Monday, July 16, 2007

The birth father

Stuck at the border after a whirlwind trip to Vancouver, I read anything I could get my hands on. I had already exhausted my Us Weekly (dang, that Hilary Duff is a hottie) so I idly looked over my dad's birth certificate. A few things I knew: his name, his birthdate. I saw that he was born in "Sodus Township," so I asked if he was born at home. Yep. I asked if grandma had a midwife or any real assistance. Dad replied that it was just grandpa and a rusty knife. He was joking—I'm sure the knife was clean.

Anyway, that sort of gave me pause. The days of pushing out a baby from your home without monitors or meds seems to have gone by the wayside. (And that's a-ok with me.)

But more interesting were two other parts of the birth certificate. One was a column headed "white, black, mulatto, etc." Are you kidding me? I guess there wasn't a lot of diversity in rural Michigan in 1939. Thankfully, this sort of ethnicity classification has disappeared over time. Mulatto? I haven't heard that word since reading a Kathleen Woodiwiss bodice ripper set on a plantation in the West Indies.

And the last thing I saw that made me thankful to be living in this day and age was an area for "father's occupation." Nothing about the mother; her occupation was assumed. My dad's birth certificate is a quaint memento of another time, but as I looked it over, it seemed to me to be a benchmark of how far I—along with the world—have moved away from that place and time. At this point the line, mercifully, started to move.

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