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Senior scene

June 4, 2011

As time goes by: The evolving process of finding out where babies come from

Where do babies come from? At age 74, I think that I finally figured it out.

My youth was very confusing. When I was 3 years old my mother went "on vacation to the hospital." When she came home from her vacation she had a present for me. It was my brother John Thomas Geerken. I think that he was named John and Thomas from the Bible. The "Geerken" part was a given.

When John entered my life, I had been the "sun" and everything orbited around me. Suddenly a little squirming baby, whose diaper always smelled awful, was the alpha and omega for everyone but me. I was told constantly to be a good example for my little brother. I quickly learned that you avoided being around the cloth diaper pail when they opened it to add another diaper. The smell could kill flies from 30 feet away. "Icky-Poo."

It dawned on me that if John entered my life without warning that it could happen again. With the snap of a finger I had gone from the youngest member of the family to being in the middle. (I had an older sister, Lucy, and an older brother, Fred.) I realized that I needed to understand the process to prevent this from ever repeating.

It was almost beyond my comprehension how this interloper with the little hands and feet who smelled awful and cried day and night could knock me from "king-of-the-hill," down to subterranean status. My mother told me he had "Cow Lick" (Colic.)

I needed information. Where did this howling machine come from? How can I prevent this from happening again? I went to my mother and asked her, "Where do babies come from?"

My mom looked at me for a long time and said something like this: My mother and father were planting a garden and they spread the seeds around and covered them with dirt. The hot sun and a sudden shower helped things along, and one day while my mother was walking in the garden she spied something behind a big head of cabbage. It was me! (Fancy that!)

Well this made a lot of sense because we were discussing planting a victory garden to help the war effort. I had insisted emphatically that we should send all the brussels sprouts to the soldiers "over there."

John was doing pretty well. The cow lick went away and he was sleeping through the night. I was looking forward to the day he would be old enough to be my "gofer." I would once again be the master of all I surveyed.

My mother went and spoiled everything by going on another vacation. This time John and I could wave to her as she looked out of the window of the hospital. She came home and this time both John and I were demoted to second and third place by our brother Richard George Frederick. I have no idea where the Richard George came from but the Frederick part was clearly to honor our father.

It became abundantly clear that I had to do something about this vacation business, because every time my mother took one I slipped lower and lower on the totem pole of importance. I figured out that if I could close the hospital down and get rid of the cabbage seeds I might have a fighting chance to get a better ranking.

Once again I asked my mother "where do babies come from?" and I said that I don't believe that tale about the cabbage plant. Once again she looked at me for a long time and said that there was planting again and there were seeds involved but this time she had carried Richard in her stomach in a special spot just under her heart. I was stunned!

I knew that the cabbage plant was nothing more than a "red herring," although John had on many occasions smelled like rotting cabbage leaves. As much as I wanted to know the truth of where babies came from I was really rocking from the realization that I had been carried in a "special place" right under her heart.

My confusion was made manifold by the process. I could picture being in a "special place close to her heart," but how did I get out? I had observed John and Richard being nursed, but to the best of my recollection I had never seen a door or zipper anywhere on the abdomen of my mom.

Finally it dawned on me. When my mother got sick and tired toting Richard or John around in "her special place close to her heart," she simply threw up and "viola," there we were. Now this made a lot of sense to me having been sick-to-my-stomach and throwing up what I could swear was the kitchen sink. The cool touch of "the porcelain bowl" when you rested your head on it could bring instant relief.

Now, knowing where babies came from was a big start for me finding out how to put a stop to all this baby nonsense. It was clear to me that you had to eliminate cabbage seeds from ever getting to my mother again.

The first time I ever saw a calf born was a true revelation _ my mother had been far from truthful and this sex business was a lot more complicated than I thought.

My confusion was alleviated but it was never an easy process. I recall a warm summer's night when a local lovely told me to do anything I wanted but not to kiss her because she didn't want to get pregnant. I got her home as fast as I could go.

There I was back in the garden planting cabbage seeds!

As time goes by, confusion is lost in the reality of life. I know where babies come from but I'm too old to really care.

A little post script from "the missus": As the father of his own five children, he sure got the formula right, as they are five of the most loving and accomplished adults. They are also the wonderful parents of our nine talented and caring grandchildren _ Diane.

Henry Geerken is a three-time NYSUT award-winner writing humorous articles addressing retiree and senior citizen concerns. Geerken also writes for Sail-World, World Cruising Newsletter. He can be reached by email at 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at

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