L1: Only You Know

Dear God: You should really see how my Nammy’s face lights up when she tells the story about when I was born. She was at it again today.

I was sitting on the couch; she was rocking back-and-forth in her leather recliner. Her favorite soap operas were playing on the tv. But she wasn’t really watching them. To be honest, the way she dozes these days, her soaps tend to watch her–not the other way around.

So, there I was watching her soap watching her. Nammy perked up during a commercial break and readjusted her glasses from the tip of her rosy nose to the place where her bridge and eyes meet. She looked over at me to see if I caught her sleeping. And, before a smirk could crinkle the corners of my peepers, I glanced away as if I didn’t. I looked back. I smiled. She smiled. We both knew that I did.

Through a half-yawn and half-snicker, she asked me what was going on in the show. She could have used the DVR to rewind and re-watch. But her catnap was so quick that I guess she figured she didn’t miss that much. Or maybe it was because of nostalgia.

When I was little, Nammy would let me curl up in her lap or on a beach towel she laid at her feet while she watched teledramas play out. That was way back when Nammy and Poppi stilled lived in Wyandanch. VHS was her DVR. The tv was a behemoth compared to the flat screen she has now. And I was the one doing much of the napping in those days.

I let her know that they made it to the hospital, but she hadn’t had the baby yet. That scene was probably coming up next. Or the writers were going to delay it until the next episode. This must have been what got Nammy started. She sat up in her chair and turn up the ceiling fan a couple notches (that’s menopause for ya).

Painting the Scene

I could detect goosebumps Polka dot her mahogany complexion. She reminded me about another thing that was delayed—me. I was the bun in the oven that was a couple of weeks late. She turned down the volume and grinned at me as if I somehow had control over the timing of it all. Apparently, I was supposed to make my debut the end of December or beginning of January. But no. I arrived in the middle of January, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a snowstorm.

My Mom was crunched up on the bottom bunk of the bed set in what was Uncle Lee and Uncle Lou’s bedroom. (She had come back from college to live at home with Nammy and Poppi after she found out she was pregnant.) My Mom had had some false alarms during the couple of weeks prior. So, initially, they didn’t think much of her contractions. But they kept getting worse and closer together. At one point, she was clinging to the rods underneath the top of the bunk of the bed set for dear life like they were monkey bars.

My Nammy’s hands were painting the scene as if the air was her canvas. When Mom snapped the bars like KitKat candy sticks, everyone knew it was far time to get to the hospital–stat. My Poppi called my Grandpa. My Grandpa let him know he and my Dad were going to meet them there. Everybody in the house huddled into Poppi’s gold Buick sedan; he meandered through the nor’easter of ’94. God, you must have been watching because it was a wonder that they got to the hospital in one piece.

Nammy corralled Mom through the front door to the front desk. And medical staff carted her off in a wheelchair as she heaved and hoed in labor. Nammy followed them like a shadow at daybreak. Her baby was having a baby. Nurses set Mom up in a room. They checked her vitals. They measured her cervix. Mom kept begging for an epidural. But, alas, that ship had long sailed. The doctor explained that I was close to crowning. Holding my Mom’s sweaty palms, Nammy understood.

One soap had ended, and another began. As I guessed, the writers from the last teledrama had waited to show the birthing scene until the next episode. But Nammy wasn’t paying any mind. Her hands were on her abdomen. She swears that she could feel each of my Mom’s contractions in her own womb. As for my Mom, well, she was at the point where it was hard to comprehend anything from the pain.

Perfectly Out of Place

It came time to start pushing. One nurse told her to stop screaming. Mom told her to stop telling her to stop screaming. It was as stormy inside the room as it was outside. A few mighty pushes later, there was a moment of silence. I had emerged with a full head of hair. Nammy maneuvered her hands around her salt and pepper crown. The screaming had stopped; the crying had begun–mine, that is.

 While Nammy recounted cutting my umbilical cord, her voice creaked a little. I noticed mini droplets peek out of the corners of her eyes. I was a little peanut the medical team cleaned up and wrapped in a little yellow bunting. She was an elated Nammy. Her husband was a proud Poppi. My Dad and Grandpa made it to the hospital as fast as they could driving from the city–albeit, during a blizzard. But the storm was no match to me nestling in my Mother’s arms. “Mommy’s baby; Nammy’s maybe,” Nammy ended the story like she always did.

Sunny Florida weather washed through the sliding doors that lead to Nammy and Poppi’s screened porch. I could see Poppi in the backyard maintaining their manicured lawn. Reclining in her leather rocker, Nammy commented about how her little peanut wasn’t so little anymore. Still, I would always be her Sweetie. And I let her know that she will always be my Nammy. And like that, she refocused on watching the tv. But it wasn’t long before, yet again, it was watching her. It was like old times…only it was different.

God, often, I wonder why my birth was under such odd circumstances. Why in the middle of January, in the middle of the night, in the middle of an ice storm? How is it that everything was perfectly out of place yet impeccable? Was it all some kind of microcosm–my Mom caressing me in her arms while a nor’easter wreaked havoc all around? Were you metaphysically foreshadowing our journey together?

Throughout the years—looking back over all the letters among us—one thing is clear. Only you know. Only you.

Forever yours,
Reese

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