I was born the morning following an immense party of incredible magnitude, by far the greatest celebration my parents would hold until Marion's coming-out, still a year or two away. My mother, the diehard society matron, bid each guest a regal farewell at the door while supressing the pains of my imminent entry, and then, as the final carriage rattled off down the road, she clutched at her abdomen, shrieked for her maid and collapsed. |
As several departing guests heard the cry and returned in concern, my eldest sister Marion was mortified to be making teh excuses. As the baby crib was still located in the corner of my other sister, Agnes', room, she was awakened when they fetched it, and being ill was up and peevish the rest of the night. When I finally had the decency to enter the world at dawn, it took two footmen to drag my father from bed, that being the only thing that would awaken him from the memory of last night's revels sufficiently to inform him that he was required at his wife's bedside. As for my mother..well, birth, like most other parts of raising a child, is often far more difficult on the woman.
Thus, at something less than two minutes of age, I had succeeded in being a complete inconvenience and irritant to all four members of my immediate family. The pattern was set.
I wander my home now, looking as a master on the rooms I peeked hesitantly into as a child, and I watch my wife laughing in the parlor and try to imagine my mother in the same chair, with the same smile, and find I cannot. Whatever they had and whatever we have...two very different things.
Marion was the eldest, at fourteen, when I was born, and she was three years younger than an older brother who had died in infancy. There had seemed no chance of another son after Agnes came along, and my advent a decade later was something of a surprise, and one viewed as being in rather bad taste by my father and society in general. I was shunted off to the nursery and complacently and affectionately ignored until, at the age of around two or three, I was discovered to be a charming little boy with huge blue eyes and hair that was then a mixture of butter and gold. Then I must be dolled up and brought down to be displayed for every little party -- with the exception of Marion's coming out, she having never quite forgiven me for being born in the years that should have belonged solely to her -- and thus learned to talk, my nurse having been a pleasant but taciturn individual who, so long as I was healthy and cried no more than experience had taught her babies must cry, troubled herself no more about my development than if I had been a particularly sturdy and stolid breed of houseplant. I don't pretend there was anything particuarly loveless or neglectful about my upbringing -- or, if there was, it was the sort of lovelessness and neglect by which my two elder sisters had been raised with fine results, by which my parents had likewise been raised with fine results, by which all of my acquaintance as I grew would have been raised, and which was best calculated to produce exactly the desired specimen of young England.