[ed. note: from my mother, about the day I was born]
It was hot, like August is in Texas. Some of the neighbors had these big water-trickle things that filled up a whole window, darkening the room and making a cool oasis.
But we didn’t have air conditioning. In our house, the metal headboard felt hot when I leaned against it. I put my hair up in braids to get it off my neck. When I got dressed, I didn’t put anything on underneath. (The nurses were later surprised about that.)
I had a backache, which developed into contractions, but I didn’t want to make the mistake of going to the hospital early and miss all my meals. With your sister, I was in the labor room almost 24 hours, and all I got was castor oil in orange juice.
So while waiting for the pains to become regular, I lived a normal life. Had lunch, watched the clock. Finally, even though the pains were hard and frequent — but still not regular — your Dad and I got in the car and made our way to the hospital. Just for pain relief. Still too early to call the doctor, we thought.
About five minutes away from the hospital, I started bearing down. Your Dad looked over nervously, and put a heavy foot on the gas pedal. “Don’t drive fast,” I said. “I’m not driving fast,” he said, driving fast.
We went in, and I held onto the elevator rails, as I had another pain. Your Dad went to the desk to fill out papers, and I was ushered into a room for prepping. The women hadn’t finished when I told them, “I’m about to have this baby NOW.” They rushed me into the delivery room.
“We can’t give you anesthetic till your doctor gets here, but he’ll be here soon,” the nurses kept telling me. The pain mounted, seeming like giant, overhead boulders rolling toward me, each boulder starting before the one before it had gone. Another boulder, huge and horrible, came rolling toward me, and I let loose a scream. Quickly the cone of comfort was placed over my nose.
Your Dad turned in his paperwork, and was waiting to be told: You can go in now and be with your wife. Instead, they said,”You have a baby girl.” He nearly fell over.
The obstetrician arrived and sewed me up, after an intern had delivered you. My doctor seemed disappointed, after all the months of caring for me, to have missed the main event.
I couldn’t wait to take you home. I was willing and waiting for the colic and crying to begin, but it didn’t. You were an easy-to-care-for baby, seemingly never unhappy or uncomfortable.
You grew into a delightful, charming child with dark, merry eyes flirting with our gentleman callers — student interns at our church. At kindergarten, you kissed up and down your teacher Mildred’s arm, chanting, “Mid-red, Mid-red, Mid-red,” she told me. [ed. note: I was mimicking Popeye]
Some children, when they are given a toy or a book or something else, look at it for a minute and then toss it aside. When you were given something, it was used, and often turned into more than we could have imagined when we gave it to you. I wish I could think of some examples. I can only remember my surprise each time that happened.
You would come through the house with a troupe of friends, and you were clearly the leader. When you swam, you swam like a seal. A very early poem you wrote said something like, “When love is strong, as it is here, then you know my love was never mere.” You were never mere.