From a vortex, I emerged into the world. Not being born at all, just passing from water into air.
Many years afterwords over cocktails, my mother with her friends, laughing with her resigned smile, a cigarette perched between the fingers of her left hand, would tell her friends of the horror of delivering each child, my sister and I. Grimacing as she sipped the cold gin from the frosted high ball glass, she related how each took days to deliver, the pale pink gown she wore, puddles of perspiration, the candy stripier that brought her peppermints with a sad smile. For me, she would look over at this point, and tell how the doctor had her cross her legs like she was at a Sunday ice cream social, and patiently wait her turn. The night she delivered me, after waiting for the bed on the other side of the screen to finish, a hurricane snick up the coastline. The winds blew strong outside the hospital, as Greta pushed northward, my mother gently placed me from her body, into the hands of another.
Many years have passed, my mother now lithe as woodland fairy, running from one social gathering, charity event, dinner party to the next still perfumes the air of this world with her laughter. Having become a mother myself, I was determined to not be her. The day my child was born, the sun shone down outside, people rifled about Sunset Blvd completely unaware of the anesthetic that I was drowsy with. My legs were wide apart, anxious to welcome my baby to the world, to hold her on my chest, to hear her cry. The doctor, fresh with the scent of nine rounds arrived for the main event, and with morphine induced happiness I greeted my daughter into this world, during a late spring afternoon. Twenty minutes was all it took. There wasn’t the struggle my mother went through, the questions as to when I could turn my daughter over to a nanny and be free to play tennis again.
As the evening came, I remember laying in my room feeling the strong urge to run. A cup of ice chips sat on the bed stand, the curtains drawn so that I could see the sunset of the first day of my new life through the slight break between them. But I wasn’t there.
The slash pine that lived out in the open fields around the home of my childhood, was where I was that night. As a small girl of the age of five, the lazy drooped branches in the Florida heat were where I would go. Late spring and summer days were spent high up in its branches, with all my childhood friends, hoarding pine cones in a wooden Nehi soda box that was kept for the battles that were always to be fought with the neighborhood bullies. There’s my sister up above me, peering over the side of a piece of plywood that had been tied to a fork in the branches. She smiled down as a big sister only can, a pride and oversight of wanting to know that I was well and secure. Taylor, my childhood friend, yells over at me, telling me to ‘don’t allow them boys to get close, you aim for the tops of them yankee heads’, then spitting to the ground as she always did when she was mad. Wally, my adopted brother lurked on the lower branches, a concerned look on his face that spoke of fear of falling, which he never did. It was just another day, like all of those days, waiting for some threat to lurk from Bully Barton and his friends of good for nothings.
In that tree, as a small girl I waited. My mother yelling off in the distance calling us for lunch, we knowing that she would give up and just have the nanny put it in the icebox for us for later. Mother would be gone for a swim in the heat, then by evening off with father until we were woken in the late night hours with a kiss on the forehead, or a heated argument in the front room. And we waited, all of us shiffing about, laughing, and chatting. When the lightning bugs began to rise from the scrub grass, we knew then it was time to abandon the fort for the night, a bathtub waiting before dinner and bed.
The sun waned and went out, leaving me with a small light by my bedside table as I waited for my daughter to arrive. Ten minutes, that’s all that was given after nine months of waiting, she being whisked off for a wide variety of tests and cleaning. A nurse enters the room, asking how I am doing, nodding she can see that I am anxious to see my daughter. My sister dropped a pine cone from above, as I feel it whiz by, but I know that now isn’t the time to yell at her. The nurse leaves after feeling my forehead, checking that ice chips aren’t melted, that I know where I am. When the door clicks shut, I glare upwards, giving my sister a look that she knew meant that if she did that again there would be a tussle later. She smiled back down, an apology of sorts, but guilty as well. Within a moment the room door was opened, a small carrier on wheels entered. I looked up again for a second to see if my sister was watching, here was my daughter, for the first time, could she see her from all those branches up above.
The nurse gingerly lifted my daughter, wrapped in a pink blanket, a bundle of life. She walked to the side of the bed as I shifted up into a sitting position from the lounging one that I had been in for hours it had seemed. I lifted my arms, the IV tube falling off to the side, and took her into them. Terrified, I looked down, l looked into her closed eyes. The nurse came around to the opposite side of the bed and helped me lower my gown down, my right breast exposed to the dim light of the room. She gently shifted my daughter in my arms and brought her lips to my nipple. She slowly roused, coming from sleep, and as I pulled her to me she pulled me into her mouth.
My sister laughed as she always did when she was nervous. I could hear her, but didn’t dare to look up. And off in the coming dark I could make out lightning bugs beginning to dance in the tape grasses, my mothers voice calling. But I knew that my daughter and I would linger a little longer in the tree, we would stay at these upper reaches together without fear. We together for the first time would watch the pinks of a everglade sunset, the humid turquoise and oranges that spoke of late spring days before the rains.