Happy Birthday to Me!

In case you were wondering where I acquired my writing bug, let me introduce you to my Mother. Attached below are her recollections surrounding the events/hours leading up to my untimely delivery.

I can’t think of a more perfect birthday gift.

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November 23, 1963, the birth of our first child. Nancy, arrived the day after the historic death of our 35th president, John F. Kennedy.

Since the birth was not due for another two weeks, my grandmother and I decided to go to Hempstead and tour the shops, as we often did. Woolworths was a favorite with all their 5 & 10 cent items, household, clothes, material and a luncheon counter. We would look (sometimes purchase – Grandma was frugal) until we got hungry, then soda and a sandwich. A BLT was my favorite, Grandma liked her strawberry soda.

Grandma and I spent a lot of time together. We could talk about many things, and found true comfort and humor in each other. So, when she found out I was pregnant, she became this wonderful, hovering, caring spirit, somehow protecting me and my unborn child.

We decided on Friday, November 22nd, to go into The Town of Hempstead early. In the 60’s, this was the mecca of shopping. It was about 11:00 a.m., we were window shopping down Fulton and Hempstead Avenues. The sun was out, and although it was November, I do not remember it being especially cold.

All of a sudden, a block or more away, we heard screams and saw a flurry of people racing toward the TV Electronics store. I wanted to head that way, but Grandma did not want me to go. She thought I might get hurt in the commotion. But my curiosity got the best of me, and pulling Grandma behind, I waddled toward the storefront. Being tall, I could see through and over the masses, the newsreels of JFK and his wife, Jackie, in the racing motorcade. There was shock and hysteria in the crowd.

As intent as I was on the TV screen, and absorbing the sorrow of the other viewers, Grandma became intent on me. I could now feel a tugging on my arm, along with her voice, “Janice, Janice!” “Janice, listen to me.” “Janice, do you hear me?”

We all died a bit that day.

I was not feeling well, and I guess I did not realize it. Grandma was pulling me away from the window and the crowd, and took me to an area not so busy. “Janice, pull yourself together.” “Everything is going to be ok. The nation will get through this. You are pregnant and you need to stay calm for your baby. Let’s go home and I’ll make your favorite dinner.” And that is what we did. All the way home, Grandma was her hovering, protective, loving self. She cooked my favorite Granny pot roast, smothered in her perfect dark gravy. Neither she nor my mother, or I, could figure out how I ate so much. But I ate and ate… no leftovers.

After that nice, yummy meal, and Grandma’s soothing demeanor, I headed home and waddled to bed. Oh, thank goodness, sleep came quickly… a few hours later came nagging back pains. I laid there awhile, holding my rounded stomach, and then came another pain, which I decided needed to be shared with the man next to me, “What?” came an abrupt response. After all this was in the middle of the night.

“I think I am starting labor!”

“No, you can’t be. Dr. A {a racing buddy/groupie} told us, you are not due for another few weeks.”

Hmmm, well maybe I was wrong, I thought to myself. So I laid there awhile longer, counting little back pains. Until one pain grabbed more attention than the others,”CALL the doctor!” I screamed.

Reluctantly, and with much reserve, about 1 a.m., your father called Dr. A and left a message. Dr. A returned the call with a resounding, “Charlie, it’s her first child, she is just nervous and doesn’t know.”

Okay, I don’t know. We were instructed to go back to sleep. That did not happen… half of us went back to sleep, the other two were busy. The baby pushing, me moaning.

About an hour later, 2 a.m., I ran to the bathroom and my water broke. Perched upon the throne, I, of course, announced this occurrence loud and clear. Your father appeared in the doorway, looking haggard, “Are you kidding?” Another call to the doctor. Again the doctor reassured us that the baby was not due for two weeks. However, I no longer wanted to listen to any men, and insisted, “I WANT to GO to the HOSPITAL!”

Believing there was ‘no rush,’ Daddy took time to wash his face, brush his teeth, hair too… go to the bathroom… while I, and the baby, stood in the hallway with the suitcase, and my own are-you-kidding-me attitude.

The ride to the hospital began somewhat leisurely. On the way, your father asked, if we had a girl, could we name her Nancy, after the Frank Sinatra song, “Nancy With the Smiling Face.” (In 1963 there was no way to tell the sex before birth.)

I tried to tough it out, and remember seeing the night lights of the street – one light pole, two light poles, then the railroad lights… All of a sudden, you made an ambitious move, which brought high-pitched screams from deep within my lungs. Daddy’s entire demeanor changed to that of complete fear. He was now a wide-eyed man with a driving purpose. A quick glance toward me, and his race-car, pedal to the metal foot, hit the floor, the tires of that 1960 silver corvette dug asphalt. Somehow I ended up under the dashboard. (No seat-belts in 1963.) This seemed a secondary factor to our no longer leisurely ride. We were now passing every vehicle, traffic lights were ignored, one telephone pole could no longer be distinguished from another… just a blur of streaking lights. The screeching brakes signaled our grand style arrival at the emergency entrance. Your father dashed from the driver’s side, looking for his passenger, who was beneath the dash. With the doors flung wide, a held out ‘what-are-you-waiting-for?’ hand, beckoning, “Come on! Let’s go.”

At this point, do I laugh, or pummel? “Charlie, you have to help me out of the car. I’m wedged under the dashboard, plus the corvette is too low to the ground.”

I looked up, beyond your father, to see two ER attendants with a wheelchair. One, a smiling woman – Thank God! The other, a young man. They sort of maneuvered the wheelchair to the side of the car, politely, but steadily, pushing your father out of the way. He looked relieved, as they helped me from under the dash, into the chair. A quick look at his half smile, mixed with sheer exhaustion and pride – “Well I got her here in time.”

It was not the most graceful moment in my life.

Your father waited and waited in the lobby. At 2:55 p.m., at Franklin General Hospital, Nancy with the smiling face appeared.

Because of the assassination, the nursing staff was glued to the TV, patients became secondary – but we survived. I brought you home, in my arms, (no car seats back then) seated gingerly upon a round tire, wondering, “How will I be able to do this?” With the help of my Grandmother, Aunt Pat, neighbors, a great Pediatrician, a loving husband, and a hefty amount of prayer… you lived.

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My mother and her Grandmother, my Great Grandmother, aka Granny, spent copious amounts of time with each other. I love that my birth story includes their togetherness.

Although only 10 when Granny died, she’s vivid in my mind. Strolls in her yard, under great mammoth Oaks, with her aptly named dog, Rusty, by our side. We’d have tea, and Stella D’oro Anisette Toast cookies – Rusty was not left out, he got one too. There were homemade meals, and sewing lessons, and sleep overs… Did the coincidence that Granny was born July 11, 1896, and Alex, my first, was born, July 11, 1996 surprise. Nope. Somehow, we know she had a hand in the timing of this wonderful gift – a message, that she is still with us and thinks of us all the time.

To think I was born amidst such chaos… though, I guess every birth is chaotic in its own way. I am thankful my Mother was able to endure as well as she did. Childbirth is a beautiful but scary prospect, especially for first time mothers. Today, doctors are more accountable and liable, husbands are not so quick to simply follow blindly, medical advice is no longer deemed God-has-spoken… None of this drug the mother-to-be unconscious for deliveries. Father-to-be’s aren’t separated, they now assist throughout the entire birth. As it should be – heck, it was started together, now would be a good time to see it through. There’s certainly something to be said for first hand knowledge of the process. Witnessing surely lends to sympathy – or at least that cup of tea…

My father was always far less descriptive – A-man-of-few-words, far less than my mother for sure – though thankfully enough was said to resonate. Although that time was surrounded by horrid historic events, for him, “It was the happiest day of his life.”

Mom, in one of her self-made maternity outfits

 

Mommy and Me

 

Granny and Me

 

Grandma, Granny and Me

 

Grandma, Becky, Granny and Me

 

(Standing) Charlie, Becky, Granny holding me, Grandma Black, Grandma Hagenmayer (kneeling) Ruth, Uncle Billy, Pop Pop, Mom

Dad and Me

Uncle Billy and Me

Dad and Me



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