It was my birthday last week and knowing how much I love the color YELLOW, my mom (with the help of my darling husband) bought me 6 yellow roses in a beautiful yellow vase. It was perfect and I loved it so much. Thank you, Mama!
Carly was only nineteen years old, but she felt older than that, just having had a baby. She had given birth yesterday and she hadn’t wanted to see the baby much less name it. She didn’t know what to do, people were talking at her from all sides; the nurses, social workers, people from an adoption agency, her mother, until she had to cover her ears it was so loud. Finally, she started crying because it was all too much pressure so the nurse made everyone leave. Carly crumpled and forced herself to relax.
The father of the child, her ex-fling Rick, a musician didn’t even know that she had been pregnant, much less had a baby. She didn’t even know where he was, probably hitch-hiking in the mid-west with his band. She had slept with him a couple of times but she was just one girl in a series of his ardent admirers. She had been SO stupid.
“Just give it up” her friends had said to her like forfeiting a game, or tossing an unwanted ham sandwich. Sure, this kid hadn’t been planned but just to give it away, like an unwanted present? It wasn’t the baby’s fault that she had come into the world. The adoption agency assured her that the baby would be placed with a “lovely family” she could even choose the family if she wanted to. Did she want to keep in touch with the family and have an “open adoption?” Or, she could have a “closed” or private adoption and then she could give up her rights to the baby and start over again.
She did like the idea of starting over or as her friends put it “with a fresh start.” She could move to a big city and no one would ever have to know about this if she didn’t want to tell them. She could be whoever she wanted to be, she didn’t think she loved this child, she hadn’t even SEEN her. She decided that she was comfortable with this decision. She flipped off the light switch and then promptly fell asleep.
Carly woke up, startled, at 3am; she put her bathrobe on and decided to go for a walk down the hall, slowly, gingerly, she was still in pain. She didn’t know where she was going but subconsciously she knew where she would be end up. It was late, most people were sleeping, she stepped quietly up to the nursery window and a new nurse had just started her shift. She smiled brightly: “Hi, do you want me to get your baby?” Carly froze but instead of saying “No” she said “Yes” they checked her bracelet, and in a minute, this precious little pink bundle that she recognized immediately in her arms.
“Oh, she’s so pretty, she’s so pretty” Carly cried, as she held the baby up to her and rocked her gently. The nurse said “we sure can see someone who looks just like her pretty Mama.” At that, Carly looked in the nurse’s eyes, smiled and straightened up, “Thank you,” she whispered as tears streamed down her face. Carly asked if the baby could go back to the room with her so the nurse signed some papers and they moved the cradle on wheels into her room. The same nurse helped her get settled, showed her how to breastfeed, sat with them and talked for over an hour. It was a slow night and Carly had been the only person in the maternity unit.
Later that morning, when people started to fill her room, Carly, feeling ten years older, took control. In a clear strong voice Carly announced, “I’ve decided to keep my baby, it’s a girl and her name is Isabella. A clamor started in the room, all negative, telling her she was a fool. Carly stared at them all and in a clear, bright tone, like the ringing of a bell said: I love her and I will take care of her. It may take me a little while, a little while to get used to things but NOBODY will separate us. My mom has agreed to help us until we can find our own way. Thanks, Mom!! I can’t pretend my baby never happened and have a “fresh start,” that is great for some women but not for me; I would be looking for her for my whole life. We are family now, the three of us. Three generations of strong women. Now, I think it’s time for the three of us to go home!
Dedicated to Nurse Bella who has agreed to be Isabella’s Godmother
Mama Rose cuddled her little boy mouse, Little Ted close to her and whispered to him, softly and gently. Little Ted was frightened, there had been mean mice at school and they were calling him bad names and teasing him. Ted declared to his mom, he never, ever, wanted to go back to school again! She told him that he had to go back to school and that he would be brave and strong, and that those other boy mice were being unkind. They had a problem not Little Ted and that he should keep his head held high and ignore those hurtful words.
Ted wasn’t so sure about all of this. He just wanted to stay home nestled in his mother’s lap, safe, warm, eating chocolate chip cookie crumbs and an occasional raisin or two. “No, dear boy, I’m afraid you can’t run away from hurtful things” his mother said. “In life, there will always be things that we may not like but that we have to do.”
Mama got up and went to their little desk. She looked inside it for a long time. Finally, she took out a small, brown, box which held a silver coin. Mama Rose had used this when she was a baby girl mouse when she was frightened and she passed it on to Little Ted Mouse. “Keep this with you, son, and when you feel frightened, press it hard and know that I am right there beside you giving you courage.” Little Ted Mouse looked up at her and asked with his big, wide eyes “Really?” “Of course, little one, this will remind you of how much I love you AND like you AND believe in you. Whatever you do will be the right thing. This problem will go away, if not today, than tomorrow but remember, it will be fine.” Love can fix everything and those other mean mice just might need a little more love in their lives. Could it be that they are lonely or insecure? Just keep an open mind.” If it doesn’t get better very soon, tell Mama Rose, right away and we will talk about it again. Now, come, it’s time for dinner and then I will read you some books and then it is bedtime.
Little Ted Mouse nibbled on some cheese for dinner, he wasn’t really hungry and then he went to bed, without a word. His Mama came with him and read him five different books which he loved. Mama Rose saw his eyes get sleepy and so she gave him a big hug and a kiss on both cheeks and told him that “everything will be alright” and she would see him in the “morning sun.” At breakfast, Little Ted was quiet but Mama Rose took Little Ted Mouse’s tiny hand and they walked to the bus stop together, his silver coin securely in his pocket.
Mama Rose waited at home all day, nervously, not that she would ever admit that to Little Ted. She was relieved when the little school bus came and she saw Little Ted’s smiling face. Like all mothers, she felt happy. “How was school today, son she asked? “Oh Mama, he said “it was better than yesterday, not at first because the kids were a tiny bit mean but when I told them I had something special that I wanted to show them they all became interested…” What did you show them, my dear? “Why Mama, I showed them my special coin for bravery and they really liked it a lot!” They asked me to bring in again tomorrow so I said I would, is that okay? “Of course, Little Ted, of course!!”
They walked back to their teeny, tiny little house, they sat in a corner on their favorite step and drank milk and shared a chocolate chip and an oatmeal raisin cookie, together and chatted, happily, about their day.
Don’t give up the fight, Mama. It’s okay to feel anxious but please don’t give up; don’t fall into the rapid hole of deterioration like a black funnel cloud gaining speed. What can I do to keep you from slipping? I will hold your soft downy hands with all of my strength so you don’t go anywhere and you have no choice but to stand up like a strong, red oak tree. I will not let you down; I promise. Have a little faith, accept the bad things that have happened and move past it.
Dad gave up but he had no interest in living anymore because he was so depressed. Do you remember? The light in his blue-gray eyes had been extinguished two years before. He was not the same dad that brought us up, the joking, warm, TWA company guy that took us to eat in the airline terminal. He was not the same husband that protected you and took care of you and adored you and your less than stellar cooking attempts. You “cooked” mashed potatoes out of dehydrated flakes that you poured into a pot and heated with tepid water or with milk. Dad made his own concoctions for dessert: red, strawberry, glistening, jello mixed with canned fruit cocktail and yogurt. To top it off he added applesauce and rainbow sprinkles. He said you were his favorite cook bar none. No restaurant compared to your cooking; that was real love.
He became an old man who had difficulty walking, he shuffled and it was heart-breaking to watch. I was fearful anytime he walked up or down my three front steps that he would fall over. He refused to use a cane, or a walker, his vanity meant more than everything else. At least he had his dignity to the very end. I was lucky to see him when he was still fighting. I was there when the Doctor asked him if he would be “amenable to training so he could use a walker.” He looked up at her and said “NO, Doctor, I am not amenable to that at all!” I remember he wore his white down jacket with the bright red lining inside. I wore that puffy jacket for months after he died. I wear the chain he always wore for luck. I lost daddy years before he died, we all did.
I pray that you will bounce back, mom, and that the pain of the last six months will dissipate forever. You have fallen twice in a short period of time, you broke your wrist and your vertebrae and now we just want to keep your bones strong by taking the drug, “Reclast.” The “drug whose name shall not be mentioned” that gives you nightmares and anxiety attacks and too much fear. You had a vicious bout with a grueling flu that kept you in bed and dehydrated with high temperatures that confused your own doctor. She made you go to the Emergency Room, I met you there. You got through that, now, you have to work through the past to the present and the future. Think about your favorite occupation in the summer time, swimming in your condo’s pool with its chlorinated clear, blue water and the temperature of a warm bath. You will be surrounded by friends, and fans. You will hold court in the shade while people gather around you like the Queen that you know you are.
We all get older but I don’t want to get older without you by my side. You are the first person I call when I have any type of news. You are the one that tells me that beneath my emotional mush, “I am very strong inside, like steel” and sometimes I need to be reminded. Mama, be abrasive or demanding and unreasonable. Really, its fine. You can remind me that I should exercise more and get mad at your grandchildren for not calling often enough.
I am not ready, I never will be ready to give you up. I want to play “tickle fingers” on your hands like we used to do when I was a small child. I want to see the flirtatious woman I know, engaging with everyone you meet because people are drawn to you like moths to light. Don’t forget our famous song by Helen Reddy: “You and Me Against The World.” I will sing it for you if you want but mostly I want to sing it with you.