Story by Neville Cole
Chapter One: Genesis
In which I expound on my birth among other things.
This is the story of my life to the best of my recollection; which, to be perfectly honest, is foggy at best. I aim to recount this all for you as accurately as I can but to do so I will have to rely heavily on my own memory because very few people who know the truth about me are still around; but what is any history but a collected tale of facts mixed with a healthy dose of legend?
I do know for certain that I was born on October 19, 1963; which according to the Internet was a Saturday. I don’t remember it being a Saturday. Frankly, I don’t remember it being October 19th or 1963 either. These are all things I was told later. That said, it makes sense that I born on a Saturday as Saturday is and always has been far and away my favorite day of the week. No other day is even close. Sunday pales by comparison and Sunday has fine memories of soccer matches, rounds of golf, sublime, extended lunches and, more recently, a new passion, American football; but the Sundays of my youth all began with church which I never could abide and even today Sunday night means Monday is on the horizon and I despise Mondays. Tuesdays aren’t much better. It’s no wonder they say that Tuesday’s child is full of woe. Wednesdays too are never as good as you hope they will be. Thursdays I don’t mind. Any day named after Thor is okay in my book. Fridays I am also quite fond of; but Saturday is king. Saturday still means movies and Aussie Rules and parties. Saturday is freedom.
Being born on October 19, I am a Libra and the fact that I turned up in 1963 makes me a Water Rabbit. I don’t know much about any of this except I am told this indicates I am lucky, horny, and I think too much. I don’t really believe in astrology but in my case this is pretty spot on.
A ten minute Google search also tells me that I was born on the exact same day and year as Prince Laurent of Belgium and Jim Dombrowski, of the New Orleans Saints. That’s not much of a list. On the bright side, it means there is still a small chance that I could one day become the most famous person ever born on October 19th, 1963. I will naturally have to step it up over the next twenty years or so; but at least I’m not trying to compete with John Lennon or Gandhi or someone. I still have a shot.
Speaking of John Lennon, the most famous event that I can find that happened on October 19, 1963 was that the Beatles recorded I Want to Hold Your Hand on that day. This could explain why I ended up a Beatle fan and not a Rolling Stone like my brother.
When I expand my search to include any October 19th in history the list of events gets much more interesting.
October 19, 1216 King John of England dies and is succeeded by his nine-year-old son Henry. Could this explain my love of Shakespeare?
October 19, 1453 The French recapture of Bordeaux and bring the Hundred Years’ War to a close. Of interest because of my English and French roots. Neville is a very English name but means “New City” in Old French. Besides, a hundred years is a long time to have a war.
October 19, 1469 Ferdinand II of Aragon marries Isabella I of Castile and Spain is born. My link to the Age of Exploration and besides, come on, who doesn’t love Ferdinand and Isabella?
October 19, 1781 Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown; American Revolutionary War ends. Foreshadowing of my emigration to the United States, perhaps?
October 19, 1856 James Kelly & Jack Smith fight bareknuckle for 6h15m in Melbourne As a larrikin lad from Melbourne town I can relate.
October 19, 1873 Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and Rutgers universities draft the first code of American football rules. A game I have grown to love.
October 19, 1914 The First Battle of Ypres begins. Could this explain my historical fondness for all things WWI?
October 19, 1977 Supersonic Concorde’s first landing in NYC. Only a few short months after my own first landing in NYC.
October 19, 1987 (Black Monday) Dow Jones Industrial Average falls by 22%, 508 points. 4 times previous record. This was the first of many times in my adult life that I believed a full-blown depression was just around the corner.
More than likely none of these moments in history have any connection with me at all. The point is all of these October 19th events mean as much to me as the day of my birth. I’m clearly not a big birthday person. Possibly because I am pretty certain that I was never really meant to be. My parents never directly said so, but I had to be a mistake. My two brothers were born two years apart; then, after a break of seven years, along comes Neville. I arrived at the worst possible time too. My parents had just opened a business together which had not yet begun to grow. They were way too busy to have another child. Their excuse was that my mother always wanted a daughter; but I have a feeling that idea came along after they realized she was knocked up.
Shortly before I was born my mother was introduced to Christian Science. This one event would influence my life well into my late twenties. It explains my haphazard approach to health care and both my tendency to overthink everything and my eventual total resignation to the whims of fate. I will explain all this in graphic detail in later episodes but for now the important take away is that as a new Christian Scientist my mother was quite determined to link every daily occurrence to something she was thinking.
I am sure when she found out she was going to have a baby she turned to God in prayer and was given the answer that she deserved a daughter to go along with the blessing of two sons. She soon had a name picked out for me. I was to be Cheryl.
On more than one occasion my mother told me the story of my birth and always made a point of noting that my umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck in the birth canal. This she attributed this unhappy accident to the fact that deep down she didn’t really want to have another baby. Her resistance to God’s plan nearly killed me. That is until she fully accepted that his will be done. When I survived strangulation and finally arrived it immediately became quite clear to all and sundry that I was not a girl. My father was so worried about my mother’s reaction that he apologized to her. Of course, my mother’s account of the story always ended with the line: “Darling! He’s the most beautiful baby in the whole world.” But after the sixth or eighth telling of the tale one gets the sense that she was mostly just happy to be done with the whole thing.
All this is not to say that my parents weren’t very loving in their own way or that my childhood was not a mostly happy one; but I relate this all to you because I am convinced that time and place and happenstance are only ever part of the story. Many times the most important thing of all is what goes unsaid.