Thanks for the memories and more

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 17, 2002

It was the summer of 1952, a hot one. A couple of days during the month of July set records for heat. Add humidity and it was a recipe for misery if you were pregnant.

"Your Daddy had a distributing business then; one day I went with him to Searight, or maybe it was Clearview. I don't believe we went all the way to Gantt," Mother said. "I don't think I have ever been so hot in my life."

I laugh as I listen, looking at Mother's face. Her eyes tell me she is seeing again that summer day she and Daddy spent together.

"I was big, out to here," she said, holding her hands in front of her. "I ate so many Popsicles, and at night I'd go outside and walk to get cool."

Daddy also watches Mother as she talks, then he pipes in with his memories.

"We were fishing back in the woods one day," he said. "There was a log that went out in the water. Your mother walked out on it, cast her line and hung something."

Mother smiles, nods and picks up the thread of the story.

"I pulled it up. It was a snake," she said. "I screamed 'SNAKE,' and went running, big and pregnant as I could be."

Daddy is laughing again.

"She was sure moving down that log," he said. "It turned out to be an eel she caught."

They laugh at the same time, remembering, and I smile.

There is another story; the one Daddy tells about finding out Mother was expecting their first child.

"We'd been married a while," he said. "She told me one day she didn't know we could have children. About two weeks later, she told me we didn't have to worry anymore because she was expecting."

I've heard these stories all my life, but Tuesday sitting in my parents' breakfast room, they were special.

"Oh, by this time of the day I'd been in labor for hours," Mother said, looking at the clock. "I was sitting up eating ice chips."

She tells me the doctor gave her something called a saddle block so she wasn't in too much pain. I hear again how she delivered her first baby at five in the afternoon.

I imagine Mother and Daddy, young and waiting for the birth of their child. I think about Mother feeling the baby moving inside her all those months.

There are pictures of that baby; the one Daddy says arrived with a pointed head. They are in an old black photo album. They are also in a scrapbook that was a birthday gift of mine.

Two days before, I walked in the door of my parents' house and was greeted by family singing Happy Birthday. It was a surprise celebration of my 50th birthday, one complete with cake, balloons and gifts.

My youngest son and my baby sister took pictures. My daughter says she will add them to the scrapbook. It was a perfect afternoon; one I won't need pictures to remember.

The actual day of my birth was July 16, 1952; so Tuesday I went back to the house of my childhood. I sat at the breakfast room table, talking about the party, about how cute the grandchildren were, about the amazing cake my sister had made for me – the small talk that goes with a visit on a hot summer afternoon.

Driving home later, I replayed the past few days in my head, hearing again voices yelling surprise, remembering the story of my arrival into the world.

I thought about my sisters, my brothers, my husband, my children, all the ones who gave me the party and made me feel so special.

Then it occurred to me that I forgot something important Tuesday. I didn't say thank you to Mother and Daddy. But how do I thank the people who gave me life? What words express the satisfaction and contentment I feel just being with them?

Here I am, a person who lives for stringing words together, struggling to find the right ones.

Thank you for bringing me into the world sounds inadequate and small. Thank you for teaching me tolerance and giving me values to guide me through tough times; even those words fall short.

No, I should have voiced the thoughts I had as I looked at their faces. So I'll say now what I should have said then.

"I am proud and honored to be your daughter. I will always love you."