I am 34 years old today. My first birthday as a mother. Not that I’ve forgotten my birthdays, although those celebrated in college and in my 20s typically resulted in such great fanfare that events blurred, hangovers resulted. But this birthday? This birthday with my four month old son, who just learned how to roll over, and shrieks with delight, this is a birthday I won’t forget.
Cole put a beautiful post on Facebook, wishing me a happy birthday and sharing a handful of wonderful photos from the past two years. He wrote about the many roles I have: hiker, mother, business owner,etc and wished me the best on the role I’d play today. Today, with the new perspective of motherhood guiding me, I think historian is in order. Or collector of stories. Seeker of origins. Archeologist of life. Recorder of memories. Daughter. Wife. Mother. Sister. The roles I play, today, and tomorrow. And hopefully for a long time, too.
Since learning I was pregnant, desire to know more about my past, my family, kicked into overdrive. The stories I wish to hear, and to write about have always been about my family, my roots. And, luckily for me, my parents have been willing to share their experience of parenthood, which first started when they were in their late 20s, broke and trying to remodel the old country church that would be our home for the first ten years of my life.
Yes, it’s true. I lived in an old church.
The irony is not lost on me.
(I should add that the church wasn’t for religious reasons. It used to be a church, and it was old and in need of repair. It was for sale cheap.)
The winter of 1982 was a brute of a winter, as long, cold and snowy winters used to be. My due date was mid-February and there was a lot of snow. So much snow that my parents were afraid they’d be snowed in when my mom’s labor began. The old church was in the country, a long way from the hospital. I can’t recall the story exactly right, but either a neighbor with a tractor (all the neighbors were farmers in Michigan’s rolling hills and hardwoods just off Lake Michigan) or my dad borrowed a plow and would go out nightly to keep the road cleared. My parents feared their orange VW Bug, “Moose” would be no match for the mighty drifts that buried Church Road.
They made it in “Moose”, although my mom wrote in my baby book she “thought Doug was driving too fast.” and I was born at 8:36am on Monday, February 15th, 1982. Now that I have my own child, I now realize how significant the statistics of birth are: the date, time, weight, measurements and assurances that signify life, and capture the mighty moment of emergence. Charlie was born at 11:00am, a good 12 hours after I arrived to the hospital. Cole drove, my mom was in the backseat — she had arrived from Michigan that afternoon and whoa, I went into labor a week before my due date. He did not drive fast and it was a warm September night.
I have a baby book for Charlie, a real book in which I write in black ink. There are two pages devoted to each month, with little boxes of prompts like: what was a good day, or what was challenging, and baby’s personality. The book wants me to record his likes and dislikes: milk and wet diapers. Best loved stories? Well, that would be Cole reading aloud, in character, from The Princess Bride. OK, who really knows if that’s Charlie’s favorite story or not at four months. But, really, at this point it makes mom and dad happy. We’re short on sleep, so Cole reading in a Spanish accent in priceless.
It’s good for me to turn to this blue baby book, purchased a few weeks before his birth, to have an actual physical space to record his living, evolving history. I didn’t choose blue based on his gender as we didn’t know it until birth, but because blue is my favorite color. Yes, my phone is full, beyond full, of pictures and videos of his smiles, raised eyebrows, shrieks and coos. But it’s important to have written documentation of his young life. Sure, it’s easy pickings when you can state that milk is served on demand (so far true for all four months) and that going to bed is really not so much fun. But the space for “What Baby Can Do” is getting longer and longer. I’m writing in the margins now. He can roll. He grabs my glasses. He laughs and smiles, bellows and giggles. He can suck on his thumb, and kick a blue ball with his feet. He loves to stand on your lap and thinks his reflection in the mirror is most curious. Everything within reach goes in his mouth.
In a few years, and even perhaps when he’s 34, he’ll want to dig up the details of his birth. To rediscover his birth story. To know that the last few months of my pregnancy was the hottest and smokiest summer on record. That he arrived a week early, in perfect timing with his grandmother’s arrival to Montana. That on the day he was born, the son of a brewer, his dad’s Oktoberfest beer was tapped and not only did our patrons say “Prost” but also “It’s a boy!”