I was born a poor black child. No, wait that is the beginning of ďThe JerkĒ and while that may be fitting for me (Iíve often been called worse); it isnít really how my life story starts.
My life started with conception. I donít remember the details, which is probably a good thing. Thinking about the entire concept now, and having been on the other side of the birth of four of my five children, I think it is best that we donít remember the details. I have a hard enough time with the entire concept that my mom and dad had (and probably still have) sex, let alone any of the details about it. I would guess that anyone who is comfortable with the idea and the image that it brings up over forty years later needs the help of a good therapist.
My Dadís name is Carrol Joseph Carter, and he was born in a small town in Missouri. Small may be a bit of a misnomer here though. When we went back for a family reunion several years ago, the travel agent wasnít able to find it. We ended up at the T-Roy Motel; 10 rooms, and some of them even had phones, though ours did not. To this day I donít think they have a full stoplight yet in Portageville. They do have four lights, but they are the flashing red variety that are basically glorified stop signs.
Mom was (and donít get me wrong, she still is, just her name changed some 38 years ago) Shirley Raedelle Apple (and I figure that once again, Iíve spelled her middle name wrong. Yes that is a pattern in my life.) She was born in Pueblo Colorado. She met Dad there when they were both going to college, he after leaving the army, she after high school. He beat her out for editor of the school newspaper (having worked on a "real" newspaper when he was young edged out her working on the high school one), she got yearbook editor. She wasnít happy about it, so they ended up getting married. I donít know if that was an act of revenge or not, but when I heard the story she still hadnít seemed to have forgiven him.
Mom and Dad are both Roman Catholic. I guess she wasnít originally, but when they were married Dad simply stated that there werenít going to be any conflicts over religion, so she converted. So whether I was planned, happened, or a complete and total mistake is pretty much a moot point. Go forth and multiply is what the Pope commands, and anyone who would dare to interfere with the process is committing a mortal sin. To quote the fateful Monty Python song, "Every Sperm is Sacred".
So Mom and Dad were good Catholics, and had four children. I was the last. After that they werenít so perfect Catholics anymore, at least in one small sense. Yes, they still attend church every Saturday night (they love the evening mass, allows them to sleep in on Sunday). But I know this because one, I was the last child they had, and two, I once found the "evidence" that they no longer quite followed the popes orders on this one. That is always a bit of a tricky item, not to mention one that can often lead permanent scars on the young psyche (finding the remnants of last nights birth control sitting out on the counter where they forgot about them. Delphin foam, Trojan condoms; they were pretty damn well sure they didnít want to have more.) But I get ahead of myself here.
My parents first child, who had he lived more than three days would have been my older brother, was named Jonathan Andrew. He was their first, back in 1959 (they were married in 1958 (yes you can do the math and there are no "inconsistencies" in it; my sisters and I did it one time for their anniversary card). I didnít find out they even had another child until I was in high school and my oldest sister was taking my dadís freshman American Studies course, and had to write a personal family history paper. It was a surprise to me; to my sisters it was a complete shock. It is amazing the things that parents can hide. They kept this a secret from my sisters and me for eighteen years.
My oldest sister is Margaret Carol. Her name is now Harmon, only due to, once again, the inescapable fact of marriage. She was born in 1960, five days short of tax day. I always want to put it closer to such a fun holiday, which isnít the best way to remember a birthday, but it does work. (Which is why we have computers anyway, to remind us of birthdays and make us appear thoughtful when we really donít have a clue!)
Next up was Norma Katherine. Born in 1962, she was a flaming red head, just like Dad, with the disposition to go along with it. She suffered all the expected agonies of being the middle child, and was sure that we knew about it along the way.
Finally, the momentous day arrived. Yes, on October 9th, 1964, not too many years after the birth of John Lennon, I made my fateful entrance into this world, and at least for me, life would never be the same, probably because I was now part of it. As I said, I donít remember much of this, but then I figure floating in a cramped room for nine months doesnít tend to leave much of an impression on someone, except for reading the graffiti left by those who had been there before.
Most people have stories behind their names; favorite relatives they were named after, momentous occasions or special places (or the unfortunate few whose parents were doing a few too many recreational pharmaceuticals back in the 1960). Me, I was named by my four year old sister; after some kid who lived down the street at the time. She had this friend named Michael down the street, and when I was born, she decided that, no matter what, she was going to call me Michael. Mom and Dad, having already been worn down by two toddlers, didnít even attempt to argue. My middle name is from my grandfather. That is honorable, but I hate it. Not because of him, I only have one memory of him (Sitting on his knee in his old leather recliner. Not doing anything, just sitting. He had a stroke when I was very small, and spent the last few years of his life basically waiting to die.) So while it is nice to have that legacy, I still donít like the name. There is the old expression "Your name is mud". Mine is close; not dirt or mud but clay. So I entered the world Michael Clay Carter, and remain so to this day.