The Life and Times of Jameson Jones (Chapter One): Surprise! by Jamie Kirkpatrick


Destiny is a funny thing: sometimes it gallops into town, grabs you by the collar, and throws you to your fate. But other times, it can sneak up on you and gently push you toward your future. So gently, in fact, that you don’t even notice…

Jameson Jones was born one minute after ten o’clock on the morning of the first Saturday in September (or so it says in the family Bible). Harry Truman, that plain-spoken haberdasher from Missouri, was President. To say Jameson was a surprise would have been quite an understatement, but there he was, all pink and fresh, a new-born, squalling, diapered fact.

But let’s back up a few months. Mrs. Jones, well out of the child-bearing woods (or so she thought) wakes up one morning and feels something—something faintly familiar but utterly impossible. The family dynamic has been settled for ten years: two lovely girls and a boy—a junior even, in honor of his father to cap off the uterine flow. But now Junior is ten and Mrs. Jones is forty-two; surely she isn’t…she couldn’t be…it’s impossible…what will everyone think!

A few days later (and after a surreptitious visit to the family doctor), Mrs. Jones returns home, lifts the telephone in the den, and dials her husband’s downtown office. His secretary answers. She is a pleasant woman, as efficient and organized as she is devoted to Lawyer Jones having moved with him and the six other runaways who up and walked out of that smugly prosperous law firm across the street when they were told that their time away in the various services fighting in WW2 would not be credited to making partner. “I’ll show them!” Lawyer Jones told his wife that evening when he returned home for dinner with the family. She looked around the crowded dinner table and gave him an arched eyebrow.

But all that is in the wake of the boat. Now she crisply tells her husband’s secretary that she will be downstairs in the lobby in an hour and would her husband be good enough to come down for a moment—she has something to tell him. “No, thank you; I don’t want to come up; I have errands and this will only take a minute.” And she hangs up.

An hour later, she is waiting in the lobby of the Oliver Building, watching the lights of the elevator as it descends, tolling the floors. (In those days, there was an elevator operator—white gloves and all—to operate the lift, pushing the large brass handle forward or back to rise or descend and holding the squeaky cage door upon arrival. The operator knows every man in the building and their wives, too. He sees the waiting Mrs. Jones and tips his cap as Lawyer Jones steps into the lobby.)

She pulls him into the vestibule away from the maw of the elevator and says, “Guess what.”

“What?” Lawyer Jones is a kind and gentle man, but he’s busy this morning.

“We’re having another baby.”

Speechless would have been an understatement, but then sometimes a tear can speak volumes. In this case, she sees immediately it is a tear of joy and if she felt a bit of pique at her unexpected situation, that vanishes in the blink of her own happy tears. Husband hugs wife, gives her a gentle kiss on the forehead, and steps back into the elevator, smiling at the operator. ‘Back up to eight please, Charley.”

That was in the spring. Now it’s early autumn and the three much older Joneses will soon be back in school, each a little more educated in the ways of the world. They’re reconciled, maybe even a little excited about the stork’s visit. After all, it will either be a tie game or the girls will have a commanding lead.

And speaking of games, the Pirates are in town, scheduled to play a Sunday doubleheader against the Cubs. The season is winding down and neither team has World Series dreams. (“Who did?” you ask. Why it was the Cleveland Indians who were about to spoil the chance for an all-Boston World Series by beating the Boston Red Sox in a one game playoff for the right to play the that other Boston team—the Braves. But I digress…)

So the day after Jameson’s safe and somewhat miraculous arrival, it’s the Pirates and the Cubs and a Sunday doubleheader. It just so happens that one of Lawyer Jones partners has an ownership interest in the Pirates so when word of Jameson’s birth makes its way up to the KDKA radio broadcast booth, the announcer (the inimitable Bob Prince) takes it upon himself to tell everyone within earshot that Mrs. Jones, wife of Lawyer Jones, has just delivered a healthy baby boy—“Surprise!”

Playing right field for the Cubs that day is a fellow named Bill Nicholson, nickname “Swish.” He goes 1 for 3 in the first game; 2 for 4 in the nightcap. Pretty good day for a farm boy from little Chestertown over on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Ah, destiny…

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is


Letters to Editor

  1. Michael Brunner says:

    I think I know this Jones guy. From what I heard, he was a royal pain in the arse, so much so his parents sent him off to boarding school. Tall lad, but couldn’t play basketball a lick and was worse still on the links. Short drives, small hands. Sad!

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