Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday to the USA (and Me)

On the evening of July 3, 1941, 32-year-old Red McLaughlin was earning a little extra money for his family, having been temporarily deputized to help police the carnival that was in town for the holiday. At home was his very pregnant 25-year-old wife, Rose, her sister Elsie, and their two little girls, Terry, who had just turned four a few days before, and Grace, who would turn three in just a few days.

Red, Rose, Grace, Terry, and the new
baby Michelle (the glare from the white
wall almost rendered me invisible).
Rose was feeling the beginnings of labor pains. As the evening went on, she knew it was time to go to the hospital. Not having a car, Elsie walked to the carnival grounds, found Red, and they returned home. While Red took Rose to the McHenry Hospital, a large frame building that had probably once been a home, Elsie stayed with the children.

The third child of the family was born at about 8 a.m. on July 4, 1941. Having two daughters, Rose and Red had hoped for a son to be named Michael. Since I was a girl, I was, instead, named Michelle. (And, I must note, I never felt that my parents were disappointed in me for being a girl.)

Rose and Red had tried to prepare their little girls for the coming addition to the family. They talked about the "wee little baby" that would be coming to live with them. In this preparation, however, Terry had not understood that getting the wee little baby would involve her Mama being gone. She was asleep when Mama left for the hospital. When she woke the next morning and went to crawl in bed with her Mama, Mama was not there. The fact that Aunt Elsie was in the house was no help. The center of her universe was missing. She never forgot the shock and dismay she felt at finding Mama missing--and then she learned it was because of that wee little baby! She was, therefore, somewhat less than thrilled about acquiring a new sister! (I learned about this view of my birth when we were visiting one 4th of July when we were middle-aged women--she never threw it up to me as children.)
July 4, 1947.  This collection of children includes some of our family, some
cousins, and some neighbor kids! Back: Grace holding Billy Tyrrell,
Timmy McHenry (my good buddy), Michelle, Darryl Lynde, Kenneth
McHenry.  Front: Brownie, Pinkie, Bobbi Mackey.
My sixth birthday.

It was always fun having my birthday on Independence Day. When I was a child there was always a parade on July 3, as a kick off to a two-day rodeo held at the Fair Grounds by the Rock Pile. There would be a carnival in town, and we would have firecrackers and sparklers (which were a lot bigger and longer lasting than the ones sold now). Often we would have aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins in town for the festivities. What a great birthday!