(Me carrying my niece at her baptism)
January 6, 1979, some time after 8:00AM:
After having rushed to the hospital late last night, only to be sent home with a simple diagnosis of "Braxton Hicks," my sister was now at the hospital "for real." I was awakened by our elderly neighbor who informed me that my sister, her husband and my parents had left to the hospital around 5:00AM. They hadn’t wanted to wake me, as there would be no point in having a nine-year-old hanging around a hospital lobby, bored out of her mind (this was pre-Gameboy, people), for God knows how long it would take for my sister to deliver the baby. She informed that my aunt and uncle would be picking me up later to drive me to the hospital and wait.
I arrived at the hospital with my aunt and uncle later that morning, and found the lobby full of our family members. And we waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, at around 9:00PM (forgive me; I don’t remember the actual time), we were notified that "She" was here. A she! A little girl! My one and only niece; my very own real-life babydoll. The first grandchild in this fairly new, extended family (she was conceived just three months after the wedding). This tiny, little miracle was the sole reason my parents and I had packed up and come back to Miami after less than a year in Texas (we moved the day after my sister’s wedding; she stayed here with her husband and his family). There was no way we were not going to be here for her big debut!
I, along with about, oh, a dozen relatives packed into the hospital elevator and pressed the button that would take us up to the maternity ward. I couldn’t wait! I was so happy and so excited, so anxious to press my face against the glass and gaze adoringly at the gift that we, as a family, had been honored with. The elevator rose slowly, floor by floor, finally stopping at the right floor. We filed out, one at a time, and proceeded – en masse – to the nursery. Unfortuately, my illusion was shattered before I could even cross the threshold from waiting room into nursery hallway. I was stopped by a nurse and my parents were informed that "children under 14 are not allowed on the maternity floor." What? WHAT??! What did she mean? Is she saying what I think she’s saying? Am I not allowed to see the baby – MY baby girl?? Apparently, back in the day, children were thought to be riddled with infectious diseases the likes of which had not been seen since the Black Plague. Therefore, we were nothing but a death sentence waiting to be thrust upon the frail, tiny infants in the maternity ward. Did I mention the part where they were behind a wall of glass and concrete? Okay, just making sure.
I was quickly escorted back downstairs by one of the older cousins (HE was 14; HE was in the exclusive VIP club that was allowed to see the baby). I was an inconsolable ball of snot and tears by the time we made it back down to the first floor. I wanted to see my niece, damn it! After about 15 minutes of watching me blubber and pout, the cousin couldn’t take it anymore. He went off for about five monutes and when he came back he grabbed my hand, advised to follow him and not say a word. We snuck around the corner to a different bank of elevators. We got in and I kept my gaze down and to the side. As if not looking anyone in the eye would somehow make me appear older and make them completely oblivious to the fact that I was 4 feet tall and wearing Garanimals. As you can imagine, that plan was thwarted as soon as a resident stepped into the elevator with us. He looked over at us, then asked the cousin where we were headed. He panicked and blurted "the nursery"; the resident proceeded to inform us that we – no, scratch that; that I – was not allowed "in there" and made us head back down to the lobby. Once again, I was incosolable. It was as if this baby was somehow the mythical Lost Ark and I was Indiana Jones!
I went back to the lobby where I proceeded to sulk and pout for the next hour. What was wrong with these people? Did they not realize that this was MY niece? My one and only? Did they not know that I – a child that was (is) painfully shy and would rather have been struck down by lightning than speak in public, EVER! -had gotten up in front of an entire classroom and dedicated an entire "Show & Tell" presentation to the fact that I was going to be an "Aunt"?? An Aunt, people! This was no "hey. check out the new Barbie my mom got me at Kmart" dealio; this was a position, WITH a title!! I was so incredibly sad, I felt my world had ended. David Cassidy himself could have come and dedicated an entire album to me and BOTH Hardy Boys could have professed their undying love, and it would not have made a damn bit of difference.
And then – a miracle happened! I don’t know what occured, or who spoke to whom, but there, like a vision, a Godsend, a guardian angel, was my dad. And he was telling me to hurry up and come with him. Quick, come, ("Apurate! Ven!"), they are going to let you see the baby for five minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever obeyed my dad so easily in my life! I ran to his side, grabbed his outstretched hand, and practically dragged him to the elevator. I was overjoyed, ecstatic, elated!
When the elevator doors opened on the maternity floor, I ran across the threshold and pushed my way through all the relatives in front of me. I navigated the sea of great-aunts and -uncles, grandparents and cousins. I saw my sister there, at the front of the crowd and hurried over to her, and threw my arms around her waist. "Where is she?! Which one?" I asked, almost breathlessly. She pointed out the bassinette that held our baby. I held my breath.
She was so tiny. And wrinkled. And red. She had the tiniest little nose, and perfect little cherry-red lips. Her head was covered with thick, jet-black hair. She really did look like a babydoll; a wriggling, breathing, suckling babydoll. She was perfect. She was beautiful. She was my baby.
June 21, 2008, some time after 1:00PM:
She has always been beautiful. But on this day, once again, she was perfect. She was stunning. She was radiant. She was my baby.