Memories of being born

This week is my birthday, so suffer me as I relate my humble entrance into the world. According to memories gathered mostly from my mother, I was in a hurry to launch into life. Hustling from the car into the hospital my father carried my mother and my emerging head. This might explain some of my eccentricities. Seeing the sidewalk and door threshold pass under your eyes as your first view of the world could warp a person’s perspective.

My dramatic entrance might have saved us some medical bills. My father could have haggled with the hospital and doctor for a price break since he had already done half the work and all the heavy lifting of getting me there. Mom, like every mother has never been adequately reimbursed for her labor and nine months of lifting in the project.

And hand it to my Dad. Carrying my head was no easy chore. I know because I have had to do it ever since. I have a noble, large, or big head depending on whom you ask. I settle for 7 ½ at the hat store, too small, but the biggest they have. I am not part of the human race according to the “one size fits all” cap makers. I am not one of the “all” unless I string an elastic band from the last button to the last hole in the adjustment strap. This sometimes keeps the cap on, but it leaves a red wrinkle line that looks like I’ve been wearing a garter on my head. My high school football helmet was too tight, but the next size up was the water bucket.

Soon after I was born as my mother was cradling me in her arms in the hospital. Her maternal grandmother Rosetta came in to see the new baby. She looked at me, assumed I was hydrocephalic and said, “You’ll never raise that child Gladys.” The new mother didn’t take that comment well.

The pioneer stock of my Grandma Rosetta’s generation were long on work, short on tact. I never really warmed up to Grandma Rosetta. She scared me. When she died my mother asked my brother Gordon and me if we would like to go to her viewing and funeral. I said, “No. I don’t think that would be fun.” Mother said sternly, “It isn’t supposed to be fun. This will be the last time you will see your Grandma Rosetta.” That seemed like a good idea to us. We went. She was less scary dead than alive.

Grandma Rosetta took care of us when my mother gave birth to our two sisters. Mother tried to sell us on the idea by reminding us that Grandma Rosetta put raisins in the cereal. Raisins were a rare treat for us, and we might have bought the package deal of Grandma Rosetta plus raisins except for one flaw in the sales pitch. Grandma always served cooked cereal. We were “Wheaties breakfast of Champions” guys. Who knew that one day I would be a born again cooked oatmeal convert? Even back then I noticed cooked cereal sticks to your ribs. Wheaties evaporated on the trip to school, and it was only half a block.

Oatmeal never really had a chance with us kids because like most country folks of her generation, Grandma Rosetta called it “mush” Surely a less appetizing word does not exist in the English language. Nobody but sled dogs gets excited by mush. Something gooey and slimy in the sound. And yet mud on the other hand, or on both hands, or squished between your toes, or on your clothes is one of natures aesthetic gifts to young boys.

According to my mother the standard protocol when I was born was 10 days of complete bed rest after giving birth. (Hence our extended relationship with Grandma Rosetta, raisins and mush) It was obvious the mothers needed to rest and regain their strength the doctors said because even after ten days the women were still weak, dizzy and wobbly. Apparently nobody ever considered that the ten day rest was part of the problem. After twenty days she may well have been twice as dizzy and weak. Ten days in a hospital today would make anybody weak and woozy especially when you got the bill.

So what have we learned from this story: 1. Be kind to big headed people. They are carrying a heavy load. 2. Don’t judge a food by its name. 3. Be considerate of, but not wedded to opinions of authorities. They may change. Ten days in bed may be nine and a half too many. Who knows one day doctors may tell babies like me who are being a burden to their mothers and fathers and who seem anxious to get out and be on their own to jump down and walk to the hospital.