Today is the 13th birthday of my nephew and godson George the Third. George was born in Sicily, weighing in at nearly 10 lbs. Although his first name is not the same as his father’s, the Sicilians interpreted the III after his father’s surname as part of the name package and included it on his birth certificate. The Sicilians, apparently, did not understand the American use of Roman numerals. No amount of convincing could get the Italian government to correct this error. Thus, he remains George the Third.
In Sicily, when my sister MCV went to the hospital to have her baby, she had to bring everything: Sheets, diapers, baby outfits, wipes, diaper cream, blankets, her mother. All the medical staff did was wrangle the baby out, which in the case of a bowling ball was no picnic, for anyone. But by then, Sally was rather an expert doula and this was not her first Third World Birthing Rodeo (hats off to the ABC Hospital in Mexico City, which provided everything, even a delicious steak dinner).
Sally was present at the births of six of her seven grandchildren. She was in attendance for four of them and outside the operating room for two. This is a pretty good track record and says as much about the sons-in-laws as it does the daughters. Sally was always helpful, easily entertained, and a gracious guest. She REJOICED at the births of all of these children and wanted to be on the front lines, traveling to two foreign countries for the experience. Prior to the birth of her first grandchild, she had never witnessed childbirth, not even the births of her own daughters. (At a later date we will explore Lamaze class and martinis.)
Sally’s “grandma name” was the French word for grandmother: Grandmere. She picked it herself. We used an American accent.
If Sally were here, she would have called George yesterday and reminded him that it was his last day of being twelve, indeed, the last day of being a child in Jewish tradition, that tomorrow he would be a teenager. I thought it but did not pick up the phone. Fortunately, his mother gave him the Sally speech.
George the Third’s birthday is also Thing 2’s half birthday. Sally always semi-celebrated half birthdays. As time has progressed, my parents celebrated each month anniversary of their birth. In fact, Sally passed away at exactly age 78 and a quarter, a fact she would have you know. She did not take birthdays and anniversaries for granted. As luck would have it, Sally had to share her birthday with me. She never complained (at least not that I know of) and thought it was kind of a fun party trick.
It is on days like today that we sisters really grieve over our mother’s loss even as we REJOICE and celebrate the birth of each child. Happy Birthday, George, you are now a man. Hug your mother for me and blow out all the candles on your cake. You are a wonderful testimony to Grandmere.
P.S. Gabe, if you are reading this, your birth was no less miraculous. I just hadn’t started my 40 days yet.