The morning of January 7th was bright blue, clear, cold–though not nearly as bitingly frigid as today.
The almost-five of us went to Exeter for breakfast for three. I could not eat because our child . . . who I was quite sure would be David, a third son . . . was scheduled to be delivered in Portsmouth at noon. We had been bumped from the early morning OR schedule because of another mother’s emergency, and found ourselves with a few extra hours of time on our hands.
Jim and I drove to drop off our little boys with Mama Kaya, who a few days earlier had told me with assurance that this baby was a girl. (Jim thought so, too–and he was two-for- two; I had managed to whiff on gender, though I could always guess correctly when it came to others’ progeny.)
We all stepped hand-in-hand across ice beribboned with undulating, windswept swaths of fresh snow, and I planted kisses on Sam’s and Noah’s icy cheeks, my mittens sinking into the blue down of their pint-sized winter coats during a lingering family hug. At the ages of one and three, they were less concretely aware of the day’s dimensions. They knew only that we would soon have exciting news for them.
Still, it was not time to report to the hospital. Jim and I drove to Odiorne Point, where we were the only humans in sight on that winter day. We went to the shore’s rocky edge, where Jim took a few pictures in the blinding light.
Jim was still hungry. We stopped at a nearly empty restaurant on the harbor. A waitress saw me–twenty-two pounds of baby and accoutrements compacted under brilliant blue pinwhale corduroy–and asked, “When are you due?”
I glanced at Jim’s watch. “Two hours,” I said.
She gave me a hug.
And soon our baby arrived. Jim saw her first, as she was lifted from my abdomen. (He could stomach the surgical view.)
“Now we’re going to have to come up with a girl’s name,” he said. He shared his top three choices–Molly, Holly, and Emma–with the considerable number of people in the operating room.
“I have a dog named Holly. A Rottweiler,” said one physician.
“I have a dog named Molly. She’s a mutt,” a nurse added.
Later, as we swaddled our first daughter in my room, a nurse came on shift and introduced herself.
“What’s her name?”
“Oh, I have a cat named Emma!”
Jim and I looked at each other and laughed.
Compared to her brothers, Emma was a petite baby, with a full head of fine hair, cupid lips, and enormous deep blue-gray eyes. Gorgeous beyond gorgeous, as she still is.
She began teaching us things almost immediately.
And she was preternaturally wise. In the car once, as we drove to get groceries, it registered on me that the radio announcer was quoting a basketball player who spoke of a God-given victory.
“I don’t think God micromanages sporting events,” I muttered.
My little girl piped up from the backseat. She was young enough that she still used a car seat.
“It’s not that, mommy.” (My youngsters were more than accustomed to both my word usage and my random rhetorical rambles.)
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t think he’s saying God makes people win games. People who believe in God that way aren’t praying to win things. It’s that they see God at work in every part of their lives.”
Emma has taught me to pronounce words like Schadenfreude and Bangladesh (though almost all of my children still make fun of me when I pronounce “croissant” correctly, and I set off quite a laughing fit every time I do so at a drive-through.)
She is now a Global Health Scholar, poised to do summer research in disease transmission. She has planned important trips for all of us and taught us how to travel internationally. She let us tag along with her to Japan when she presented a paper in Kyoto.
She spoke the sweetest eleven words ever spoken when she said goodnight to her father the night before he came home from the hospital to die.
Today, officially, is the beginning of her chronological adulthood.
Happy Birthday, Emma. We love, love, love you.