The sordid half-truths that have been misrepresented as fact regarding the younger years of Jiminy Bean’s incredible life did not all come from his mother. She was a seamstress of the highest caliber with occasional bouts of extreme depression, moments of severe paranoia, a tendency towards delusion, and an obsession with mid-fourteenth century children’s fashion. An obsession that got Jiminy bullied and beaten regularly throughout his formative years, which, unlike certain versions of this story will tell you, actually took place in Cleveland, Ohio.
The facts of Jiminy’s youth are these:
He was born in an auto repair shop somewhere outside of Cleveland in June of 1977. His mother, Agnes, had been touring the United States, partially for an adventure, partially to escape her ex-husband, Jiminy’s father, Hanz, a German born, Australian raised self-proclaimed song writer who hadn’t worked since he was seventeen. And according to Agnes, had only written one song – a soft love ballad he serenaded her with on their first date (which also happened to be their wedding night).
Jiminy’s name has been a matter of much contention amongst Bean enthusiasts throughout the years. Some say it was a family name, Anges’ father perhaps – little is known of his mother’s life prior to Jiminy’s birth. Others claim it came from her deep religious devotion – the word Jiminy being a possible alteration of the Latin Jesu Domine, or Lord Jesus. Many insist it was given because Agnes went into labor after attending a local screening of the classic Disney bastardization of one of her favorite childhood fairy tales with a YMCA sponsored pregnant women’s group, commonly referred to as Night Moves.
Agnes was a devoted Christian. She did love Pinocchio as a child. And she was a member of the YMCA sponsored women’s group Night Moves. But why she chose to name her only child Jiminy was something completely different. As a young girl, Agnes had a teacher, her favorite teacher, Mr. Karlsson, who told her once, while discussing their shared favorite children’s story, that the word Jiminy was more than just a name, it was actually a variation of the word Gemini, his astrological sign. He told her, it is a sign associated with change and the dissemination of energy, with thought, intellect, and ideas. It is about duality and interaction, about growing and becoming something new again. As it was June, the middle of the Gemini duration, and Agnes herself was going through a huge change, a new country, no more Hanz, a baby, a new life, well, she felt the decision was easy.
How Agnes came to the auto repair shop where Jiminy was birthed is simply logic and proximity; she was standing in front of it when her water broke. A mechanic named Charlie Watson, who had gone to school for Medicine but left after it was discovered he was selling tickets to teenagers for his cadaver exam, aided Agnes and was the first man to touch Jiminy.
It is commonly mistaken that he was a difficult child. He was nothing of the sort. In fact, quite the opposite. He would sit, quietly and contentedly, next to his mother’s rotary sewing machine and would play with his favorite toy, Roger, a stuffed ghost that had been used as a decoration in the window of the Tailor’s Shop where Agnes had found work, located just four doors down from Watson’s Auto Repair. It was not until he started school that problems arose, though even then, the problems were not with Jiminy.
He was the preferred subject for a number of bullies. He was an easy target due to the fact his mother dressed him in over gowns, pointed shoes, and floral prints. You’ll recall her obsession with mid-fourteenth century children’s attire. The three main bullies – Randall Scorsdrot, the talker, Miller Rockets, the master of pyrotechnics, and Brandon (who went by Brando) Riggens, who just liked to hit – made sure Jiminy knew how they felt about his wardrobe every day after school. Before long, Jiminy began staying late at school. He told his mother he had been chosen to help the librarian organize the disheveled shelves.
Years of hiding from bullies in the darker corners of the library gave Jiminy ample time to read. And read he did. Everything he could get his hands on. He read Mythology, learning of the polytheistic eras, syncretism, and how to extract meaning from story. He read Histories, absorbing the documented pasts of his homeland, his mother’s, his father’s, and his friend’s. He read Fiction and Science Fiction the like, particularly falling in love with the works of Vonnegut, Verne, and Tolkien. He read non-Fiction, discovering the backgrounds of Churchill, Proust, and Da Vinci. As the years passed and the bullies lost interest in his secluded ways, he forgot about hiding away in corners of the library. He found home there. He found peace and courage. He found the building blocks of the man he would one day become, the man we all know, the man that opened our eyes to the future and shut the doors on the constraints we once knew life to hold. Jiminy lived his wonder years in that library. Later, after his successes, he would buy the school and make it his home, keeping the library exactly as it was. But, that is a long way off.
Nearly every telling of Jiminy’s childhood has his mother’s mental breakdown occurring near his sixteenth birthday. This is correct. It came just two weeks before the boy became a licensed driver. The cause, however, is most often unknown. One month prior to Agnes’ unfortunate slip into delusion, Hanz visited her and Jiminy. He had discovered an article that was written about Agnes’ uncanny seamstress talents, specifically, her ability to measure a person without use of chalk or tape. She really was a wonder with a needle and thread. He said he had been searching for them for years, but could never find her. This was, of course, due to the name change Agnes had made just after leaving him. He wanted to know his son; he wanted his son to know that he had changed. He said he was working as a sous chef in Madrid and had stopped drinking. Agnes didn’t care about any changes he had made and told him so as she rubbed her talented fingers over the scar he had left on her right arm.
Jiminy was confused and apprehensive. He had, many years prior, asked about his father, and his mother, not wanting to lie to her only son, told Jiminy the entire tale of their youthful moments of love followed by years of abuse finally leading to her escape. But, Hanz was his father, and Jiminy’s curiosity prevailed. He told his father he could call and write. He could visit occasionally, though he was to stay away from Agnes. Hanz was overjoyed and asked if he could take Jiminy to dinner the next night. It was that dinner that ultimately led to Agnes’ breakdown. While Jiminy sat across from his father, listening to his stories and his ideas on what life is, Agnes sat at home, worrying, pacing, and biting her nails. The paranoia of her son becoming even a fraction of what his father had once been was too much for her, and her mind began to crumble. Even after Hanz left four days later, she continued to sink. Her work suffered. Her boss gave her some time off to get herself together. This made it all the worse. She had nothing to do but obsess and worry.
Jiminy came home from the last day of his sophomore year of high school, excited and ready for summer break, anxiously awaiting his birthday and hoping to receive a car, to find his mother in a pile of torn fabric and buttons, her eyes glazed over, quietly muttering something in Swedish. He called 9-1-1 immediately. They took her into psychiatric lock-down for months. Eventually, she returned to Jiminy, but never as she was. She was on a strict medication schedule, which Jiminy monitored religiously. She rarely slept, meaning neither did Jiminy. And she no longer knew who Jiminy was. He was a stranger to her. Later, in an interview, he would say that was the hardest thing to deal with, having your own mother ask, nearly every morning, who you are. But, Jiminy dealt with it. And he did so with poise and strength.
After high school, when most of his friends and childhood bullies were heading off to college, despite whatever you may have heard, Jiminy stayed at home with his mother. She could not be left alone. He continued reading. Friends would later say he probably read more in a week than they did in a year of college. He also started to write. At first, it was just something to do, a way to pass the unbearable hours of living with a woman who had birthed him but could no longer even remember his name. But the more he wrote, the more it became something, not a manifesto, but a life on page. It bled out of his fingers into his mother’s old Smith-Corona. Page after page, chapter after chapter, volume after volume, until finally, after years of tapping keys, he had done it; he had created life.
This was, of course, the first time the world met Jiminy Bean. This life he had created, as you know, became a household necessity. It changed the way people viewed work, family, love, childbearing, science, government, everything. It changed paradigms; it broke down barriers. He had created a thread that connected everyone and everything. And he had done so without even trying.
These are the facts of Jiminy Bean’s youth. Of course, there are tellings of this tale that are more exciting and, depending on your opinion, more fun. But, these are the facts. He was born in Cleveland in June of 1977 in Watson’s Auto Repair, which is today a national Landmark. He hid from bullies in the library of his elementary school, which later became his estate. He stood by his mother throughout her dark days, which came to an end after his work led to a breakthrough in mental illness treatment. And he read everything he could get his hands on, which helped him write everything he gave us.