Wheatfield Near Fort Pierre, South Dakota. Photograph by Robert Clements

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oh this beautiful day

Molly Frances Leopin, October 2010, Morse's Mountain, Sewall Beach, Phippsburg, Maine
March 21, 1979.  A beautiful spring day in Bath, Maine.  I was 27 years old.  The morning began green and blue and warm, after a long winter.  My sister and I were living at home with my parents - she pregnant, with a future husband in the Navy in some port across the Atlantic - me because I was in between house and home.  I had traveled to England the summer before and was still coming to grips with the fact that I was back in the United States without a dream to my name.  Living with my parents back then was humiliating for me and possibly really annoying for them, but it was financially necessary.  Soon, I would step out again to hoist another flag, tilt at another windmill, get involved with the wrong guy, but for now, my sister and I were hanging out at home, waiting for the baby to be born.  The baby - we didn't know if it was a girl or boy - was named Jamie, no matter what.  It was due anytime, which was plenty all right with my sister.

We had attended Lamaze classes together, but we hadn't taken them seriously, because that's who we were back then.  Irreverance was, and is, a major personality trait in our family.  We giggled a lot, and I tried to listen, but I hoped that when the time came, that Mother Nature would understand that I was a useless goofball, could offer nothing useful to my sister, and would perform a quick birth miracle.

I worked at the Patten Free Library then, employed through the CERTA program as an assistant Reading Is Fundamental coordinator.  A fabulous woman named Barbara King saw through my intense shyness like a bullet through the fog and hired me, much to my surprise.  Her confidence in  me meant the world to me, and still does.  She was a marvelous person, tiny, feisty, quick, and fierce.  I loved working for her, and with the others lucky enough to be part of her entourage.  She was an important catalyst to motivating me forward.  I've learned that if I meet someone who scares me a little (in a healthy way - you know what I mean) it's probably important to get to know them better.  She did, she challenged me, and she changed me forever.  I lost touch with her and I'm almost certain that she is traveling in other worlds now, but I think of her, often.

At any rate, I was working at the library when my mother called at around noon.  "You'd better get up here," she said - she was a nurse and was on duty, "your sister is going to have the baby any minute."  I finished my yogurt, climbed into the latest of several ready-to-break-down-at-any-time vehicles I owned back then, and booked it to the hospital.  While I drive along in my memory, let me tell you how my sister got to the hospital, because it's so freakin' Yankee.  Most of the morning she felt constipated, she told me later, and couldn't go to the bathroom.  When she figured out that what she felt was some sort of labor, she told my father, home for his lunch.  He walked home from downtown every day, where he worked at City Hall as a custodian/messenger/general goodwill ambassador, for a lunch of soup and crackers.  No variation, always the soup and the crackers.  Then, back to work.  My sister basically rocked his world when she told him she thought she was in labor.  "Wait until I finish my soup," he said, calmly did just that, and they went up to the hospital.  By the time they got there, she was pretty far into the process, and that's when my mother called me.

I parked and went into the building, where I was directed to the labor room, which looked nothing like the big, sunny white-sheeted room I'd pictured in my mind.  Is anything ever how you picture it?  It was small, dark, and there was my sister on a gurney with a couple of nurses and her obstetrician.  I barely had time to register this when she pushed and a long, bluish-gray missile shot from her body.  It immediately turned pink, and it smelled like blood and birth, which didn't help my stomach, but that didn't matter, as I was immediately in love.  She was a girl with lots of dark hair and a frown under a teeny nose.  And she wasn't Jamie, at all, it turned out.  She was Molly.  Is anyone ever who you thought they were after you meet them?

The rest of the day passed in a haze.  I didn't go back to work.  I went to tell my friend, Barbara, because it was Barbara's birthday, too.  Then I passed the time in a euphoric state driving around taking in the light, feeling something I'd never felt.  I've never had a child.  I am the nutty aunt to several blood relative children, and to several of my friend's children, but somehow, I forgot to have my own, or the time or inclination wasn't right.  So, no, I don't know how it feels to be a real parent, but the first months of Molly's life come pretty close to how it maybe feels.  I was the one she went to when my sister couldn't cope anymore.  She was a good baby but she wanted to be heard, and loudly.  She calmed down for me, probably because I wasn't so invested emotionally and physically.  Her presence changed the family dynamics, made us different people, nicer to each other, more loving.

She's grown into a lovely woman with a wide circle of friends.  She's an athlete - first girl to make the Babe Ruth All-Star team in Bath - a coach, an artist, a double-dog owner, a fabulous friend, a lover of children and all things young and small.  She has an easy-going nature and a big laugh that hasn't changed since she was two.  What she has meant to me, I can't really say and I certainly can't write about.  I just know that ever since her birth, March 21st has meant something incredibly special to me.  Happy Birthday, Mollsie - long may you run!