June 21, 2018

Prepping for Sam and Jeannie’s visit in July was nerve-wracking. This moment was going to be My “real” birth story, and it had to be as Prepping for Sam and Jeannie’s visit in July was nerve-wracking. This moment would be My “real” birth story, and it had to be as perfect.

It took me a while to find the right place for our meetup. After searching, I ended up booking a small gallery space at an arts center in Santa Monica. The space was fantastic! The walls were ivory, and the gallery was filled with natural light and calming. 

I hired a videographer and a photographer—Andreas, a close college buddy from my Norfolk State years, and another close college friend, Deanna, was my event coordinator. Everything was set. I sent Sam and Jeannie an email letting them know the location and reminded them to book a place to stay. 

Excited, I also thought it would be a nice gesture to put a timeline book together for them as a gift. I emailed Sam and Jeannie a few questions about moments in my life and asked them to match them up with moments in their lives. 


Janeen Jackson <email@email.com>

To: Sam Maren <email@email.com>, Jeannie Books <email@email.com> Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 3:25 AM

My following questions and prompts will ask you about your moment in time. I’m asking you, along with myself, to dig deep and to speak from the heart. After you’ve answered my questions and filled in the date with details, I plan to put them together to create a story timeline for the three of us. I’ve roughly put in dates to kick start the timeline, and I’m currently working on completing the details. Take your time. If you want to send me dates individually, that’s fine—all at once? That cool too. It’s up to you.

Thank you for doing this, as I know I’m asking a lot. My soul—our souls need these stories… I love you two. 

Here we go…

I then gave them dates along with brief details of my life during those times. I also asked questions like, “Tell me about the day before I was born?” and “After I was born, where did you go (back to school, work, etc.?).” Sam responded almost immediately.

What happened the day before I was born? 

That would be March 9, 1972… Google tells me that was a Thursday. I don’t think I actually remember the day before you were born (although I remember the day you were born quite well), but I’ll bet Jeannie does since she was “carrying you.”

I was probably in school that day. Eleventh grade at Hopewell Valley Central High… I had auto shop, metal shop, woodshop, and a few academic classes. I probably worked “down the field” in the junkyard with Daddy Brooks after school. We’d light a fire in a homemade trash burner to keep warm while we worked… getting junk cars ready to be hauled into Trenton. What I do seem to remember from that general time period leading up to your birth is a tremendous amount of anxiety in me surrounding the very poor communication between Jeannie and me, my fears and conflicted feelings from being told by Carol (Jeannie’s sister) that “Daddy will kill you if he finds out you’re the dad,” and my own emotional/psychological preparation for becoming a father and for giving up the child I so much wanted to raise… fear, helplessness, mixed with awe and a confusing pride. I also seem to remember that your cousin Michael (Cheryl’s son) was born shortly before you were… maybe a month or so before, if I remember correctly. As a small infant, Michael had an allergic reaction to the laundry detergent, which made his face and eyes swell so that he looked different… So, when I came in the house one day shortly before you were born and saw a baby I didn’t recognize (it was actually Michael with a swollen face), I thought it must be you! I was an emotional “mess.

After I was born, where did you go (back to school, work, etc.?)

I continued in school that year, continued to work for Daddy Brooks, I continued, I continued, I continued… but I felt very traumatized by life… very lost, confused, ashamed, guilty… guilt mixed with pride… (one of my best friends would proudly call me “Daddy”) By September I had found an apprentice machinist job in Trenton for which I got High School Credit… and got paid well. I’d work half a day and go to school in the afternoons. I didn’t have much time to work for Daddy Brooks anymore…although I do remember calling in sick to the machine shop, at least once when Daddy Brooks really needed me… Oh my, how I loved that man!… We’d go, in his big old truck, to the docks in NYC and pick up cargo for a sea captain that he did trucking for.

Hopewell Valley High School 1973 yearbook – Jeannie and Sam.

By January, I’d moved into a cheap rooming house in a predominantly Black section of Princeton, NJ. I graduated in the Spring and headed for California, hitchhiking… looking for the “Promised Land” of a healthy, loving, family relationship like I’d dreamed-of/hoped-for, with Jeannie.

Sam continued to respond to my questions and timeline details. It was fascinating! Jeannie, on the other hand, understandably, wasn’t as enthusiastic.

Email response from Jeannie.

At that moment, I realized that had to stop asking questions. I didn’t want to traumatize her or myself before we met.

Jeannie, yes! Take your time. I realize I’m asking you both to revisit a few painful memories and emotions. Thank you both for exploring them with me.

Much love and gratitude,

That night I thought about my children and reflected on my pregnancies. The day before Tyson was born, Ron and I had dinner with our friend Reebah and my mom, who had flown into town a week prior. I also remember Reebah, and I did my mother’s hair because my mom wanted to look “fly” in the hospital—(little fact: Tyson entered the world on Reebah’s bday).

The day before Phoenix was born, my mother was in town again, but this time she was cheering for her home team, the Baltimore Ravens, as they played against the Denver Broncos. Mom and I danced and ate nachos as we watched the Ravens win in overtime.

These were fun memories for me. However, I can only imagine what the day before I was born must have felt like for Jeannie-to know she was going to release me when I was born.

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