A Southern California Life

22 Sep

This is the first of a series of  installments by Marlene Duckworth.

My earliest memory of what I was told about my birth was that my mother had two abortions before my conception, and finally my father’s sisters sat her down and told her not to go through that again.  They told her to go ahead and have a baby and they would always be there to help them out.  I should mention that this was during the Great Depression and my parents were living on the beach, actually on the sand, in a small community called Sunset Beach on the Pacific shore.

It was a very different world than today where you can get help with unwanted pregnancies, either by an abortion or with an adoption through some government or religious organization.  Also, couples took seriously how they would support a family.  There were no pills to prevent pregnancies. Even if there had been, there was no money available to buy them.  One thing the anti-choice advocates seem to miss today is what happens to the newborn child.  All their great concern for the fate of the fetus disappears when the baby is born.  Then he/she is on their own.

So I am an only child and I guess lucky to be here to testify that life in those days was not some cut and dry decision on what to do with unwanted children.  I am not condemning my parents–I probably would have done the same thing.  They were great parents and I knew they loved me, but life does not necessarily conform to how the outside world thinks things should go.

At one time my folks and two of my dad’s sisters and their husbands were living in my grandparents little one bedroom house on their chicken farm in Arcadia.  My mother would get the giggles at night because of the many different octaves of snores she would listen to–everyone in the family snored.

My grandfather invested in the chicken ranch — they called it a ranch then, even though it was only two acres — when he retired from NBC, that is, the National Biscuit Company.  The City of Arcadia offered a deal to anyone who wanted to settle down there, at the base of the Sierras on what was once a part of a large Spanish land grant. My grandfather, who died before I was three, loved his chickens and named many of them.  As a result, he could not bring himself to kill them and would hire someone else to do the dirty work.

David Duckworth, Untitled. Graphite on Bristol paper, 12 x 9 in.

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