“When Angels Dance,” column for June 23, 2015

What do you know about the day you were born? What’s the first sentence of the first chapter of the story of your life? Most of what I know about my birth (place, date, names, etc.) appears on my birth certificate.

Not the snowstorm. My dad told me about that. When he left the hospital after I was born, he said, he found his car buried in snow. It took hours to dig it out. He blamed me. When the angels heard I was born, he said, they were so happy they danced all the snow out of the clouds.

I like that story a lot.

My mother never talked about my birth. It’s one of many things I wish I’d asked her about while there was time. Why do we wait to ask someone questions that they alone can answer?

Imagine my surprise recently when my oldest child asked me to tell him about his birth. He isn’t a child any more. I call him “boy” because I’m his mother. I can call him whatever I want.

I’m sure I’ve told him his birth story before, but I’ll gladly tell it again. Here’s the short version.

It started at a basketball game. OK, it started long before that, but this is a column, not a novel.

I was young, happily married, thrilled at becoming a mother. On the evening of my due date, I sat on the bleachers (picture a whale on a bicycle) in the gym at Monterey (Calif.) High School, watching my husband coach a basketball game.

His team was getting killed on the boards. But in the fourth quarter, they started making shots. I stood to cheer and felt my abdomen clench like a fist. And so it began. I bit my lip until the final buzzer, then waddled over to the coach.

“We won!” he shouted.

“I’m in labor,” I said.

We drove home to get a bag I had packed with the blanket my grandmother had crocheted for the boy. Then the contractions stopped. Coach was hungry. He ate burnt toast and went to bed.

“Wake me,” he said, yawning, “if you need me.”

I woke him at 2 a.m. When we walked into the hospital, a nurse’s aide came running. Not for me. For the coach. Her name was Virginia Jackson. He had helped one of her boys through a hard time, she said, and she would always be in his debt.

Finally, she looked at me. “And who are you?” she asked.

“I’m the one in labor.”

She laughed and gave me a much needed hug. “Don’t worry, baby,” she said. “I’m gonna take extra good care of you!”

Little did she know what she was promising. I would be in labor for the next 18 hours.

The boy was big, almost 9 pounds. When I tell him this story, I try not to brag about how hard I worked bringing him into the world. But between you and me? It was hard. Virginia Jackson made it easier. At the end of her shift, she went home to sleep, then came back to stay with me all the way. In years to come, she would do it again for the births of my other two children. I will always be in her debt.

But back to the boy. At long last, when I held him in my arms, I checked him out, all his tiny parts. Everything was there. He looked a little beaten up. His head was lopsided and one eye was swollen, like a boxer who’d had to fight his way into the world. But he wore it well. I’d seen a lot of beauty, but I had never seen anything like him.

The coach seemed especially taken with the boy’s hands.

“They’re huge,” he said. “He’ll be palming a basketball soon.”

And so it goes. One day you’re looking into a newborn’s eyes. Then you turn around, and he’s palming a basketball.

That night, after the coach went home to burn more toast, I nursed the boy to sleep, then lay there in the hospital holding him close, whispering prayers, listening to him breathe.

Soon it began to storm, a winter gale blowing in off the Pacific. Rain and wind and hail pelted against the window.

I blamed the boy.

When angels dance, they kick up all kinds of weather.

Comments

  1. Clarence Vold says:

    I was born on a Monday at about 9:PM Feb 19, 1940 with war raging in Europe and China and me blissfully aware of only my little world in a tiny three room house in South Dakota.

  2. Jennifer says:

    The day I was born it was snowing! And this was in May. My dad would ask me every year if I remembered what it was doing on my birthday. We would laugh and say together, it was snowing! My dad is gone now and I miss him every day. I especially miss him on my birthday to remind me how I started out in life. Treasure each day with your family. Thank you, Sharon, for the reminder of a beautiful memory.

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Thank you, Jennifer. Happy birthday, whenever it may be, and many happy memories of snow! And of your wonderful dad who clearly loved you dearly!
      All the best,
      Sharon

  3. Weldon Walker says:

    My grandson is 3 years old now. His name is Walker-how bout that? I think I’ve told you that. The other day I was doing some simple tasks and of course he was asking why-why-why and I hoped I was satisfying his young mind when he finally became silent and a few minutes later looked at me and said” You’re the best papa.” I asked “I’m the best papa?” To which he replied “in the whole world.” I wish you could have seen it. I wish my wife could have seen it or his mom (my daughter) or I had it saved other than in mind which often fails me. Anyway he’s going to have a little sister in a few days. I can’t wait. Just wanted to share and tell you once again how much I love you work and look forward to it. Thank you.

    • Sharon Randall says:

      You heard him say it, Weldon. You’re the only one who needed to hear it. But I’m so glad you did, and I’m so glad I heard it through you. Thank you! All the best to you, my friend, and to you Wondrous Walker, and his soon-to-be baby sister, and all the joys that they will bring to you and all your family!
      Sharon

  4. Gloria Smith says:

    The story of my birth has been told to me since I was young. My father was in the Army and was sent to Germany shortly before I was born. My mother, brother and sister moved to N.C. to be close to my father’s parents. My grandmother was a nurse at the local hospital. my mother had me my grandmother was on duty and was able to be the one to give me my first I tell
    everyone I was spoiled from the first second of my life.

  5. Debby says:

    Beautiful, just beautiful.

  6. Sheila Torresy says:

    That was beautifully told ❤️❤️

  7. Barb Padgett says:

    All my mother told me about my birth was that she was in labor with me for 48 hours. I’ve always thought that that was the beginning of our difficult relationship.

  8. More smiles and tears from OH.
    Blessings,
    Bruce

  9. Jody S. says:

    This brought tears to my eyes it was so beautiful. I can’t blame it on my pregnancy hormones. Well, maybe a little.
    My children who are old enough to remember their last birthday look forward to our birthday tradition each year; I tuck them in bed and tell them their birth story. I hate to admit that sometimes I forget some details. I’ve written down each child’s story in the composition books I attempt to keep for them with the highlights of their lives. I’m so scared that if I don’t, those special things will slip away.

    What an amazing gift you’ve just given your son.

    • shashi says:

      I was not scared to tell my son that I was in labor for 35 hours to bring him to this world but I am not able to tell my daughter that I did not prepare anything for her except a sweater and cap which I made myself with wool but it was still hot weather and it was not a right dress to bring for her when she was born ,just a bed sheet and an old shirt of my son I could grab to take with me and hired a rickshaw person to leave me at the hospital when my husband was at work . Because I did not know that she would come one month before the due date . In few hours my friend came with old clothes of her daughter and I used them for my sweet daughter . After four days my sister came with old clothes of her daughter . These were all old clothes which my daughter wore and after 15 days my mother came with 2 pretty dresses she bought from store . My husband bargained with doctor to take less money for delivery as he could not afford all medical expenses and thanks a ton to her she deducted 100 bucks from her fees to make us feel comfortable . My daughter can buy each and every good dress from store at least 100 in advance at present if she has a child . God bless my daughter who studied in America with scholarship from federal government and working during college studies . I worked in India and US to support all expenses for buying some comforts for my family and now if we look back we have the courage to tell about struggle and pain ,and beautiful life at present was result of those difficult days when we lived with less resources but we all had real smiles too on our faces living as one family . When I read stories shared by Sharon they remind me all about my past when we laughed more with less ,when we lived with lot of love shared from surroundings . She is such a loving writer who can win everybody’s heart telling stories from simple surroundings full of love and wisdom to remember by heart .

      • Sharon Randall says:

        Shashi, thank you for that lovely, amazing story. I hope your children know how blessed they are to have you! Thank you, too, for your kind words for me.
        All the best to you, as always, and to your family,
        Sharon

      • Kate Sciacca says:

        Thank you for your simple reminder that true joy comes when our “smiles are real.”

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