this is the truth, to the best of my knowledge. you can only assume that your parents have accurately provided you with your life facts. that these are not merely trivial pieces of fiction invented at an octagon-shaped plywood table in a mustard-colored kitchen. a story concocted in the hours before you were born. or adopted. or hatched. or stolen from vacationing canadians sucking down orange juliuses in the apache mall food court.
"but won't she always wonder why great grandma calls her christy?" my three-year-old brother asks.
"silly boy," my mom responds. "even infants know that old people are senile. now eat your cream peas on toast and be quiet."
i began questioning my life story in grade school. my brother and i had matching christmas stockings which we hung on our door knobs in anticipation of loot. wham! tapes and thick candy canes. love's baby soft perfume. his said "[brother pista], 1972." mine said: "christa, 1974."
"why does mine say 1974?" i asked my mom.
"it's a typo," she said.
but was it? someone -- a relative or a family friend -- had knitted these stockings as gifts. a few arduous days wrapped in yarn, a pattern spread like a map on the couch. bob barker on the tube. counting backward on her fingers to determine the year. a 4 was made instead of a 5 and this person just cocked her head, frowned and thought: eh, close enough. it seemed unlikely.
it became obvious to me that i was actually born in 1974. that my parents had lied. hidden all of the evidence, but forgotten this one single piece of contradictory proof.
but why? in those days i watched enough of the young and the restless to realize i had probably spent a year hospitalized, in a coma. instead of explaining my lost year, my parents pretended it never happened.
or maybe i had been born without skin, my organs exposed like the fluffy innards of an inside out tube sock. or the non-pregnant cow that went into false labor on "little house on the prairie," and gave birth to its own uterus.
perhaps they worried that i was retarded. an extra year of incubation would give me time to become unretarded, so i wouldn't be mocked by the cruel afternoon kindergartners of harriet bishop elementary school.
so be it. in the end, i was glad to, hypothetically, be "born in 1975." i could have never survived among the people a grade ahead of me. they would have mocked me for not being retarded.
i've always had a bit of an interest in astrology. i'm not rabid. i don't, like, have my sign tattoed on the small of my back or anything. but i'll read my horoscope. and if i am in love with you, i may read your's, too.
i am told that i was born august 31st. this would make me a virgo. this is what that means: modest and shy; meticulous and reliable; practical and diligent; intelligent and analytical; fussy and a worrier; overcritical and harsh; perfectionist and conservative.
either i was born upside down or i simply am. not. a. virgo.
modest: my favorite photo of me a picture of my own ass with a purple globe-shaped bruise marring my right cheek.
shy: yes. for about 9 years of hugging my mom's leg and leaving slumber parties at 10 p.m. but not since then.
practical: uh ...
diligent: i am unfinished projects personified.
intelligent: i prefer intuitive. i can read your mind, but i can't find pennsylvania on a map.
analytical: nope. creative.
fussy: i've chewed gum that i dropped on the sidewalk.
worrier: let's go with avoider and compartamentalizer.
the one seed of doubt. the inkling that maybe august 31st is my birthday: this means that, potentially, i was conceived on new year's eve. and this explains way more than my sign.
rarely in my little life did any member of my family call me "christa." there was "christy" from the aforementioned great grandma. my brother, and subsequently all of his friends, called me "chrissy." my parents went through a long line of nicknames that segued into new nicknames that gave birth to other nicknames. it went like this:
in fifth grade, mr. k called me to his desk and handed me a permission slip in which my father had spelled my name: christia.
"what is your real name?" my teacher asked.
"uh. christa?" i answered. duh.
"why would your dad spell your name wrong?" he interrogated.
"he's a bad speller?" i suggested.
mr. k seemed suspicious. no one was a bad enough speller to spell his daughter's name wrong. frankly, i was a little suspicious, too. it sounded like a lie to me, the speaker.
coincidentally, my high school cross country coach always called me "christia." possible that he was involved in the great untruth called my life all along?
recently i spent time walking among some canadians*. i love canadians. i immediately felt at home and forged easy friendships with these canadians. they loaned me a canadian cigarette and then we laughed about the surgeon general-like warnings on the pack: the charbroiled heart muscles, the lungs recoiling in sooty terror, the child in utero inhaling the turkish blend. skulls and cross bones printed on the packs.
ho ho ho, those kill me, i said to my new friends.
we all laughed.
have you ever seen the canadian public service announcement against domestic abuse? i asked.
ho ho had they?
we all laughed.
these were my people. laid back folk with lengthy vowels. a man who claimed that he liked jack daniels, but he liked his brother jim beam, too. they told me stories of stumbling about their funny little country. we laughed at the snow. we mocked fashion.
i don't know what all of this means. my name, age and nationality are nothing more than a spurt of creativity? or am i expected to believe this is all the unlikely truth, brought to me by the same people who insist my brother was an immaculate conception?