Thursday, May 1, 2014



Sixty years ago tonight, I spent the night with Mr. and Mrs. TUBBS, while Daddy stayed at the hospital with Mother, and we all excitedly awaited YOU.   I still didn’t know how to realize that it was REAL, somehow---that you’d be coming, though we’d talked to you and expected you and called you by name (just the one) for ever so long.


And, since ladies were VERY reserved about such things, even at my age, I hadn’t been let in on much of the progress and process, though I’d heard a lot from other girls and their own Moms’ experiences with babies and labor and stuff.   


 I DO remember two of Mother’s maternity dresses---they were absolutely beautiful, with the little stretchy panels in the top of the skirts hiding beneath the sweep of the discreet tops.   They were made by the same pattern, same material---one in a sort of golden umber, and the other a lovely gunmetal-silvery-gray.   The top of the fabric was a soft, dull version of the color, and the other side had a bit of a gleam to it, like fine satin.   The dull side was used for the garments, and the shiny side on the covered buttons, the cuffs of the short sleeves, and the little strip on the slash-pocket at the hip.

Those clothes were popular!   I can remember that they got passed on to quite a few ladies.  They were absolutely the nicest maternity clothes I’ve ever seen, and every few years, you’d see a nice young woman wearing one of them to church or out around town.     I can also only look at it from my own perspective---the absolutely clear memories of the night, how I spent it, even the dishes Mrs. T. set on that shiny green formica table-with-six-matching-chairs.


It was a Saturday, and school was still going on, and I don’t think I went over there too early in the day, but I WAS home.   I took my stuff in a little vinyl-kind of suitcase, printed with little boomerangs like the counters at Miss Florrie’s Caffay.   It was teal and black and white, and held my shorts and blouse and underthings and my tooth-brush, gown and robe.   And though I had worn the robe only once in my life (the night that Grandpa was laid out in his casket in the living room, and people were coming and going all night, “sitting up”),  I took it with me, because there was a MAN in the house and he wasn’t kin to me.  


I think I was outside when Daddy came out and said they were headed over to the hospital, and I remember going on in after while and getting my bath and putting on fresh clothes to leave in.   Just me at home in the daytime, and we didn’t think anything of it.


Mr. and Mrs. Tubbs and I sat on the porch---me with my book, and each of them reading a section of the afternoon Press Scimitar, while she waited for the timer to ding on the chicken-and-rice casserole.   She had the table set so pretty, with yellow-flowered dishes and the tea glasses had a green-and-yellow painted-on pattern like all the juice sets of the Fifties---remember, with the matching pitcher or juice carafe?   And those crinkly/waffley paper napkins everybody had in the little plastic bookend thingie on the table.  



BUT---MY iced tea spoon was yellow GLASS, and the handle was a STRAW---just the neatest thing I could imagine.   And though I didn’t use sugar in my tea (none of us did), I stirred and sipped and smelled the slice of lemon sitting sidesaddle on that pretty glass.   We had the chicken casserole and also for the only time in my life, I had sat at the kitchen table and shelled English peas while the cook tended to other things.   I saw that scene in movies over and over through the years, but nobody we knew ever sat and shelled stuff five minutes before they were about to sit down.   At least it seemed like five minutes those peas stayed in that little Revere-Ware pot---they were still a pretty green when she served them (though she DID use Mother’s “creamed carrots” recipe and poured a hearty glug of Pet Milk into the peas and shook them around a minute before pouring them into the bowl).
She’d made pretty pear salads with cottage cheese and a cherry on top, on a little separate plate, and the whole thing was so elegant, I just wanted to fix up every meal like that---maybe that’s partly where my Martha-gene kicked in (and which is almost flickered out, though if Sweetpea or Caro get going, we really get into the spirit of it).
It was still way daylight when we finished, and I helped her wash the dishes before we went into the living room to watch TV.   And at ten o’clock, she and I got into  our gowns and robes  and went back to the TV---she with her jar of cold cream, a bath rag,  and a little bowl of ice water.   She sat there with her legs tucked up beside her on her end of the couch and rubbed the cream for a while all over her face, then kept dipping the cloth in the ice water and wringing it out, as she scrubbed off all the cream and makeup.   Along with all her eyebrows and lashes---when I looked over at her, I was startled to see that her face looked so NAKED.   Her brows must have been one hair thick, all across, for they had the appearance of one of those Lothario mustaches in the cartoons---you know the tiny little rim on John Waters’ lip?   When she’d scrubbed off all the daintily-arched pencil, she looked like a slick Goldsmith’s mannequin, and I tried not to stare.   Without her glasses and earrings and lipstick and most of the topography of her face, I hardly knew her.  
The LATE MOVIE was the original Black and White version of   D.O.A. with Edmund  O’Brien, and despite the film noir of it, and the deep, gripping who-dun-it-and-why, I was simply mesmerized.
It must have lasted past midnight, but Mrs. T. was different, somehow, from most family people---it didn’t seem to bother her or hinder her bedtime;  she was still sitting there with whatever came on next, when I’d gone into the spare room to bed.
And all during that visit and the night, I’d suddenly get this little bubble of happy anticipation in my stomach---like the times when I’d been invited to go to the fair next day with someone, and could hardly wait for morning.   Something extremely GOOD was about to happen, and I could hardly sleep for the little thrill-pangs.   I slept, we had breakfast (coffee with cinnamon in it, and that squeezy-bag butter that I always wanted to smush around and mix just once, on the toast).
Daddy came and told me “You’ve got a little SISTER over yonder,” and I went to meet you for the first time.   Mother was still drowsy (ladies stayed 10 days or so in the hospital, or at least went home with a hired “nurse” to look after them) and you were right there by the bed in a little tall metal crib. I walked over and looked in, and I swear you looked right at me---your little golden dandelion floof of hair shining and such a sweet little face.   Oh, if we could imagine at beginnings, how momentous and wonderful the living of a thing is going to be, we’d either flub it up by grabbing at it with both hands and holding it too tight, or we’d be struck dumb by the import and the responsibility and the sheer wonder of it all. 
But I didn’t hesitate a second.   I picked you up and saw those huge brown eyes looking up at me, and you were MINE from then on.



Debby@Just Breathe said...

What a sweet post....those were the days! Can't believe the memories you have from being so young at the time.
Happy Birthday to your sister!!!!

steelersandstartrek said...

What a great painting your words create! You are SOOOO entrancing... I get a precious gift every time I peep into your world.

Happy birthday to her, happy day to you and yours.



Kim S. said...

Oh, Happy Day, "Sis". You and I know that you have the best sister in the world. I think that she has the best sister, too!

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Rachel,

You paint those days of some sixty years or so ago with such vibrant colour. We are there with Mr and Mrs Tubbs, eating at their Formica table and assisting with the shelling of peas. How vividly we can see your little case packed with the essentials for an overnight stay and how touchingly you recall the excitement of an event which will change the life of your family for ever. This post is a total triumph......vintage Lawn Tea.....and how we love it!

We are left imagining your sister today. Where she time has shaped both your lives.........does she many questions. How we should enjoy spending time on the Lawn Tea porch (we imagine that you have one) rocking gently in the Lawn Tea rocking chairs(we imagine you have them) and chatting with you and your sister about everything under the sun. Now that would be fun!

Wishing your sister a very Happy Birthday and many, many happy returns.

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

I cried when I read this. My baby sister was born on May 5h and this year she will turn 65. I was 11 when she was born. It's funny, but all that happened the day she was born has faded. I am sorry that all I remember is how happy I was at finally having a baby sister. I already had two little brothers. I guess my memory has checked out on me..and it makes me sad. I only remember that each time a new little one was brought home, I was delighted. I was the big sister. I still am.
Happy Birthday to you sister..and many happy returns!

Patsy said...

Enjoyed your story so much and wish your sister happy birthday.

Dorothy said...

I always enjoy your stories and this one especially. The maternity clothes were a far cry from today's girls trying to 'show off' their bellies when we tried to hide ours! You mentioned The Press Scimitar and Goldsmiths, so I'm thinking you live in the South, around Memphis maybe :) My own big sister has to relate the story of my birth on each birthday that I celebrate! You nailed all the details of 'times back then'! Happy Birthday, little sister!

Betsy Brock said...

Well, this was just the sweetest post I've ever read! Happy Birthday to your sister!

Thank you for your visit and telling me about RADAR. So fun!