Life Hands Us Lemons and Joy
Never Say Never
I cannot laud more the wonderful effects of a good cup of coffee and a well-baked Danish, which is what I ordered. Sitting at a table facing the room with a few diners scattered about, I could indulge my people watching skills as I waited for my flight to Spain.
Catching my attention was a woman with two young children, one about nine months old, the other about three. What are the odds I would be staring at two red headed cherubs as I am flying off to see my own grownup versions? I recall when shopping with either one or both of my kids, I felt jealous of all the attention they got. I did not attribute the jealousy to the absolute desert of my life at the time. What I saw it was a case of me, ordinary, them adorable. It seems few attract the attention of mothers and doting grandmas like a round-faced, wide eyed redheaded child.
My kids' births were a revelation to me in other ways. Jenny’s birth was a revelation as I had decided I could not have children at thirty-five. I thought a tipped uterus was the end of the line for me. I should have done a little more research.
When I visited my gynecologist one hot and humid July day, I thought I suffered from New York humidity, he said, “Mrs. Curren, you are pregnant.” I remember sitting there in his office staring at the wall. “Say that again, please.” “You are pregnant - plain and simple.”
Not so simple. John, my husband, had already expressed his desire to not have more children at his advanced age of 38.
“I pay too much child support already for my first two,” he said.
He feared having to put more kids through college. He dreamed of retiring early from his exhausting sales job in the five boroughs of New York. He secretly wished to move back to his beloved Michigan and buy a horse farm.
But I was delighted beyond words. I was finally going to have a child. I named her Jenny Rebecca for the Barbra Streisand song I so loved:
Jenny Rebecca, four days old How do you like the world so far? Jenny Rebecca, four days old What a lucky, lucky, lucky
lucky girl you are. *
I thought we could make her life beautiful and lucky. I hadn’t lived long enough to know that life has a way of taking things out of our hands, and that beautiful can be a sometime thing. But as luck would have it, Jenny became a kid with grit, determination, stubbornness and a sense of self beyond the norm.
Jenny’s actions leaving the hospital should have been a hint of that grit. I put an organdy baby dress on her to go home. Though it was a little scratchy, I felt I had to dress her in the lovely outfits given to us by friends who were going to meet us at home. Jenny clearly stated her protest in screams that probably woke everyone in the wing.
Before I was pregnant, I dreamt I forgot to feed my baby. Ha! There was never a moment Jenny let us forget she was there.
Three years later, Mary was born and her birth was an almost supernatural revelation. John had moved to Detroit. I was in New York, trying to sell our house. Divorce was imminent. We even both tried to remember how she could have been conceived. A recess between arguments? One night when one of us was not sleeping on the couch?
But I had secretly prayed for Jenny to have a friend so she would not go through life alone. Somehow, I sensed she would need a friend in the days to come. Separations were coming upon us all. Besides, I had fallen in love with having children. Poor John. I'm afraid I did not consider his feelings much. I was on a roll.
The day Mary was born, we had no doubt who she belonged to. She had John’s face and his red hair. She looked like my mother in the eyes and lips. And most telling of all, she scowled when we tried to wake her up. John’s child, for sure.
John came into town for her birth and burst into tears, seeing her in the hospital bassinet. That was my first realization that he was hurting over the separation. As Jenny, John and I stood staring at our new family member, making fools of ourselves, waving at her and making faces, I almost changed my mind about the divorce.
The next day in the hospital, I held my new bundle and check her out more closely. My friend, Stephanie, had come to visit us and we were cooing and awing over her. Stephanie had been the first to hear of Mary’s imminent birth, as she was my rock during all the breakup mess. She nearly fell down the stairs at her home when I told her.
“That’s not in your plan, is it?” she asked. “Not with divorce staring you in the face.”
I didn’t tell her about my prayer for another child.
Stephanie left the hospital room to ask the nurse to bring me some water, and I looked at sweet, round-faced Mary and smiled.
“We’ll make it through this, you little round thing. You and me and Jenny – together.”
Mary looked me in the eye with a determination beyond her years, and I swear if she could speak, she would have said, “I’ve got your number. And I’m going to give you the challenge of your life.”
Little did I know, she meant every word.
“Jenny Rebecca” by Carol Hall