A mother's memory

Sunday is my birthday, and I’ll be heading to western Massachusetts, to the house where my mother and late father raised six children. Their first-born, Cathy, died in early infancy, so I’m the oldest.

At 81, my mother repeats her stories, and I expect she’ll tell me, again, about that golden Indian summer day I was born.


She and her mother walked “downstreet,” as people up there say, and had lunch in a place called Candyland. During coffee my mother realized she’d started labor, so my grandmother called a cab.

In her hospital room, my mother’s water broke suddenly and with such startling force that my father ran, in tears, for the doctor; Cathy had been born with spina bifida, and he thought something was wrong. But I was a healthy six pounds-plus.

Later that night, two nurses brought me, all bathed and swaddled, to my mother.

“It was against the rules, and they could have been fired,” she has told me.

“But they knew I’d lost my first baby.”

Their simple kindness has stayed with her for decades.

It moves me now.

So on Sunday, if she tells me, again, about that golden Indian summer day, I will gladly listen.

And if her memory falters, I will tell my mother the story I know by heart.