So, if you read “America’s Post-WWII Baby Boom” post, you have the background about my baby boomer generation and the lives and times of the parents who conceived us. However, absent from that post was the question that I first googled that prompted that article and this one. My original question posed; “How many baby boomers were conceived out of wedlock?,” to which I found no specific answer. However, I did glean this from PBS: “Most pregnancies in unmarried women were rapidly followed by marriage when the pregnancy was discovered (demographers refer to these as “bridal pregnancies”). ” And here’s where my funny family history story begins!
Many of my posts about my parents include their history of meeting at ages 14 and 15. This is very true. What was absent from those posts is the fact that my mom’s parents and brother did not approve of my dad. Racial and ethnic biases were ever-present in the early 20th Century and, of course, fathers and brothers were ever-vigilant in the matters of “suiters” of the female family members. In short, they thought (wrongly, but who cares anyway), that my dad was of Italian descent and his family, or lack thereof, was not good enough for my mom. As the story goes, mom and dad decided to get pregnant so grandfather, Roy, and uncle Johnny, would have to agree to their marriage. But, grandmother, Loretta, also had a hand in the scheme. She had them change the date of their anniversary celebrations so that the family and their children could avoid any stigma or embarrassments about a “bridal pregnancy.” So, for 72 years our parents celebrated their wedding anniversary in February instead of July! But, this is just the beginning of the story. You see, my dad back in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s asked me to help him type up a government standard form 171 application. And when we came to the date of marriage question, I typed in 2/5/1946. He told me to hold it, that that’s not right. I said; “Dad, it’s February 5, 1946! what’s the matter with you?” He replied; “No, it’s not! It’s July 5!” He then sheepishly grinned at me and I looked at him and that’s how the story first leaked out to me. We both laughed and he made me promise not to tell mom, my brothers, or any others. So the story remained our little secret.
Fast forward to 1992 and my youngest brother, John. He and his fiance decided they wanted to get married in the same month and day as my parents. It would be a good omen to their marriage. So, 46 years later than my parents, they departed for the Bahamas and exchanged their vows on February 5, 1992. And further, my brother John got a tattoo on his forearm just like my dad had done. It was two hands holding a heart in the middle of them with the date 02-05 also inscribed. Still, no one “in the know” broke their silence about the family secret being kept.
Fast forward yet again, this time another 26 years to July 5, 2018 (my parents real anniversary date). The day my mom passed away was my brother Frank’s 60th birthday (March 16, 2018). Our family had been anxiously awaiting Resurrection Cemetery’s placement of her grave marker so my dad could visit her for the first time since her passing. Resurrection Cemetery confirmed to me on July 3 that the marker had been placed on mom’s grave. I decided I would go ahead of any other family members to get a sense of a first visit encounter and the marker. While there, I took pictures of the marker and the area. On July 4th, I sent a group message with the picture to say that dad was prepared to visit mom on July 5th and that I was worried that this visit on this date may be even more emotional for him to handle in his already frail health–and I added that July 5 was their actual wedding date in 1946.
The next morning, I received a phone message from my brother, John. In a very stern voice, he says; “Joanne–I have a couple of questions for you, please return my call when you get this!” Well, obviously, the secret was out, and my brother, although laughing about it now, wanted to know why dad let him go ahead with his marriage on a date that wasn’t their real anniversary! And, then, there’s his tattoo that he got to honor mom and dad’s marriage. Well, no one knew that he was tattooed or what it was or represented until after the fact! This means he just has to think differently about his tattoo and remember it now honors his wedding date!
It’s been 72 years and counting when this story began. And our American culture has long since dramatically changed–Many cultural changes, in fact, were brought about by the baby boomer generation–living together before marriage; having children before marriage; remaining single and bearing children; not giving up children born out-of-wedlock; and families remaining together and embracing those children without fear of recrimination.
For me, there is no embarrassment because my parents love of family and each other is one of the greatest love stories ever lived. For my younger, brother John, however, he feels the joke was on him! And I’m okay with that (ha-ha)!