Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happy May Day!

May Day isn't much of a thing in the US. It's a big thing in Europe, where it's really Labor Day with a Communist slant, as I see it. For Jonathan and me, it was something quite different—a little private anniversary.

At Oberlin, we used to have a special celebration for May Day. A group of students somehow got permission to climb into the Finney Chapel bell tower at the crack of dawn on May Day so that we could sing madrigals there. I think somebody rang bells, too.


I was usually game for odd things like this, so I sang up there in 1976, I think it was. Afterwards, there was some kind of strange breakfast tradition. Fueled by lots of carbs, endorphins, and the moral superiority of having gotten up before daybreak, I found myself full of good cheer but with nothing to do. Being a sophomore, which means "wise fool," I was still up for odd stuff. So of course I decided to make a long-distance call to somebody I'd never called before.

These days, of course, long-distance calls aren't even referred to as "long distance." You just make a call, and if it's in the US, it isn't a thing. Back then, there were no cell phones. Not only that, long-distance calls cost serious money for a student. (Go ahead, Patrick. Find a comparison chart for how much they cost. We'll be here when you come back.) I don't even remember how we made them, except I know that we didn't usually use pay phones; we had some kind of charging system and settled up later, maybe at the end of the month.

You can see that one didn't just call people up for a lark, not if it were long distance, and especially not if one didn't know the person fairly well. It was a shock to Jonathan, a junior at Portsmouth Abbey School, when somebody told him he had a call. From a girl. He picked up the phone in the hall at his dorm and heard my voice—and his knees buckled. I think all their energy went to what must have been a huge grin.

I don't remember what we talked about. We weren't really an item yet. It was after that fateful dinner at his parents' house (which I hope I'll write about later), but we weren't in love. Still, it was a delightful (though rather stilted) call, and we both remembered it fondly.

Every year on May 1, one of us would wake the other with a kiss and "Happy May Day!" Even though both of us loved our sleep, that was guaranteed to wake the other with a smile. It's a bittersweet memory.

Happy May Day, sweetheart. I love you forever.

Friday, April 25, 2014

But No, She Had To Have Her OWN Birthday

I was born on my dad's 39th birthday. As I remember it, he really enjoyed ignoring his own birthday every year, and it was a happy day for both of us.

On the day before my 30th birthday, my coworkers gave me a birthday party. I went into labor at 4 pm that afternoon, very pleased. A triple birthday for grandfather, mother, and baby! How cool would that be?

Munching on birthday cake as my first contraction made its appearance, I looked meditatively over at my coworker Phyllis, who had two teenagers. She had a sneaking suspicion that I was in labor then. When the contraction was over and I told her that I thought labor had indeed started, she went into a panic while trying to appear calm. I was rather amused at that; this was an uncomplicated pregnancy, and I certainly wasn't in a panic; I just phoned Jonathan as usual, telling him that I was coming home. This time was with a twist, of course, because Rosie and I were in labor!

Phyllis insisted on driving me to Metro, even though I probably could have made better time by walking. She was was very very nervous as she drove, convinced that I would give birth right there. She must have been relieved when I was still thoroughly pregnant at Metro! I took my briefcase, purse, bag of Junior League store clothing that I had bought for the kids at lunch, and box of birthday cake remains and had an uneventful ride to Ballston. (This was just before the Orange Line went all the way to Vienna.)

Jonathan arrived at Ballston with Paddy and Peggy, and they took me home to our apartment in Merrifield. We did dinner as usual, labor intensified, and I knew we needed to get to the hospital soon.

Dr. Collea (our OB) wasn't available, and neither was his back-up. I phoned whoever was on call. (This was the pattern for the first three kids. Each of them was delivered by a stranger.) That doctor listened to me calmly listing my symptoms and told me he didn't think I was ready to have this baby yet. I was a bit miffed and not about to be pushed around. "My last baby arrived after 3.25 hours of labor," I informed this doctor. "I think I'm ready, and I'm coming in."

Jonathan bundled the kids into the car, and we took them to spend the night with Shanna, their very loving and competent babysitter. Then we drove back into DC to Georgetown Hospital, where the nameless doctor found that I was, indeed, ready to give birth. Imagine that—the mother was right! Who'd'a thunk it? Not Georgetown, apparently. They treated me as if I were a 45-year-old primipara with diabetes or something, not as if I were an experienced mother.

The nurse opened the window, which I asked her to close. "Most of our mothers want the window open," she snapped at me. "Well, I'm not most of your mothers, and I want the window closed," I snapped right back. She didn't like it, but she closed the window.

Meanwhile, labor progressed to the point that I was a bit worried about the triple birthday. Shortly thereafter, things were busy enough that I thought, "Okay, let's get this show on the road!" Rosie was born at 10:43 pm, an hour and 17 minutes before her grandfather's and mama's birthday. As I always say (somewhat to Rosie's annoyance), "But noooo, she had to have her own birthday!"

At 7 pounds 3.5 ounces, Rosie was our smallest baby, and she was just beautiful. As I recall, we took her home the next morning, against medical advice as always. Jonathan never liked hospitals, and I can't blame him; they are no place to rest. Rosie's birth was routine, so why stay at the hospital?

Paddy and Peggy were happy to greet their new little sister, and we all lived happily ever after. Well, more or less. You'll hear about that in other stories.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Stories. Lots of Them.

In my family, we tell stories. Lots of stories. All the time. Every story evokes a certain emotion or illustrates a certain point, and every story links the teller and the listener back into the family again. Because they're all stories about our family, not fairy tales or urban myths or stuff like that.

Why do we tell them? Who knows? Maybe you can tell me. All I know is that my mother told stories all the time and I do, too. My late husband used to tell stories. My older daughter, at least, tells stories. If you know one of us, you've probably heard at least one of them.

And here they are.