Well sir, what I had thought was going to be my mother’s annual reminder of the excruciating pain that accompanied my breech birth turned out to be a conversation that explained EVERY bazaar situation in my life!
You see, every year, mama picks up the story with her, daddy, and unborn me barreling down the road in a 70’s-green, Ford Crown Victoria to a hospital in any city other than Vidalia. Being a big fan of the bible, you’d assume she’d take a cue from the story of our Lord’s birth: a little about trip there, a little about finding a place to stay and then … TADA! There’s a baby Jesus! But nooooo, not my mother! Unlike the Bible, which leaves a little wiggle room for storks and cabbage patches; my mother’s account of my birth leaves room for neither.
She doesn’t begin to wrap it up until she gets to the part where she’s writhin’ in pain and I’m holdin’ my ground: one elbow on each of her hip bones with my legs hangin’ out, kickin’ at them doctors as they were tryin’ to pull me out!
Usually, she goes on to tell me how they left there at Saint Joseph’s over night and came back the next day to pick me up. She’s always said it was because I was born yeller – jaundice or somethin’ like that … but, me, I’ve always suspected there’s more to that part of the story. I’m guessin’ y’all’d understand why I would be afraid to ask.
Well, this year she didn’t go into the retellin’ of the ol’ yeller part of the story. We got side tracked and somehow fast forwarded to the part where she brings up some of the bigger “oopsies” I’ve made in my life. At one point, she laughed and said, “Well, who knows. Maybe it’s my fault that you and your brother turned out like y’all did!! I did do that nail thing!”
After a moment or two of deafenin’ silence, I shouted, “I didn’t know nothin’ was wrong with me!! … and what do you mean with ‘that nail thang’!?”
She got all motherly and said, “Awwwee, there’s nothin’ wrong with you. You and your brother just have a history of making questionable decisions. That’s all.” And, slick as boiled okra, she slid right on into answering the other question, “The nail? I’ve never told you about that?”
Well, y’all, come to find out, my born-again, covered-in-the-blood mother and her friends there in south Toombs used to dabble in the dark arts during their child bearin’ years! Before ultrasound, they’d take ‘em a string, tie it around the middle of a nail, and dangle it above their baby bumps. Mama said, “if it went this’a way, it was a boy; and, if it went that’a way, you was goin’ to have a girl.”
Here was a woman of God, my dear saintly mother … describin’ witchcraftin’ on the unborn! I just couldn’t contain my disbelief! I flat out yelled at her! “Good Lord, mama!! Y’all did Voodoo on your who-who … and while I was in … in … in uter-roo!!”
She laughed at me and started backtracking’ a little, “Everybody used to do it … and your Grandmama James was there!”
I just didn’t know how to react! Everything I had ever known to be true about my mother and her mother, my dearly departed grandmother, had been turned on its head! For all I know, they could have been members of the Cedar Crossing Coven! They could’ve been directly reportin’ to that root doctor lady, Estelle, that lived over there near Center Store!
I tried my best to fake-laugh about the whole conversation and was relieved when mama eventually went on to talkin’ about somethin’ else … but I just couldn’t shake it! I realized that I have been cursed from the get-go! And then … suddenly … all the cards began to fall into place. All the strange happenin’s of my childhood began to make sense! EVERYTHING! Especially that day they tried to carry out that ritual killin’ on me at church!
See, one day, ‘bout thirty minutes into the service, everybody just got up and started walkin’ out the church, all-of-a-sudden-like. I didn’t think nothin’ of it. Doin’ church stuff outside wasn’t nothin’ new; we went outside every night durin’ Vacation Bible School to work on them bird houses we were buildin’. So, I just got on up and followed ‘em as they all went to walkin’ down to the pond.
It took the old people a little while to make it down there but, as soon as they did, the preacher went and waded right out into the middle of the pond and picked up his preachin’ right where he had left off inside. He went on for about 5 minutes, ‘bout being reborn and stuff, and then he called out my name! When he did, mama lightly placed her hand on my back and gave me a little shove.
Up until that day, I used to love going swimming. So, that was all the encouragement I needed. What I didn’t know then, that realize now, is that they had pegged me as a “Nail-Curse Child”!! So like a lamb to the slaughter, I kicked off my shoes and went right on in!
Well, no sooner had I got out there, did that preacher commence to go to drownin’ me! He sure did! He grabbed ahold of me by the face and plunged me under!
Maybe it’s some sort of instinctual defense mechanism … maybe it was all his talk of being born again … or maybe they were all right and it was that Nail Curse … but that preacher should have consulted the man that born me the first time before he went to rebornin’ me! Because as soon as my head went under that water … I went to grabbin’ ahold of whatever I could get ahold of: hips, legs, whatever! And then, just like the like the first time I was was born, I went to kickin’ … at whatever I could make contact with!
Now in the pastors excitement over the rebirthin’ process, he was was lettin’ the hallelujahs and the amens fly … but that high pitched “GOOD GOD!”, that was ’cause of me! Well, I reckon he got the message that wasn’t going down that easy … not on that Sunday … because he eventually let up and turned me ah’loose!
And to think … all that because my mama didn’t want to just go with a gender neutral yellow or green for the nursery! If I had the time and y’all had the interest, I could go on and on with the stories of misfortune brought on by that danged ol’ Nail Spell! I just hate that for all those years, I blamed myself my condition! That I lived under the impression that my problems was due to havin’ too much heart, not enough brain, and likin’ to drinky-drank a little too much!!