Bought this album years ago and kept it up for a while. Pasted things I cut out from the newspaper. Pasted pictures of my wife. Faded now. Most of them taken after she got pregnant. Here’s one taken one evening on the porch. She’s on the old rocker, talking to our unborn child.
She did that a lot. She’d have me talk too. “She needs to recognize your voice,” she’d say, convinced the child was a girl. Truth to tell, I thought the talking was a bit foolish, but it pleased her…
I bought the album intending to make it our family album, but she died in childbirth, the child with her. A wee girl. What she’d wished for. I told the undertaker not to cut the umbilical cord so her baby would stay close to her in the grave…
My grief was handed to me in one box, you might say. Someday in the not too distant future, I’ll join them and finally have in death what I missed in life, my own family.
Now here’s something in the album I’d forgotten about, newspaper cuttings with pictures of Siamese Twins. I once had an interest in Siamese Twins. Of course that was before surgeons learned how to separate them. In those days, twins who were born conjoined, stayed that way till they died. And an odd life it must have been.
Take this couple. The Barker Twins, Eng and Cheng. They were from Siam, so I don’t know and it doesn’t say how they came by their last name. But it’s obvious why all other conjoined twins were called Siamese Twins. The Barkers were also known as the first Siamese Twins, the first to be famous, at least.
Joined at what looks like–from the picture I have here–the chest and hips, they still managed to marry and each have a flock of children. Eng had eleven children. Cheng had ten. The twins owned a big farm in North Carolina and– not to their credit—owned slaves. You’d think with twenty-one children between them they’d have enough help on the farm. Besides, wouldn’t they know better than most the tribulations of belonging body and soul to someone else? One outlived the other by two hours, still attached to the dead brother until his own merciful death.
Now here’s a picture of “the talented Hilton sisters.” It doesn’t say what their talent was. Violet Hilton is shown “in the embrace of her fiancé, Maurice L Lambert.” When they applied for a marriage license, they were refused in two states because the Hilton Siamese twins were considered “two persons in one.” The poor girls each had a heart and a soul, so how could they be two persons in one? I strongly surmise that the license clerks considered the marriage to be immoral…they had a point.
Only one of the Blazek twins married. She’s shown here holding her baby close while her unmarried sister looks sadly on.
My wife and I were married four years. She had her friends and I had my work…Maybe if we’d known what lay ahead…
~ Anne McGravie, Chicago, Illinois (born in Edinburgh, Scotland)