Columns share an author’s personal perspective.
Sometime back in the early 1970s, when the drugs and the love were free, my parents decided to conceive me in a cucumber patch.
Well, perhaps I should clarify that statement a bit. I don’t think I was actually conceived in a cucumber field that steamy summer. The man that would become my father held out and stayed strong until one sultry, South Carolina September evening in the Coosawhatchie River, when the fish and crabs stopped biting and the Old Gal seduced him right there in the boat.
If you are a bit taken aback by that story, imagine how horrified I am when the Old Gal comes over on my birthday and shares it with me every year - despite my protests.
“Please Momma, I’m begging you,” I always plead. “Just stop.”
“But that’s not even the best part!” she always continues.
(The Old Gal is a storyteller, which is where I get it from. Sometimes it’s a blessing, sometimes a curse.)
The best part of the story, apparently, is that I was the result of a coin toss. My parents, who were young and full of vim and vinegar back then, were picking cucumbers and zucchini squash when the Old Gal apparently got “inspired” and told Pop she wanted a baby. “Hell no,” Pop reportedly said, but Momma persisted and persuaded, as wives sometimes do. So they agreed to flip a coin right there in the cuke patch to settle the matter.
“Tails” it was. So here I am: a cucumber patch kid.
When do I wear my birthday suit?
My birthday is sometime toward the end of July. I won’t tell you which day for two reasons:
1. You may try to steal my identity. But good luck with that - one look at my credit score and bank balance and you’d bring that sucker right back, with a look of pity on your face.
2. I can’t tell you exactly when my birthday is because even my mother doesn’t know. The Old Gal - or Wild Wanda, as she was known in the 60s and 70s - was familiar with a lot of mind-altering substances back in those hippie, free-loving, bell-bottom-wearing days, and she honestly isn’t sure exactly what day her oldest son was born.
Here is that birthday story:
I lived the first 45 years of my life in total ignorant bliss: I was sure what my government name was and when my official government birthday was on my birth certificate.
Then one day, not too long ago, the psychedelic drug fog of the 60s finally lifted from Mom’s brain, and she began remembering things. Horrible things. Like that boat story.
“You know, son,” she told me on a recent birthday visit, “I don’t think that is really your true birthday. I think you were born the day before that, but I was so out of it from the painkillers that I couldn’t sign the birth certificate until the next day. The more I think about it, the more I am sure of it!”
So every year since that conversation took place, my mother will call me one day before the date on my birth certificate and wish me a Happy Birthday.
I am so confused. My whole life has been a lie.
Another birthday older, wiser
Old men tend to think about life when that birthday rolls around. I usually think about those birthday stories.
Will I ever know my correct birthday? Probably not. So what do I do? I celebrate for two days, much to the annoyance of my wife and kids (they only buy me one cake, though, the cheapskates).
There is something magical about waking up and knowing that today is your birthday, your special day. Sure, it’s a mental thing, a psychological thing, because in reality your birthday is just another day to the rest of the world, but knowing that you entered this world on that date makes you feel just a little happier. That day is YOUR DAY and the world - nay, the entire universe - is smiling down on you right now, if only for one day. Or, in my case, for two days (eat your heart out, wife and kids).
Imagine how wonderfully happy we could all be, if we could trick our brains into waking up every morning of our lives and thinking, “Hey, it’s my birthday” every day, 365 days a year! Why not try?
When I get philosophical like this, I also think about that newly married couple with the coin in the cucumber field. Flipping a coin, in general, may not be the best way to make major life decisions. You wouldn’t want your doctor flipping a coin to decide how to treat you, and you probably won’t see CEOs flipping coins on how to invest millions.
But all too often, when we make decisions in our lives, we are operating out of our limited experiences and inside our tiny comfort zones. If we find ourselves hesitant to make a decision, or to take the next steps in life, it may be because we are afraid of failure or consequences - often to our detriment.
Maybe, just every now and then, it’s okay to flip a coin and see what falls. Maybe it’s okay to let the “heads or tails” decide your next adventure in this world. Sometimes, it’s okay to let fate decide.
But just a heads up, future parents - it’s never okay to tell your children how they were conceived. To this day, I still can’t eat a cucumber or go crabbing and keep a straight face.
Author’s Note: There is no evidence that the Old Gal actually did drugs in the 60s. It just made for a better story. Like I said, I am a storyteller, just like my mother.
Michael M. DeWitt Jr. is the managing editor of The Hampton County Guardian newspaper in South Carolina. He is an award-winning humorist, journalist and outdoor writer and the author of two books.
DeWitt column: The Cucumber Patch Kid
Columns share an author’s personal perspective.