Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Andy Honey Big Boy (Oh, Yes I Did)

I grew up certain I had a twin somewhere, thought she had been lost, discarded, logic not so much an issue at five. What's your name? adults would ask, and I'd answer Penny or Heidi depending on how recently I had watched Shirley Temple living with her grandpa on top of that black and white mountain. (Strangely enough my twin had no name or names, but I was fairly postive she wore red yarn in her hair like I did and thought Penelope Pitstop the bomb.) My brother was always telling me our parents had found me in a gutter; I am not sure why it never occurred to me that I might be the other side lost in my make believe world where somewhere there was someone just like me.

I was born a sibling. It's a girl!daughter!sister!Susannah! I still have my birth announcement, into the world second born a done deal. In my family, there are three names for boys that are passed down and roman numeralled: Andrews Dimon (my brother, my uncle, my great-uncle), Henry Edgar (my dad, my cousin, my grandfather), and Farish Allston (my uncle, my great-uncle and then some). All of them oil paintings with eyes that follow a room.

There are no names passed down for the girls.

And so it was that I was named after the doctor who delivered me, Dr. Clay whose mother's name was Susannah. They thought it was pretty: Susannah Clay. (At first my name was Amanda, but my parents thought it was too rhyme-y sing-song with Andy. Andy & Mandy, and so I became Susannah without eyes that followed, but dictated by roman numerals just the same, another song entirely.)

As the youngest I have no memory of a time before Andy, born as I was to a mom and a dad and a brother. It trips me out as the youngest/egomaniac/blogger to think of the family before me. Yet as the mother of one considering two I know it is not only possible but very real. Bryan, Zoey and me. We are a family, and maybe, just maybe we will have another one, but if not? That's fine, too, our family not a before but an is.

How can this be when I, myself, am an after?

My brother says he does not have any memories of before I was born. Because I asked. Because I do that. Because I am the baby... when you asked me to write my memories of when you were born, I had to really think about what was truly my memory versus the memory of a memory, the memory of a photo album, the memory of cute stories...

The result was anemic.

I only have one memory that is 100% mine.

I have no true memory of Mom being pregnant. No memory of a pending you.

What I do remember is waking up in my room in our home in San Francisco.

My room had bay windows. The last room to the right. Down a short hallway.

Across the hall, Mom and Dad's room. I remember standing in that hallway
between the two rooms.

But Mom and Dad weren't there. Instead...

When I was seven my brother gave me a stamp he had made of my signature. It wasn't hard, probably, since I practiced my signature on anything that didn't move. Susannah Clay Jenkins, The Only, and I had that little circled R for registered. The only story I know began with my brother standing in that hallway between two rooms.My earliest memories are of yellow curtains, that thick yellow from the early seventies? Shag carpet and Speed Racer, my brother leaning with the curved track on tv. I told on myself as a kid, before Andy could, and I told on him, too. Together we tossed cod out the window and swore that we ate it, splintered doors when the other was on the phone. He gave me his Styx tape, Pseudo Echo the semester after he was an exchange student in Australia. In high school we coasted down the driveway past curfew, and one time? He stopped the car on a busy street and made me walk home. Dick.

One of Zoey's New Year's Resolutions was to "concentrate on how to make a baby." The other one was to learn how to swim, but so far I have only told her about how when a man and a woman love each other very much... Don't tell that story, mom, she said, it's weird.

Today is my brother's birthday and true to form I am telling on him; he is 40. Remember when? he says, or me: who was that woman in Florida that time? As adults we sit for hours and try to piece it together, the hallways and music, the people, the conversations we heard through the heating vent downstairs, where were those yellow curtains? Why does mom do that? he says, or me: does dad say that to you, too? The other side to my lost without red yarn maybe, but following the same trail of bread crumbs just the same. How did he know to give me my signature anyway? Susannah Clay Jenkins, The Only. Not a twin but a sister, a sibling, the youngest, The Only in a family of tenses. My brother now 40, Zoey's resolution has become my own (and I already know how to swim.)

Happy Birthday, dear brother. I am forever grateful we come from the same gutter.


Cindy said...

Loved this one. Made me think of my siblings and my own children and my siblings' children.

Best of luck working on your resolution. ;)


Sarah Ring said...

This was sweet. Happy birthday to your brother!

Shannon said...

Beautiful. Happy Birthday to your brother. May your resolutions come to be and Zoey learn to swim.

Anonymous said...


anita said...

love this post -- thanks for writing.
i too have half-memories of hallways and carpets and voices from downstairs, and being born second - the little sister. (until dad re-married and had another daughter who i can't imagine my life without).
i am glad i have siblings -- who else to hash out half-memories with?
and i'm glad my two boys have each other.
hope you're busy working on that resolution!

mosey (kim) said...

I too knew with absolute certainty that I had a twin.

This is both a lovely tribute to families (and brothers!), but also a sad reminder that my daughter won't have the same experience of sibling-hood. Not that there is any guarantee that siblings will get along... and we three also are a complete family... but still.

Heather said...

So sweet and lovely.

ZDub said...


Happy Birthday, Andy.

Miss to Mrs said...

I am an only child and I ALWAYS wished I had an older brother. You are so lucky! Happy birthday to your brother!

the girL said...

you inspire me to become a better writer and a better sister. thank you

appleTree said...

I was so scared my second kid would screw up my first kid's life and our relationship, but she has only made both infinitely better.

Robin said...

Gorgeous post Susannah/Penny/Heidi. Your Andy and Mandy story reminds me of a woman I worked with whose kids were named Aaron and Erin. They weren't twins; she said it was an accident.

I have a younger sister (by 2 years) with developmental disabilities, mentally she will always be about 12. I feel like our most sisterly times were when I was too young to notice the difference between us, the tie further severed by her need to go to a different school with a better Special Ed program. I was an only child but not really. I do love her but sometimes I have sibling envy. Tell Andy I said he's lucky to have you.

Cathi said...

Loved this! Happy Birthday Dear Brother! :)

Michelle M in KY said...


That photo of you looks just like Zoey...or Zoey looks just like you! Either way, your twin is out there, she does exist, just look at that beautiful daughter of yours. Definitely a mini-me!
So, to the point (and definitely none of my business, although you brought it up) ARE YOU?

If not already...I wish you luck...practice often...and don't think about it too much or it will inhibit everything. I know from experience. I am so hoping for a little brother or sister for Zoey!

Happy Birthday to your brother!

Petunia Face said...

Michelle in KY--no I'm not, and no worries on the asking :)

I am nothing if not a Virgo, a planner, a woman trying to control the uncontrollable just for shits & giggles. So the plan is this: we're pulling the goalie this spring/summer, and then letting the chaos ensue.


Bearden 365 said...

My only child self ached with jealousy while reading this, it was lovely.

Judy said...

Excuuuuse me! No wonder Zoey thinks the "when a man and woman really love each other" story is wierd!It sounds like you may be messing it up a lot. My womb is NOT a gutter! It most happily housed the both of you for the duration. You liked it so much they had to suck you out with a vacuum. Andy decided it was a pretty perfect place and he was thriving in there so well, they had to grab him with forceps and drag him out...all 9lbs 15 oz and
22" of him!

Those two days when you were both born, were up in the top 5 happiest days of my life. And, Happy Birthday, Andy Boy (yes, it's several days late but I DID NOT forget it this year!). We had a great, surprise lunch and then, thanks to the wonderful Morgan, the two of them were off for further surprises/celebrations. We missed you, Ms. Sus...but work waits for no man.

Again in this blog I'll say and your Bro are the best things I've ever done in my life (and by that I really mean "we" because I know your Dad feels the same way). I am in awe of the incredible people you both have turned out to be and I love you both beyond my ability to describe. Andy Boy, may this be the happiest year yet-with every one after just getting better and better (as you are).

I think now we have a better idea of why we had the rat problem-what with you and Andy tossing cod and God knows what else out the windows. I'm learning a lot from this blog-not all of it info I even want. You two are the BEST! Now just keep my uterus out of the gutter and we'll have no problems!


krista said...

'andy honey big boy' has quite a ring to it.

Up Mama's Wall said...

Andy and I shared many a classroom and more than a few kickball games (if memory serves, we both sucked). Happy birthday to him.

kathleen said...

I once thanked my mother for giving me a sister, a best friend, a biggest fan and a soulmate all in one... There is nothing like a sibling.