Sage Advice 108: Matthew Fugere: Ex-Garbage Baby

It’s a big deal for people to have an understanding of their roots, from where they began. Sometimes it’s about where your ancestors settled, eventually leading all the way up to you. Other times it’s just about how your family started, perhaps how your parents met: the moments that directly led to your birth. For me, though, it’s always been about being thrown into the garbage.

That’s the earliest story about me anyone has to tell. You’ll rarely hear about my birth or the early days and weeks that followed it. If you ask just about anyone in my family, myself included, about the earliest version of me to make a mark on this world, you’re going to hear about the time my older brother threw an infant version of me into a garbage can.

The interesting thing is it’s not a shameful event of our family’s past; there’s nothing about this story that haunts my loved ones, forcing them to rethink their own humanity or place in the world. It’s a consistently told, incredibly open, almost proud tale of our early years as a family.

“Oh you never heard about that?” my mother or brother or sister might say after someone jokingly talks about dumpster babies and their connection to me. “When he was just a little baby—oh, maybe a week old or so—his older brother didn’t want ‘em around. So he picked his baby brother up, carried him to the garbage, and just tossed ‘em in.” It’s a short story, needing no more than a paragraph to get the details you need, yet it seemed like a defining moment in my early identity.

So here I am, an ex-garbage baby. Usually that’s a really sad thing. Garbage babies that is. You’ll hear a tragic story on the news about how a random woman—usually a very young girl in her teenage years—left an infant in a dumpster, unable to provide for her new child. Generally, we’re left knowing that the infant didn’t make it through the ordeal. Can you really expect such a helpless creature to endure a night alone, motherless and inside their soon-to-be metallic coffin filled with expired food and used healthcare products?

I survived my garbage days. One of the lucky ones, I suppose. Does that make me better than your average dumpster baby? I may be bold enough to bring up the question, but I don’t think I can rightly answer it. I will, however, respond by saying this: how many ex-garbage babies do you know?

-Matthew Fugere

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