The year I was born, May 14th fell on a Monday. I made my entrance at 12:37 pm, while all the rest of Los Angeles was eating lunch. My mom had gone into labor earlier in the day, and when she told my dad she thought it was time to go to the hospital, he asked if he couldn’t just finish the section of linoleum he was in the middle of laying in the almost remodeled kitchen. She yelled and they took off to the hospital in their pea-green Volvo.
Everyone gathered at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, both grandmothers, an ex-sister in law, a brother and lots of friends, to wait for me to show up. Bunny, my dad’s mom, was driving a rental car with a broken speedometer that day, and almost got a speeding ticket in her hurry to be at the birth of her first grandchild. The police officer let her off with a warning. She wrote after I was born that “Marisa’s birth was like praying for a Ford and getting a Maserati,” her brain focused on cars after her near miss.
My mom did not labor long, and after the fourth hour I was there, tiny and a little suprised at the transition from inside to out.
There are many pictures of my birth, the ex-sister in law Lorna having come prepared with a camera loaded with black and white film. I have looked at these pictures so often in my life, that I can conjure then mentally at all times. They give me the feeling that I was there as an observer, in addition to having been the guest of honor. There is the look of adoration and awe on my mom’s face as she holds me for the first time, the child she had been pursuing for more than eight years. My grandma Tutu looking nervous while my mom was laboring and so relieved after it was all over. My dad, lowering me into the waiting wash basin for my first bath. Bunny peering at me through her glasses, her fingers perched gently on the blanket wrapped around me.
27 years later, I am happy to be here. I am grateful for the amount of love and excitement that surrounded my entrance into the world. I carry that knowledge of my birth-day welcome around with me and in moments of uncertainy or worry, am able to wrap it around me, like an intangible, invisible security blanket. That love continues to be the best birthday gift I’ve ever received.
(For the folks in Philly–If you’re interested in helping me celebrate my birthday in person, there’s a celebratory happy hour this Tuesday night (May 16th) at Devil’s Alley (1907 Chestnut St) starting at 6 pm).