I needed to be sure Mom knew I existed.

From about the age of five I was afflicted with insignificance in the way that other kids are afflicted with bug-eyes.

I envied the kids that stood out, even if they stood out because their hair was goofy. They must have felt super-visible. I felt invisible.  On the plus-side, I had chubbiness going for me.  People could easily see me coming and going.  I also had blonde and sky-blue eyes. But none of that mattered because I was the Middle Child—destined by all child psychologists to have self-esteem issues, a criminal record, or both.

“Tell me about when I was born,” I begged Mom for the umpteenth time as she tucked me in for bed.

“Again?” She sighed.

Undaunted, I nodded enthusiastically.  To me, my story was way better than any prayer, but I would never say that out loud. No one needed to know how badly I needed to feel real.

“Alright, then…”  My mother knew from bitter experience when I had that look in my eyes, there was no getting around telling  what came to be known as The Birth Story.  So away we went—back to 1957.

I was born Lorna Lee, on a Thursday night. It was cold and my mother was making the best stew of her life, which she never got to taste.  She made sure to tell me that part. I felt bad about the stew, but it’s not like I ate it all myself.  My curly white-blonde hair gave her heartburn for those long, bloaty pregnant months.  She never forgot the heartburn part either.  She gained tons of weight when she was pregnant with me—the most she gained for any of her 3 girls. I got the feeling she didn’t miss being pregnant.

I was a very healthy baby.  That’s the nice way of saying I was plump.  Back in those days, fat babies were hardy and healthy babies; skinny meant sickly. I was very healthy.

“Why did you name me Lorna Lee?”

Another sigh.  Another question I already knew the answer to.

“I thought ‘Lorna’ was an unusual but pretty name.  I only heard it twice: Lorna Doone from the book and Lorna Luft, Judy Garland’s daughter. I love the actress Vivian Leigh and thought ‘Leigh’ would go well with ‘Lorna,” but I did not know how to spell ‘Leigh,’ so I gave the only spelling I knew—L-e-e.”

That was enough to send me off to sleep knowing that my mother would remember I was, in fact, her daughter.

This ritual went on routinely until I was eight years old.  If my mother knew what I was really up to, she probably would’ve framed my birth certificate, hung it over my bed and happily pointed to it before bedtime.

I wondered if all little kids felt this way. But my sisters never asked about their birth stories or, to my knowledge, felt insignificant like me, so maybe only one in three children went through this need to be authenticated on a regular basis.