, up to that moment, that what he was doing was wrong. I’m not even sure it occurred to him that he was doing it. I think he was just saving time. All I remember after that was the lecture he received, as he lay there in bed … without going to the movie.
If what he had done was something he’d been told not to do several times prior to that evening, then maybe being denied the joy of the movie would have been appropriate, but that wasn’t the case. He’d never done anything like that before. That’s just the way most children were raised in the fifties. Undesirable behavior was to be nipped in the bud. Understandably the instincts that came from my part of our soul he soon believed to be something that must be rigidly squelched.
“Dear Mom and Dad”! I have started so many letters in my mind over the years that way, but the intent of the letter was always to find some way to tell them that I existed … that Georgie wasn’t the only person in that body. It’s a phrase that’s rolled around in my mind so many times, that it just comes up out of nowhere, for no apparent reason. I just wanted to be acknowledged and accepted, but nobody had a clue I even existed. I wasn’t even sure I existed. Since camp was supposed to be a time of growth and discovery, I’ve often wondered how things would have gone if there had been a second letter in the envelope.
Dear Mom and Dad,
It’s me. I’m your daughter Georgia. You don’t exactly know me because you don’t know about me. I am here inside of Georgie and he just now found out about me. I hope you like me when you meet me. Please don’t be mad at me for being here. I can’t help it that I have to share his body and don’t have my own.
Your daughter Georgia
There’s just no easy way to break that news is there? It certainly isn’t even possible until the existence of the person is known and acknowledged by the one the body is shared with. I didn’t mean to cause Georgie problems, but I guess I did, since my very unknown existence made it virtually impossible for him to be a normal little boy.
Trying to make a new start is always difficult, but some re-starts are extra tough, because of old baggage we tend to pack up and take with us. What we call “new” is sometimes only the depth of a coat of paint. In Alcoholics Anonymous, that kind of new start is often called “a geographical”. In other words, the only thing that changes is the location. The same old behavior is repeated, with the same old results, because we tend to ignore the hard facts of our lives, until they reach out and slap us down. This move was “a geographical”.
It makes my heart ache when I think of it. So many dreams were left there in the streets, roads, businesses and homes of Durango, which held so much promise at one time. I’ve said it before; hindsight is nothing if not twenty-twenty. I haven’t, and George hasn’t, ever been much of one to spend any time to speak of, looking back and thinking what might have been, but right now it’s an overwhelming emotion. Once again Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again comes to mind. I know things aren’t the same there as they once were, and the people have most certainly changed. With a few notable exceptions, I don’t want to recover the people and things. What I want, is to once again feel the sense of a new life, that we once felt among the pinion, juniper and Gambel pines of the country to the south and west of Durango. A sense of jealousy rises in my spirit, jealousy because George got to feel that and I didn’t, not really.