Last week, my intentions for this column were far different from what you will read here. I guess you could say that I’ve grown a little more apt to spontaneity and change, a little more ready to make decisions on the go since then.
There are so many political things that I could have, and planned to address, all of which fell by the wayside after last Tuesday.
It was 8:54 a.m. on December 20. My much-needed, semi-comatose sleep was abruptly interrupted by a loud and annoying ring from my cell phone, placed conveniently next to my right ear.
It was way too early for anyone to call me, I decided, so I hit a button on the outside of the phone to make it stop ringing. It was my sister, Michele. What could she want so early anyway?
A few minutes passed and I dozed off again, only to wake up on my own about an hour later. In a slightly more conscious state, I decided that I should give my sister a call back, considering that for her to call me that early, knowing that I was off from school and that I probably planned on sleeping into the wee hours of the afternoon, something must be up. So at 9:58, I gave her a call. The conversation went something like this:
Me: (In a muffled, obviously drowsy voice) “Hey.”
Michele: (In her usual, cheery-even-though-it’s-too-early-voice) ”Stephen!”
Michele: “Raphaela’s water just broke!”
Raphaela is our older sister. She was due in late January, so to get a call about her water breaking in late December was pretty unexpected. As it turns out, she was not rushing to the hospital any time soon. She had a while, and so did the rest of us.
Around 1 p.m., I headed over to the hospital with Michele. We found our way to the waiting room pretty fast, and after meeting up with Anthony, the soon-to-be-father, we headed over to the Au Bon Pain cafeteria. Let me tell you, pretty delicious. That would be our first, but certainly not our last trip to that cafeteria.
After a quick lunch, I headed back to the waiting room, where this strange wood carving of a bald eagle, bears, mountain lions, and some fish, one which my mother described as belonging in a log cabin, presided over a room filled with people in waiting√¢?? some with anxious smiles, others with saddened eyes.
Among them was a lot of chatter, which, besides my rereading T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, provided me with some rare entertainment.
It was like a scene out of Seinfeld: sitting across from me, four older women, ranging anywhere from forty to seventy sitting across from each other, chatted about cooking for most of the afternoon. In their unmistakable Long Island accents I could hear, amidst the room’s din, “O, and then you put the bread crumbs on it, it’s delicious. It’s to die for, trust me; you make that in an hour, ugh, foggetaboutit.”
Diagonal to my left sat a good old blue collar family, talking about their day’s work, and later, politics. There was an older woman, probably in her 50s, and a couple of weathered older men likewise in their 50s sitting with a young man and presumably his girlfriend, both in their 20s. They discussed the MTA strike, always asking the younger guy to answer their legal questions. “Hey uh, I heard last time this happened in the ’80s, all the guys at the top got canned and thrown in jail. That’
s what they outta do wit ’em now!” one of the older men said. “Yes well, it is illegal for public workers to strike, and they have decided to fine them, I think both individually and as a whole organization,” the younger one replied.
To boot, the older men frequently asked the younger man’s girlfriend medical questions. I guessed that he was in law school and she was in medical school. They both agreed in their criticisms of President Bush, claiming that he unfairly spied on “regular people,” while the older one’s usually kept quiet when he would make such a comment. I presumed that the younger ones were liberal, the older ones conservative. This really was like a sitcom. This political stuff is for another column, though, so I’ll save any remarks about this sort of thing for next time.
So hours passed, I revisited Au Bon Pain a few too many times, had plenty to eat and drink, watched my phone, read, eavesdropped on and/or quietly observed the people around me, and wondered when my sister would have this baby already.
So I waited, and waited. 2 p.m. turned into 4, then 6, then 7, and a slue of calls in between broke the suspense a little bit. “Her contractions are ten minutes apart,” we were told, then six, then two, but still no baby.
Then, at around 7 p.m., Raphaela’s best friend, Karena, informed us that we’d probably be waiting until midnight at the earliest.
Or girl, for that matter.
Time was beginning to wear on Michele, my mother, and me. That carving became way cooler at 10 p.m. than it was at 1. I guess you could say we grew a little delirious. The waiting room cleared out at around 9 or so, and only my family and I remained. Then, we got another call.
Boy did I hear that a lot that night. At around 10:30, it looked like Raphaela would be giving birth in an hour. An hour passed, still no baby.
Letterman came on. That was mildly entertaining. I started flipping coins deciding whether it would be a boy or a girl. Most times it landed on heads, which, according to my rules, meant boy. We were all kind of rooting for a girl, considering Michele had given birth to a boy named Christopher, my first nephew and godchild, in October, 2004. Regardless, it was getting late, and our patience was running thin.
After hours in that waiting room with that carving (I wish I had that thing in my room now that I think of it, it really is interesting despite how ugly it is), Karena came running down with her arms flung open at 1:05 a.m. on December 21, 2005, just two minutes after my niece was born.
“Anabella Therese!” she shouted, with her eyes gleaming and an unabashed smile.
We all jumped out of our seats and hugged each other as if we had just won the Super Bowl. This was a little cooler than even that, though.
There were a few bumps along the road that afternoon and evening, and even since then. A nurse got a little snippy with my mother that night, and my sister’s roommate at the hospital the next day was rather loud, annoying, and, after all but bragging about a “reduction” that had turned her conceived triplets into twins, lewd. These details are not worth too much attention, though, for that would give you a false illustration of the day’s events.
Every week, I give you my impression of things in this column, so to emphasize anything but the joys of having a brand new niece would do the whole day a grave injustice. She’s happy and healthy, just as Raphaela is, and that’s all that matters.
I learned that day that the best things in life are new, spontaneous, lively, and free.
Kind of like this column, right?
I definitely had a Merry Christmas. I got the best gift anyone could ask for.