A 47 Year Old Birthday Story from My Little Mama

We were living in White Plains, NY, when I became pregnant with you, my first-born child. I happened to go to the gynecologist in Kankakee, though, because we were there for Christmas. He confirmed that I was pregnant, and my happiness went through the roof. I told Dad, and he looked really serious when he talked about providing for this child. At the same time, he was ecstatic at the news. I went home and told Andy and Verny, and I couldn’t wait to call Norma. You can pretty much imagine her reaction—a grandchild! I remember having a couple of my mom’s Christmas cookies and some milk to celebrate.

We got back to New York, and I made an appointment with my own ob-gyn, a youngish Jewish guy named Barney Silverman, if I remember right. He knew I was newly pregnant, and I remember he walked into the exam room with a big grin on his face, saying, “Well, well, well!” So happy for me.

I was so excited that I really wanted to wear maternity clothes way too soon; I could hardly hold myself back. My students started getting the word before long and asked me if it was true. I was never sick; I felt terrific; thank you, Kitten! It was during those first months that I took my best class of eighth-graders down to Broadway on a field trip to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream, done by Joseph Papp. How lucky were they? I remember all of us buying pretzels on the street before we got on the bus to go home,

About this time, a sad and rather scary thing happened on our floor of the Half Moon Apartments. An older woman (the best friend of my sweet neighbor Myrtle Leech), had a heart attack and died in the trash room, where the trash chute was.

Just after that happened, Dad was out of town, and I was going to go out to dinner with a friend one evening. I was changing clothes (putting on a new maternity outfit for the first time), when I heard someone trying to open the door to our apartment. My heart started pounding, because we didn’t yet know the cause of the older woman’s death. Some people thought it was foul play, and here was someone trying to break into our apartment. I started yelling, “I’m in here; someone’s in here!” That’s all I could think to do. Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice—Dad—saying that he was changing planes at the airport; didn’t have much time, but he missed me so much that he just wanted to come home and see me. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry; I just wanted my heart to return to normal for little unborn Katy, as I opened the door for him.

Our neighbors across the street were a young couple, Don and Sherrie Valentine. She and I became good friends, and when she had their first baby, they named her Katie, which I immediately loved. It was not a common name then, and I never  wavered from wanting to name a baby girl that. I decided on Katy, not Katherine or any other iteration, because I wanted to be sure she was called Katy. The name Amber came because I was pretty sure that’s what color your hair would be.

Dad took a job with Frito-Lay in Dallas in the spring. It had been very hard to get my teaching job in New York—three interviews with Van Cortlandt Middle School in Croton-on-Hudson before they hired me. I remember the principal saying, “Please just don’t get pregnant or move away on me,” and I had reassured him I wouldn’t. 

So I didn’t look forward to telling him that I was doing both those things! By the way, he could never say such a thing today! Dad was going to go ahead of me, but I wanted to go ahead and go, so we were going to stay in a hotel for a few weeks until our house became ready. 

I think I may have written about my last days at school. I wrote about the baby shower they threw for me and how touched I was . My buddy Andy Harte loaded everything into my little Mustang convertible, and that was that.

Our house in Dallas was really beautiful. I had decided your room would be yellow, with touches of lilac. Your crib was a Jenny Lind style, and we bought the changing table and all the accessories. Norma, not surprisingly, had started buying out the stores and sending things—lots of pink if I remember right, and of course we didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl. 

I gained only nineteen pounds. They wanted us not to gain too much then, but even so my doctor would tell me to go get a cheeseburger after I saw him. He’s the same good old boy who told me when I was in the delivery room—“Now push! Sock it to me! Just aim for that clock on the wall!” Yikes.

My ob in New York had given me one due date, and then the one in Dallas added three weeks to it, which didn’t make me very happy. As it happened, you came right in the middle of the two. 

During the night before you were born, I woke up to soaking sheets, like a flood. I knew my water had to have broken, so I woke up Dad, who didn’t want to believe it was time. It was, though, very early morning, so we poured a lot of chow into Maggie’s dish and hit the road for the hospital. We got there and checked in. The nurse checked me and said, “Your water hasn’t broken; you just wet the bed. You can go home.” I was flabbergasted; pretty sure she was wrong, but she had the authority, so we drove home. We no sooner got there than I started having pretty hard contractions, so we turned right around and went back. This time a different nurse checked me, and she looked up in surprise and said to the room—“This is this little girl’s first baby, and she’s already eight and a half centimeters!!!” I said, “Well, that’s good, right?”

An hour and a half later, there you were, with a full head of red hair. When I hear of mothers who are in labor for hours, even days, I know how very fortunate I was. Honestly, honey, it was an easy pregnancy, easy birth, and then you were a very easy baby. Who gets that?

They were out of rooms for new mothers, so I had a roommate in a single room. I couldn’t have cared less, though. I was over the moon. She and I became good friends, and we did a lot with her and baby Chad.(Can’t remember her name, though).

So that’s it, honey. We took you home, and Grammy and Grampy drove to Dallas almost immediately. It was such a happy time. I remember the evening they got there, we got Kentucky fried chicken for dinner, and our next-door neighbor brought over a frozen lemonade pie. I sat at our dining room table and I remember feeling complete contentment, a rather rare feeling.

You and I did everything together. I’d put a sun bonnet on you and go to the mall; plop you in your umbrella stroller and just stroll. Usually the only thing I bought was an iced tea. You always had such a smile on your face, that one old lady after another would stop and exclaim over you. 

Yep. I remember feeling, “This is it. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.” You did that for me, honey.

So happy happy birthday. I love that now you know exactly what I was talking about, only double.



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