Tuesday, November 19, 2013
My First Son
My first son was born the day after Mother's Day. It was an easy delivery. Doctors did not tell you in advance whether you were having a boy or a girl. I was hoping for a boy. I wanted him to have the same name as my favorite singer. When my husband mentioned that as a possible name I jumped at it. His middle name is his father's first name.
As I was lying there in that particularly attractive position one assumes while giving birth the doctor told me I had a son. Then he held him up for me to see. That was the ugliest baby I had ever seen!
Admittedly I had never seen a newborn before. But his features all seemed to come to a point in the front of his face. Remember the old cartoons of Heckle and Jeckle the two stupid ugly crows? That is what he looked like. I remember the exact words I thought were "Oh my God. I had a buck-toothed idiot."
But I loved that ugly little thing so much. I had read in a magazine just a few days earlier that all mothers want to know the number of fingers and toes of their new babies. I had decided to ask just to be a smart aleck but I was so happy and so in love with my new baby that I did not ask such a stupid question.
When they took me to my room my husband was allowed to visit me. I was so happy to have given him a son. He looked nervous.
He began by telling me that he was not sure if he should tell me or not but... In that instant I knew that something was terribly wrong. My baby had died or was extremely ill and dying. You do not realize how many thoughts can race through your mind in the instant between two words. But the baby has two thumbs.
The relief that washed over me was instantaneous. I looked at him and said, "Is that all?" He thought I was nuts.
My son did indeed have two thumbs on one hand. They were both real thumbs bent together to look a bit like a lobster claw. I had watched his hands and feet as the nurses were measuring and weighing him. They were so much bigger than his little 6 pound15 ounce body seemed to warrant. I did not notice the extra thumb.
As a matter of fact neither did the doctor or nurses. My husband had found it when they showed him his new son. He actually called his mother to ask her whether he should tell me. She told him that I might notice so it was best to tell me.
After a few hours they finally brought my baby to me for a feeding. Everything was settled into place as it should be. He was beautiful. No more Heckle and Jeckle.
I knew I wanted to breast-feed. It is the natural way and healthier for the child and the mother. So I did. The nurses tried to discourage me. It messed up their schedules you know.
My husband worked for a candy company. He brought me a yard long box of chocolates instead of flowers. When the nurse came in to get the baby after a feeding I offered her a piece of candy.
"Emma! You can't be eating that if you are nursing! Don't you know what it will do to the baby?"
Apparently chocolate has been known to give babies diarrhea. Nobody told me that. (After my first baby I relaxed a bit and did not worry as much. I would have eaten the candy then.)
My son grew normally. I had all the time in the world to spend with him. Early in the afternoon was the time we spent with no one else allowed to intervene. I would prop him into the corner made by the arm of the couch and the back. I would look at him and sing or tell stories. I would tell him how much I loved him.
When he was four months old he began to answer me. It was real words. People thought I was exaggerating but I knew what I heard. Other people who were there saw and heard him. He was talking.
I wrote to tell my mother-in-law all the things he could say. She chuckled to herself, knowing that I was just being a young new mother. Then she came to visit.
It was time for my son and I to be together so my mother-in-law and sister-in-law sat across the room and talked to each other. Suddenly Mom's head snapped up and she said, "My God Emma. That kid can talk!"
My son had an extraordinary memory. One time after he was grown he reminded me of an incident I had completely forgotten. We lived in an apartment building on the third floor. It was a bad neighborhood but I watched my son very closely.
He was a little past his first birthday. I was washing dishes in the kitchen and he was playing in the front room. When I went to check on him, the front door was open and he was gone!
Needless to say I was frantic. I ran out hoping he was in the hall. Not there. I ran to one end hoping he had not fallen down the stairs. Not there. I ran toward the stairs at the other end.
On my way I noticed one of the other apartments had its front door slightly ajar. I called out hoping whoever was in there might have seen my baby. No one answered. I went over and gently pushed the door open wider. I wanted my child.
There inside was my little boy wandering around looking at everything in the place. No one was home. With a huge sigh of relief I took him home after firmly closing their door.
My parents had moved to the big city to be nearer to us and for my father to find work. They rented an apartment on the first floor of the same building we lived in. My father adored his first grandchild. The feeling was mutual. One of my favorite photos is a snapshot of the two of them.
Daddy sat with his legs crossed in that figure four that men do. My son often sat in the space it created on Grandpa's lap. That day Mom got a picture of the two of them fast asleep. Daddy's head is slightly back and my son is sitting in that space with his feet toward Grandpa and his little head rolled slightly to one side. It is a picture of love.
As I said it was a bad neighborhood. Often in the evenings some of the tenants of the building would congregate on the front steps of the building trying to keep cool. Across the street was a small hotel. The only occupants of the hotel stayed there for only short intervals. They were the ladies that stood on the corners and invited their gentlemen callers inside for a short while.
Half a block away on our side of the street there was a fast food place. My son was fascinated by, of all things, the legs of the ladies from across the street. One day a couple of them sashayed on our side of the street, right in front of us, on their way to get something to eat.
My son set off behind them with his eyes glued to their legs the whole time. I was laughing and decided to follow at a short distance to see how far he would go before he realized I was not there. Apparently mothers cannot compete with legs. I had to run up and grab him shortly before they got to the corner.
My son has always had an extreme view of right and wrong. There are no gray shades for him. Unfortunately he expects every one of us to live up to those standards too.
When my son was about 8 or 9 we lived in a house. His father was home with the other children while my son and I went to pick up some groceries. When we returned I parked our van. Then we saw my 6 year old and 2 year old come running around the corner with a group of bigger boys hot on their tails.
The bigger boys lived in a multiple family building behind us. They were constantly teasing and picking on my children.
My son threw down the bag of groceries and screamed,"THAT DOES IT!" He took off after those much bigger boys. I grabbed my other two and told them to get their father.(He had fallen asleep and had no idea of what was happening)
In the meantime I could hear my son in the alley daring the boys to come fight. I started that way because there were several of them and they were several years older. Near the end of my backyard, here came their mothers.
Now is when I should tell you that I seldom get angry. My husband after all those years of marriage had never seen me angry. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him coming to take care of the problem. I also saw his jaw drop and him stop in midstep with one foot in the air as I said to those mothers, "You hold it right there!"
I gave them a good tongue lashing. When they would try to come back with a feeble "but..." I shut them right up. These were my babies they were attacking! I finally sent them home and there was an uneasy truce after that. My husband stood frozen in place with his mouth open and one foot in the air the whole time.
My son did very well in school. There was another boy who had been top dog at school before my son started there. Naturally there had to be a fight.
I had picked the boys up at school because I had a quick errand to run. My son insisted he could not go with me because he had to fight this other kid. I finally told him I would run my errand and we would be in time for me to drop him off at the designated spot. My son insisted I could not stay.
When we arrived at the meeting place no one else was there. I felt confident that the other boy would not show so I left. It was only a block or so from home.
When my son came home he said the other boy had decided not to go to the fight. The strange thing is that they became fairly good friends after that.
Some of the students in my son's class had misbehaved. The teacher decided to hold all the children after school to write some sentence 100 times as a punishment. My son took his blank sheet of paper up to the teacher. He told her he had done nothing wrong and was not going to be punished for what others had done. He left the classroom and came home.
When he told me about it I suggested he could write the sentence at home and turn it in next day. He looked at me like I was daft and again said he was not going to be punished for something he did not do.
I did go talk to the teacher, Her response was that she was proud of him for sticking up for himself. She told me that he was an honest child and if he felt he did not deserve to be punished she respected that.
My son was the kind of kid that could get into a fight right in front of the principal and the principal would pat him on the head and tell him it would be taken care of. Then he would suspend the other participant from school for a few days. His honest reputation followed him.
My first child decided at a very young age he did not want to marry or have children. No mother wants to hear that. I explained to him how good he is with children and he would probably change his mind.
He said that he had younger cousins to spend time with. When I explained that those cousins would grow up someday he countered that by that time his brothers and sisters would have children. He was right of course. So he has never married and never had children. He has never indicated to me that he regrets his decision so I respect that.