Show me yours and I’ll show you mine

Waiting in the car

This memory had been lost in layers of time. I only recently remembered it. I would have been around 7 – 8 years old. We had driven to a house somewhere in the country. It was day. Probably late summer. The sky was intensely blue, and the light was bright and squint-inducing.

“Okay, Joe and Anna, we’re going in to pay our respects to Signore Gulfi.” My mother looked into the back seat as she exited. “You and Anna stay here. We won’t be long.”

Anna and I stood in the rear of the car watching the adults (our parents) exit, quietly close the door and look to the house as if there was something foreboding awaiting them.

“Teresa, when did she die? She was so young.” My father always prepped the important questions before such occasions.

“Just last week, Pietro,” my mother responded. “It was so sudden. They had three children. Small ones. Not even in school. Her parents are on their way from Italy to settle here. They don’t even know yet.”

“You mean they’re still on the boat?” My father the interrogator, my mother the fact giver.

“Yes, Pietro.”

“What a tragedy.” Whispers Anna’s mother.

“A tragedy” adds her father.

“What are they talking about?” I turn to Anna and ask. We’re standing in the back, leaning on the front bench seat, watching our parents solemnly greeted and engulfed through the front door.

“It’s Signora Gulfi, she died.” Anna is a few years older than me, and talks cooly, and expertly. “Apparently, they were having sex when she died” she added.

Sex. That is a word I had heard a few times, but its meaning was as indecipherable as childbirth. “Oh …”, I sighed and nodded as if I knew all about childbirth.

“Sex. Is that the tragedy your mother was talking about?” I asked.

“No, Joe, sex is how you and I and everyone got here.” Anna was the oldest child, so she should know about these sorts of things. What did I know about sex? It was not something I would have learnt being an altar boy.

“You know what sex is, don’t you?” asked Anna. I quickly cleared the quizzical expression that had appeared on my face. I tried to sound knowledgeable “Of course I do.”

Anna, as most women in my life, knew better. “Oh, jezzus,” she sighed disappointedly and transformed into the teacher she would eventually become.

“Okay, now listen. You’ve heard that girls have a vagina?”

“A what?”

“A vagina”

“Oh yeah, I heard my mother tell dad that Signora Caruso had a cute angina, but …”

“No, you idiot,” interrupted Anna, “vagina, not angina.”

I was getting lost. “Oh”.

“A vagina is the hole that women have between their legs.”

Long silence.

Anna continued. “My mother, your mother, all women have one. There’s hair around it.”

Long, long silence.  

“Even the nuns at school have one.”

Long, long, long silence. “Don’t think about it. Don’t!” I shouted silently to myself. But there it was. Sister Anthony with a … hairy …. Don’t! Don’t think about it.

There was no stopping Anna. “Men have a penis. You’ve got one between your legs.” Her stipulation of its location made me think that some men may have had one under their arms, or in their shoe.

“Now, when parents want to have a baby, the man puts his penis inside the woman’s vagina, and they get a baby. It grows in the mother’s belly, and it is then removed at the hospital.”

“How ridiculous”, I thought. I looked at Anna to make sure she wasn’t kidding me. She was about to prove it.

“Show me!” demanded Anna, as seriously as a math teacher demonstrating that two plus two equal four. “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

Dear reader, in the interests of truthful recollection, I remember being happy to comply with Anna’s request. Unreservedly. I unzipped and displayed.

“Yes, that’s your penis.” Anna, much later, had children, boys. How unfortunate for them. I often wondered how they felt about their mother’s scientific coolness in all things. “Now put it away.”

“Okay” continued my lesson with Anna. I was interested in seeing the next part. I waited for her to unzip her pants and show me.

In those days, female pants didn’t come with zips out the front. And as I was to learn, there was nothing to pull out.

“I don’t have anything that I can pull out. Remember, I have a vagina.”

I nodded, disappointed.

“So,” said Anna grabbing my hand, “you have to put your hand down my pants and feel around.”

I am not sure what I was expecting, but I didn’t find it. Whatever that was. “See what I mean?” explained Anna.

“Yes”, I lied as I extracted my hand. I looked at it amazed that it had undertaken its first journey into one of the true mysteries (definitely a mystery to me) of life.

“There you go. Now you know where babies come from.”

I looked up as my and Anna’s parents exited the house where the other end of the circle of life finished.

“What did you two do while we were inside?” said my mother as she entered the car. She saw the books we had picked up and were innocently reading. Actually, just looking at.

“Did you learn something?”

“Definitely”, I responded. “Definitely, …. I think.”