I hold no canon, no interest in theism, astrology, numerology, any mysticism. I witness only an existential logic to this life. Accordingly 55 years late my certificate of birth arrived today.
Keen affirmation yet, it doesn’t resemble my children’s birth certificates. Appropriately my birth is certified by abstract. This brings wicked joy. No doctor spared time to certify, lest attend my birth in that squat three-room working-class row house. Some years later Herr Doctor Michael Lutter was tasked to certify me “legitimately illegitimate” from said event; sufficient declaration to gain passport under name. A legal obligation for my de facto transport.
Perhaps a thank you is in order for that anonymous neighbor tipping authorities to the fact a baby was born in that house and now he’s gone, alluding to even more unholy transaction. Maybe neighborhood NAZIs have their place, an extralegal purpose, if not a moral order.
The intrigue brought attention to my illegal status and migration to France. Prompted, authorities acted. You know, as my father’s Commanding Officer said, “you can’t just take a baby, Sarge”.
Really all nonsense, yet to me, certification has gravitas in the Christian World. Surely not as much in the Second Millennium but, I hold it like the winning lotto ticket it represents, even if less cathartic half a century later; my fittingly strange baptism of paperwork.
I have also an ornate, fading naturalization document I received in some State-side WPA era concrete Federal building. My passport due to expire, my newly retired father balked at submitting annual alien registeration. A quick elbow to the ribs, a gesture to stand, raise a hand and in a blur, the words from a robed old man recited by those, who likewise held a right hand high, his problem solved.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that document. Though there’s confusion etched on my face, innocence shines in my eyes.
My shirt says ragamuffin but I was a cute kid, never understanding why my new American classmates called me “funny face” and “Nazi” incessantly, as they spat imaginary machine guns at me, even though the document certifies “United States of America”.
Thankfully, my parents made me comfortable with this illegitimacy. So admirable, they would’ve made growing up an alien comfortable. Their embarrassing boasts to acquaintances and strangers modified to “yea he’s an alien but he’s our alien… got’em in Germany” as if I was a souvenir space age cuckoo-clock.
What comfort I’ve had in this skin I owe to them. Well, them and “Tom Jones” – the movie, not the Welsh singer. Peculiarly Tom Jones made the bastard son seem not such a bad spot, acceptable even envious. Naturally the path of the tale, our unsuspecting hero’s peccadilloes and pomp aside, I likewise grew up astonished I was alive; then, certain it would be a scant, brief life with no need for gravitas.
Thus I reveled in the stigma Christianity and aristocracy bestowed the bastard son. I wear it like the scarlet letter that they would’ve pinned in defamation on a woman such as my maternal mother. It’s a mighty “no! fuck you”, to stand my ground, head high, as their adultered pagan myths of morality crumble in the reality that my existence represents.
I’d like to think as my father took me in the night, he felt giddy with similar power. Certainly not cursing so defiantly against the old Order, yet hopefully he had some existential twitch as he ran me to Army housing. Perchance I was his birth certificate; actualization he was alive after wars’ horror. A survivor born anew.
Birth certificate in hand, I feel like that Phoenix rising from those ashes. Alive. Like Tom Jones – not the Welsh singer, unashamed, an innocuous fire burns that defeats expectation, challenges notions of suitability and worthiness, as the gallows’ shadow grows; my experiential dual with doubt.