By: Tanya Ward Goodman
My boy is eight years old. He’s taller and broader with every passing week, as aware of his strength as a baby elephant.
On the day of his birth I was supposed to go to the movies with a friend. It was the first day of my maternity leave and I had plans to paint his bedroom and sew a crib bumper out of yellow fabric. I was reading Fanny Burney’s “Evelina: or the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World,” a terrific epistolary novel full of tight corsets and proper teas – a world that could not have been farther away from the one I was about to enter.
On the day of his birth, my father had another in a series of small strokes. In the very last stages of early onset Alzheimer’s, he had congestive heart failure, no verbal abilities and no discernable understanding that he was about to be a grandfather.
My water broke three weeks before my son was due to arrive. My contractions started hard and fast. The first phone call I made was to my movie date (a friend from book club) and the second was to my doctor. The third phone call was to my husband who said, “holy shit.”
We had no car seat and so sent our bachelor neighbors to the Right Start with pictures printed from the internet. My bag wasn’t packed and when I got to the hospital I had a big, inflatable rubber ball, but no underwear or pajamas.
When my son was born, we lived in the top story of an old house in Echo Park. My husband’s best friend from college lived below us with a friend of his from high school and a friend of theirs lived behind us in a little guesthouse. We called this ramshackle collection of buildings on the steepest street in the neighborhood, “The Compound.” Bill and Sandro, Ari and Ed. A Family. Five men witnessed my son’s first bath while I ate applesauce and caught my breath.
In the first few days of my son’s life, there was a deluge of rain. My mother arrived. Our neighbors dropped by to stand over the crib and admire my sleeping boy. I made plans to take him on a stroller walk with friends, planned to finish sewing that crib bumper, planned to read to the end of my book. We planned to go to New Mexico as soon as we could so that my son could meet my father. So that I could say good-bye.
A week into my son’s life, my father died and our plans changed again. I took my boy on his first airport ride and introduced him to nearly everyone I’d ever known at my father’s memorial service. Wrapped tight in a blanket, my boy was passed from one grateful person to the next, a living, breathing reminder that life goes on.
It’s eight years later and the days are still rolling past. I eventually finished reading my book, I took walks with friends and we found a kind of rhythm as a family. After a year or so, we moved out of “The Compound,” but my son is lucky enough to have five extra uncles who continue to share our lives. In the last eight years, I have given birth to my daughter, written one book and read dozens of others. We’ve since moved again and the kids have finished pre-school and started elementary school but I never did finish sewing that crib bumper.