It occurred to me the other day, as I was mapping out places in the back yard to set up my grandbaby’s sandbox some day, that I’m the same age as my mother when she birthed my little sister on Mother’s Day, 1975.
Only now at age 43 can I appreciate how shocked my mom was when she learned she was pregnant again after nine years and for the fifth time. She already had two children grown and out of the house and two more (my brother Matthew and me) who were well on their way to self-sufficiency.
“How did this happen?” Mom asked her doctor.
“You mean you haven’t figured that out yet?” her doctor laughed.
I always wanted a little sister, but whenever I asked for one, my mother threatened to wash my mouth out with soap or she’d say something like, “You eat with that dirty mouth?” So it came as quite a shock for me when Mom and Dad told us the news. I was just glad they told me without a bar of soap in their hands.
Because I was 11 and self-absorbed, the details of my sister’s birth day are focused on me. Being it was a Sunday, our grocery store was closed and I didn’t have to work. Earlier in the pregnancy, Mom and Dad promised my brother and I that we could stay home alone when Mom had the baby (the hospital was in a town 11 miles away) and that made me feel all grown up and important. However, for whatever reason, both of my grandmothers ended up at our house after my parents left for the hospital and I was mad about that. One of my grandmothers also told my best friend about my sister’s birth before I could tell her myself and I was mad about that, too. My memory gets a little fuzzy beyond that, so I asked my mom for the details from her perspective and she told a much better story than I could. Here is the email she wrote in response to my questions:
I knew I was in labor about 7:00 that morning. Dad took you and Matthew to Sunday School. None of us went to church that day.
We picked you up afterward and I had my suitcase in the car. We brought you home and the last thing Matthew said to me was, “Have a nice time!” I think I laughed most of the way to the hospital.
But before we got going, Dad stopped at the store as a customer wanted a loaf of bread. (That was Veryl Matthiesen, remember him? He passed away recently.) When Dad told him we were on our way to the hospital he said, “What are you doing here? Get going!” He was the father of nine so he knew what he was talking about.
I don’t know why the Grandmas were there. We didn’t call them. I didn’t want them at the house.
I checked into the hospital at noon and Emily was born at 4:00. Dr. Strand came to the hospital at 1:00 and said it would be a couple of hours. I told him I wouldn’t have had to go the hospital that early to which he replied, “Well, you didn’t need to have your baby on the front porch.” He knew how fast things went with me.
Now I’m back tracking.
I came home from the hospital on Wednesday. Yes, the weather was nice both that day and on the Sunday. Yes, Signe did tell Jeanine about Emily and you were so mad at her. You wrote me a letter telling me all about it and I felt so bad that she had done that. Dad brought the letter to me at the hospital.
I was home when you and Matthew came in from school. You both said, “Hi, Mom. Where is the baby?” She was lying on the couch and the two of you ran in there to see her. You had a friend with you but I can’t remember who it was.
Hope that answers all the questions.
Fast forward 32 years. I can’t imagine having a baby at my age, but I’m very glad my mother did. My little sister is more than my 11-year-old self ever wished a sister to be. She has enriched my life more than anyone and I’d be lost without her.
Through the diapers and the Barbies, her existence made me accountable to someone other than myself, which was exactly what I needed as a teenager. I would have gotten into a lot more trouble had I not had Emily to answer to. She was a relentlessly curious child. When I had my children, she was and still is the best of friend to my daughters. Selfishly, though, she is the one person in my family that I can always rely on. Ever my confidant, Emily is my rock and I find strength in her energy.
Here are a few photos of us from back in the day (click on the image to make it larger). From June 1975, my very blond brother feeding Emily. From July 1976, my parents, siblings and my new brother-in-law at my older sister’s wedding. (Notice my brother got some mileage out of that leisure suit – both at Emily’s baptism and my sister’s wedding. He was a fashion king.) And from April 1977, Emily and me in a lounge chair. That’s the kind of buddies we were then and the kind of friends we are now – never far from each other and always comfortable in each other’s presence.