Friday, July 29, 2016

A 20th Century Birth Story

The year was 1977. My parents were three years into their marriage and I was their first kid. 

At one point, while in labor, my mom said she thought she was going to die. Her friend responded, "No one said this would be easy."  

When I came into the world, my mother was struck by how fully present I was and my father cried when he held me for the first time.

I was driven home from Mt. Zion Hospital in my grandmother's 1955 red and white Buick special. 

When they pulled up to the curb outside our house on 22nd Street in San Francisco, my mom faced a slew of steps to the front door. Daunted, she reasoned aloud that women gave birth in fields and went right back to work all the time. To which her mother added, "And those women die like flies!" 

My mom remembers being so exhausted in those first months that she slept through my crying one night and awoke to my dad holding me on his forearm, soothing me back to sleep by talking to me like a New York taxi driver.

As I grew older, I grew intrepid and she would find me toddling off to visit Fraz in his carpentry shop across the street or she would turn to see me carrying my newborn brother down the stairs, a big sister at the age of three.

One of the advantages of having time alone with my mom --a few weeks to just hang out and enjoy each other's company-- is that these details from the past resurface in conversation. 

My mom has always been the storyteller in our family and through her we have come to appreciate the power of narrative. We, her children, are now engaged in discovering and creating our own stories. 

And we value our source material. 

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