Before we married, Jim promised me we would have five boys.
Because I was very young, somewhat gullible, and only took college laboratory courses because I had to (notwithstanding my lack of scientific skills), I believed him.
We had two boys in under two years. Promising start.
On a windswept January day the following year we had a few extra hours on our hands: my scheduled delivery had been moved to make way for an emergency one. (I did not prove much more successful in the childbirth department than I had in the hard sciences.)
We took our toddlers to breakfast at a riverside restaurant where I managed–just barely–to slide my mid-section behind a sturdy stationary pine table where the boys laughed and gave us sticky kisses before we dropped them off to play with friends–and Winston, the venerable bulldog.
Jim had only sisters and I had only brothers, and despite having some experience growing up as a girl I never felt equipped when among girl friends to understand how that is, or should be, done. I assumed that we would have a third son by mid-day; he let on to me that he thought we’d be bringing home a Holly or Fiona.
We stopped at a nearly empty restaurant near the hospital and Jim had something to eat; I was not allowed to partake before surgery.
The owner looked at me and smiled, “When are you due?”
I glanced at Jim’s watch. “He should be here at 12:42,” I said.
She gave me a hug.
Then the two (almost three) of us went to the seashore, and walked hand-in-hand down a snow crystal-glazed path to the ocean. A few hours later, beautiful Emma arrived, not with a howl but with a thoughtful, piercing and curious gaze from the second her enormous eyes adjusted to what we then knew as light.
Emma was a teenager when her father died. She is in such important ways like him, the man who taught her to love finches.
As sunset gathered on her birthday this winter I felt compelled to turn my steering wheel off course and drive back to that seashore spot, where layered gold and orange clouds settled in one spot to form unmistakable wings so bright they lingered as an after-image even when the sky turned gray and only the smudged plum outline of a single bird soared over the sea.