O Lord, thank You for our nation. We pray for your continued generosity in preserving us and our freedom. May we celebrate big-time with family, friends and fireworks — that, hopefully, won’t keep tired babies, panicked dogs and cranky old people awake all night.
In 1971, I scored higher than my academic-superstar boyfriend on our biology test. Now my husband, he remembers the questions were poorly designed.
Our brains record events differently. We should have realized that then.
Years later, during 2:00 a.m. phone calls, Dr. Hubby remembered how to calculate complicated medicine dosages and IV percentages.
When babies wailed at 2:00 a.m., however, he never gained consciousness. If he had, nocturnal amnesia would have occurred. “We have kids?”
Yet, I appreciate Hubby, my medical consultant in mystery writing. Once, though, while eating out, I pumped him about undetectable, fatal drugs — and forgot to whisper.
“Keep your voice down!” Hubby hissed as big-eyed diners moved elsewhere. “I don’t do that!”
I should recall minutiae of mystery movies we’ve watched umpteen times. I remember what the main character wore. Or if she was pushed off a high bridge (I loathe heights). But Hubby, who never forgets a plot, reminds me whodunnit.
The I-see-it-my-way-you-see-it-yours list goes on. And on.
Hubby remembers campsite numbers and lake depths from every park we’ve visited. Which is north or south of what?
I remember trees. Lots of them. Water. Lots of it, too. And that the sun sets in the west. Please don’t ask me about the moon.
Hubby always memorizes his parking spots. Unlike me, he’s never meandered for hours in a dark lot with ticked-off kids after a rock concert. Think of all the exercise he missed.
On the other hand, I still hear my late, penny-pinching father, urging me to turn off lights: “This house is lit up like Alcatraz!”
Hubby must have been raised in Alcatraz, because all-lights-on seems natural to him.
He does remember to schedule our cars for oil changes.
What, cars have oil?
Lately, though, both our memories are suspect. Name recall’s the worst.
I say, “Who did we have dinner with yesterday? You know, the flannel-shirt guy and the woman wearing cute boots.”
“That was yesterday?” He muses. “Weren’t we in their wedding party?”
“And they in ours. …”
Eventually, we nail it: Ned and Patricia. My brother and sister-in-law.
So what, if married life now consists of playing 20 Questions. With both his-and-her recall, we’ll get it right.
As long as we avoid biology tests.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What differences have you noticed in male-female recall?
Eternal Father, outside of time, You know how the invention of the clock complicated our world. Not content with that, we not only invented Daylight Saving Time, but “spring forward” in March, re-darkening hopeful Midwest mornings to December gloom. OMG, I agreed with babies brought to church yesterday. While some changes are necessary, this isn’t one of them.
Apartments worked for Hubby and me — until a percussion major moved upstairs. Then, upon expecting our first child, we learned our complex was a drug trafficking center.
We rented a house.
The only upstairs residents were squirrels. They pattered across the roof, but none sold drugs or played xylophones.
We possessed three whole bedrooms and a garage. No more scraping ice off car windows. Hubby and I began to succumb to the American Dream. …
However, the driveway didn’t shovel itself. Our house boasted a real yard — whose grass never stopped growing. Flowers I planted attracted real weeds. We purchased a shovel, mower and garden tools. Lawn chairs. And …
The infinite to-buy list should have warned us about home ownership.
But tired of paying rent, I longed to choose the colors of walls and carpet. Bang nails to hang pictures without asking permission.
So, we built a little ranch in a new addition … where roads hadn’t been completed. Also, water and sewage hadn’t yet been connected to the town’s system. During that inflationary era, the special 12 percent mortgage seemed cheap, compared to an earlier 21.5 percent prime rate.
We brought two newborns to that ranch. Mysterious stains marred my carefully chosen colors. I spent years watering grass and breastfeeding babies. Neither was ever satisfied. I also discovered I wasn’t handy. If I banged a nail into one wall, a gaping hole appeared in the opposite one.
The American Dream?
One other house we owned ate water heaters and softeners. Another featured a pillow-soft porch roof, as well as a toilet that randomly ran over and soaked anyone playing Ping-Pong in the basement.
We occasionally considered living in a grass hut in Bongo Bongo.
Still, Hubby and I have called all three houses “home.”
Home, where our babies took first, shaky steps. Where they learned to watch for traffic as they walked to school. Home, where we took prom and graduation pictures. Home, where they and their children now come for holidays.
Home is the only place where Hubby and I can put feet on the furniture. Where we can blow up and make up. Bake brownies, eating them all without anyone judging.
Our American Dream is no HGTV superstar, but at this address, we can be us.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What home-owning adventures have you experienced?
O Lord, thank You that after a wild, wonderful Christmas celebration, Hubby and I could sleep in. Two thousand years ago, Mary and Joseph probably wanted to sleep in, too, after all the brouhaha. But OMG, since You were a Baby, You probably had other plans for the day.
I feel for pregnant moms whose steps slow as the months pass. Although decades have gone by, I remember well those exhausting days. I doubt these lovely young women believe their husbands’ reassurance any more than I believed mine, who told me I was beautiful.
What insanity had blinded his usual astute vision? Seven months pregnant with our first child, I felt like a walking ottoman.
“So if I just walk backwards, nobody will know?”
“It means you’ll lose weight fast after the baby’s born.” A family practice resident at the local hospital, he knew how to handle cranky women in their last trimester.
I kissed him goodbye. Would I splurge and take the bus to my part-time job or ride my bike through our quiet neighborhood? I grinned. Each time I rode up on my three-speed, Mr. Plunkett, an older man in my office, threw his window open in horror.
Mrs. Phillips!” he shouted. “Come in and put your feet up!”
He always brought me a glass of water. Where was my mother? Did my husband really find this acceptable?
But graying skies made a ride risky. Mr. P. might have a coronary if I rode up amid thunder and lightning. So I decided to take the bus.
I donned my pink maternity outfit and slipped into comfortable shoes I’d bought when I no longer could see my feet. I arrived at the bus stop five minutes early, drifting into daydreams of nursery rhymes and rock-a-bye songs.
I stared at my stomach, confused. Sure, I was going to have a baby, but—? I cast a cautious glance behind.
Two linemen, perched atop an electrical pole, hooted at me. And yes, unless I had lost feminine instincts along with my waistline, ear-to-ear lecherous smiles gleamed on their faces.
Blank disbelief washed over me—then a joyous rush of wickedness. But Niceness pointed a finger at me, and I wavered. Should I? Or shouldn’t I?
I turned around and waved sweetly at my admirers, who nearly fell to the ground.
I waddled up the steps onto the bus. As it rolled away, I watched them hugging the pole, trying in vain to hide scarlet, guilty faces.
“Whoa, baby,” I whispered to my stomach. “You’re already knocking ’em off their feet.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite prego story?
To very-soon-mothers-to-be walking along my street, in malls, and parks: my heartfelt sympathy. I gave birth to an August baby, too.
My final month, I holed up in our bedroom, the rental’s only air-conditioned area. Trying to buckle my shoes, I wriggled like a June bug on my back for two hours, then sallied forth in bedroom slippers to buy slip-ons.
At the store, a terrified teen clerk eyed me.
He came through … and probably vowed lifetime celibacy to shield him from cranky, pregnant women. Women wreaking vengeance on people with flat stomachs, no stretch marks and normal body temperatures. On anyone not carrying August babies.
My helplessness gave way to well-shod confidence. No more June bug imitations. With God’s help, I could do this.
I even volunteered to conduct my church’s evangelistic survey. I walked on my heels, as with any shift toward my toes, my watermelon-sized stomach would have dropped me onto my nose.
But I wore cute shoes. With no buckles.
Most residents, after glances at my stomach, demonstrated kindness. Crusty homeowners collared Chihuahuas and offered glasses of water. One irate lady shooed me into her recliner. Did my mother know I was doing this?
Later, fellow volunteers and I discovered my survey had proved the most successful! However, our team leader nixed the others’ tucking pillows under their shirts for follow-up.
I did not participate. August Baby had other plans.
The day before her arrival, I weeded flower beds. Throughout my pregnancy, I had charted a religiously healthy diet. But that day, I deserved chili dogs drowned in beans, cheese, onions and mustard.
Stuffed, gritty and exhausted, I announced, “I’ll shower tomorrow.”
My husband, a sleep-deprived resident physician, yawned. “Me, too. Don’t go into labor tonight.”
We collapsed. But August Baby woke us at one a.m. to announce her imminent arrival.
Not only did I have to confess my heinous dietary lapse to the nurse, but every hospital staff member came to meet me.
“That’s Dr. Phillips’ wife?”
“Yeah, the one with the dirty nails.”
August Baby, however, made me forget everything. So what if the overflowing obstetric wing made us spend our first hours together in a hallway? Since many staff were on vacation, my long-awaited bath was postponed. …
August Baby and I spent many sweet, sweaty, squally summer nights cuddled too close, her soft skin and hair damp against mine.
But my daughter learned early to go with the flow. Her sunshine-tinged hair, eyes, and smile always have reminded me of August richness, of the treasure I received, dirty nails or not.
August Baby, you were — and are — golden.
I did not feel so positive when I endured 24/7 baby duty because of Steve’s busy medical practice. Our mean babies eventually morphed into nice human beings, but began their lives eager to destroy mine. The little insomniacs suffered from 13 kinds of colic.
People who told me to “enjoy these years — they pass so quickly” were removed from my Christmas card list.
Church nursery duty became a purgatory where diaper duty multiplied a dozen times over.
My ex-Christmas-card correspondents, however, proved correct. My nestlings flew away to give birth to mean babies of their own. At least, so say their parents.
I, however, have grown in wisdom, now recognizing perfection. I just don’t get to hold it enough.
“Waaaaaaaah!” Several small charges do not feel so positive.
Steve and I introduce them to the sacred ritual of fellowship (translation: “eating”). Cheerios aren’t nearly as yummy as the official adult version of fellowship (doughnuts), but sufficient to dry tears. One upset toddler speaks a language I studied long ago, but don’t remember. Eventually Steve solves the mystery: we served her Cheerios in a paper cup; other nursery workers had placed them on a paper towel. When he brings her one, a brilliant smile rewards him.
A family doctor for decades, Steve is good with babies. At 6’3”, he appears a bearded giant, so he sits on the floor to play trucks or tea party. One tiny girl plops onto his lap. She recognizes a grandpa when she sees one.
His eyes light up, and he’s in love. I don’t mind, though she is young and beautiful.
We hug, kiss and play. We read, rock, referee … and rescue. Why do engineers spend thousands of hours designing machines of perpetual motion when a church nursery outshines them all? Darling munchkins crawl, whirl, fight, giggle, pile, knock down, throw, grab and climb.
A mother appears, and one cutie erupts with joy, setting off a stampede. Fortunately, more parents soon show up. A large, unclaimed toddler saves his worst for last: a diaper that could empty the church. My nursery-warrior husband braves disaster and presents him clean and sweet-smelling to his folks.
Suddenly, the nursery is still. Our wild, wonderful little friends have gone home to long afternoon naps.
But none as long as ours.
Oh, my God, what fun to watch our year-old grandson’s first steps! He wiggles and wobbles and takes tiny sideways steps like a little crab. But soon, he will be running laps! OMG, You were celebrating with us—just as you delight in our every baby step toward You.