“A Time to Remember,” column for June 5, 2012

Out of the blue, he asked me a question about a moment we shared years ago, he and I, a moment so momentous we would never be the same.
I remembered it, of course. How could I forget? I’d sooner forget my name. But that’s not what he was asking. He knew I hadn’t forgotten it. He just wondered what time it took place?
What time? As in minutes?
It was only a random question, he said, nothing important.
I smiled. He had no idea how important it was to me. Or how much it would haunt me, keep me awake, flipping dusty, dog-eared pages of my mind, trying to find the answer.
What kind of mother forgets what time her child was born? It’s not like I wasn’t there. Yes, I had a few distractions. I didn’t check my watch. But still ….
Here’s what I do recall.
I was 23 years old, married for nearly three years, living 3,000 miles from my family in a town so new and unfamiliar I’d get lost going to the grocery store. My husband had recently started teaching and coaching at a local high school. We had health insurance and a steady paycheck. We bought a house for about two years’ worth of his salary. It would shelter our family for the next 35 years.
I was absolutely over the moon to be pregnant. All my life, I had wanted to be a mother (a grandmother, too, but first things first.) And while I’d had little hands-on experience with children, I had done a lot of reading and had no doubt I was ready for whatever lay in store.
Basically, I had no clue. It didn’t matter. What I didn’t know, the boy would teach me.
On the day he was due to be born, his father had to coach a basketball game. At half-time, I was sitting in the bleachers, like a whale riding a see-saw, when I felt the first contraction.
I sent a note to the coach in the locker room: “In labor, might need to leave.’’
Minutes later it came back: “In foul trouble, game over soon.”
The game went into overtime. When his team finally lost, I had to bite my fist not to cheer. We went home to get my bag and a burrito for the coach, then drove to the hospital in the same car the boy would drive 16 years later to get his driver’s license.
By 2 a.m., I was in hard labor. Or so I thought. Then it got harder. The nursing assistant was a woman whose son had been my husband’s student.
“Don’t worry, child,” she told me, “I’m gonna take good care of you.” And she did _ not just for my first baby, but for my second, three years later, and my third, three years after that.
By afternoon, the second day, when I was still in “hard labor,” my husband made the mistake of asking if I could “hurry it up a bit,” because he had another game to coach that night.  Later he would say he was joking. I was not amused. At one point, I heard him on the phone telling one of his players he was sorry, but he needed him to fill in as coach.

“I can hear you!” I said.

“Gotta go,” he whispered into the phone, “good luck!”
Things got fuzzy after that. Somebody told me to push, so I did, for a really long time, hours or days or years, I couldn’t say.
Next thing I knew, the coach was laughing and I was holding a little person that had big hands like a King Kong action figure, tiny but huge, and a lop-sided head like the rag doll that accidentally went through the wringer of my grandmother’s washer. And he was looking up at me as if he knew who I was, somebody he was really glad to meet. And I was falling, falling, fast and hard, forever and always in love.
What time was it? I don’t know. All I know is this: It was the right time _ not a moment too late or too soon _  just when he was needed by the world, by his dad and, most of all, by me.
But according to his birth certificate (that I finally found in a box after searching half the night) it was 5:57 p.m.

Comments

  1. Alice Anderson says:

    I feel just like all your respondents. You surely know how to reach your readers and make us believe you were thinking of each one of us individually as you share your life with us. I feel so pleased to have actually talked to you and found you are truly the person I have grown to love.
    I have had a wonderful 91st Birthday week with unexpected friends of 40 years ago who were in the area and needed to “come home to the place and person we have loved”. These homecomings are just a taste of some of the pleasures and rewards one gets by living as long as I have. I think I will go for 100.

  2. Sydney Love says:

    Thank you for making my day again. You always make me laugh or cry. I’ve kept so many of your writings that I ran out of room to keep them. What I need is a book where each of them are, so that I can refer back to them. Thank you for your love of life and family and sharing it with your readers. No one touches my heart with everyday life as you do and have for many years.

  3. Pam says:

    Sharon– There’s something wrong when a newspaper article can cause me to have tears in my eyes at 8am…. you should be writing NOVELS or short stories. Phenomenal writing. Thanks for an especially good one that I really enjoyed. PAM

  4. AlisonH says:

    Love it. And that you published this on my dad’s birthday and the day before my son’s. Wait–I think… It was about 6 pm too… I just remember calling my husband’s office. He wasn’t in it, and a co-worker stepped into it to answer his phone in case it was me and then she went tearing around the building screaming his name in excitement: “Your wife’s having the baby!!!!”

  5. Vicki in Monterey says:

    Happy Birthday to your “baby”l love, Vicki =-D

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