Love from parents comes in different forms.
I was born in a United States hospital in the typical early 1950s manner.
Dad was pacing or sitting in the grey-walled waiting area and smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes or Camels.
He was dressed in a suit, complete with a tie and jacket. He wore a white long-sleeved shirt (lightly starched, casual cuff links) and a blue and grey tie with a T-bar clipped to his shirt.
Mom is out cold, or nearly so, in the maternity delivery room—normal vaginal delivery.
The cord was cut and so were all the traces of the connection to my womb home for just shy of nine months. I was weighed, measured, my time of birth noted. I was wrapped in a blanket, placed in a plastic bin on a wheeled cart, and promptly rolled to the nursery. I was side by side with my new roommates, each of us in a bin. A card was placed in front that said “Girl Dolk.”
My blanket was pink—my least favorite color.
I was yellow, jaundiced, and kept under some lights for a short while. My grandmother would later gasp. She used to tease her daughter that she would have a yellow baby, given all the eastern colors and themes in my parents’ first tiny one-bedroom, one-bath apartment.
Despite that separation, from the moment I arrived at the hospital, I had love. I could dissect my wonderful childhood and uncover slightly traumatic events, but that is not the intent of this memory.
About 20 years ago, my mom came over to our house in Maryland to present me with a square soft, green box with a removable top—it was clearly baby-related, circa 1951.
Inside it, I smiled to find all the cards from her baby shower, my birth announcement cards, and a pink ribbon holding samples of my first and second haircuts. I was born with a full head of hair—lots of it. The box also contained my first shoes and every report card from first through twelfth grade.
The prize (and best part) was the daily schedule of her “to-do” list for her new baby—the first six months of my life.
Written on one piece of plain paper, yellowed from 50 years, was her exquisite flowing script. It was written in pencil. I started reading it out loud, pausing to laugh or smile.
Now I truly know that my early (and still to this day) habits of writing out my daily tasks started with her.
Is that a genetic or learned behavior?
Daily “to-do” list for my new baby:
7:30 a.m. >> Wake Janice, wipe her face, and change her diaper. Change from night clothes to kimono.
Prepare Janice’s breakfast. Cereal and bottle feeding.
On the front porch in the playpen (indoors in cold weather).
9:30 a.m. >> Put on a square diaper.
10:04 a.m. >> Nap.
11:30 a.m. >> Wake Janice, wipe face, and prepare Janice’s dinner: vegetables, custard, and bottle feeding.
In the backyard in the playpen.
3:00 p.m. >> Bottle feeding for Janice and then a nap.
6:00 p.m. >> Prepare Janice’s supper: egg yolk, fruit, and bottle feeding.
7:00 p.m. >> Bed.
I left out the parts of her day that related to waking my dad and having dinner with him on his return from work at precisely 4:40 p.m.
On the back of the page, in the upper right-hand corner, it said: August 1st, 6 months old, 16 pounds, 3 ounces nude. I guess she no longer needed written instructions from that time on.
Love comes in all ways. My mom and dad both showed it in their care—with or without written instructions.
Thanks to mom for giving me independence, time alone, my artistic ability, and my list-making ability. I am also grateful to her for making my bell-bottoms and teaching me how to make a second pair.
Thank you dad for giving me the freedom to think and reminding me to face adversity with a calm demeanor. Thank you for encouraging me to make my own decisions, but to also take responsibility for any consequences. And, yes, I made a lot of bad choices.
Happy Parents’ Day.
Even though you are both gone physically, you always live in my heart.