What I Can See from Here (Stories at 6 a.m.)…

…The ornate southern-belle frills of the bank of white azaleas shoring up our yard….

…The light cast against miniblinds in the window of the house across the street that means that a five-year-old in the house slipped out of bed early and is watching cartoons…

…The long-haired walking dude, who patrols the neighborhood with walks before daylight, moving briskly past our house and in the direction of his own…

…garbage day here in the ‘hood, when the empty boxes stacked up on the curb either once contained HD televisions or baby gear, a sight that leads straight to the assessment: GENTRIFICATION…

….another sixth birthday party invitation arrived in the virtual mailbox as we embark on an April during which possibly every child in Elder Girleen’s class was born…*

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Spring, the thick of it, when you can reel off the names of things as they flower like telling a rosary —pear to cherry, azalea to dogwood, and now cascading over the rims of abandoned buildings as effervescent as champagne, the wisteria — and our front porch is liberally floured with pollen.  Birds sing up the sun with such zeal the world might as well be newborn. Younger Girleen’s preschool is being wracked by the firestorm of controversy and complaint that shakes it every year about this time.*

And yesterday afternoon, I picked up the phone to call a friend at the hospital to schedule the brief visit to welcome her just-born, her first- born, son to the world.

Parents among the readership know the drill: the way you navigate the maze between the parking lot at Piedmont Hospital and Labor and Delivery, which seems deliberately designed to confuse when you’re dazed by contractions and labor but a piece of cake once you’ve had done with all that yourself.  

The way you walk into the hospital room and set down the brightly-colored bag you brought with you, that instead of everything you wish you could tell a woman who just had a baby contains a t-shirt or a dress that will be worn once or twice.

The way you walk over to the sink set into one corner of the tiny room to wash your hands like a surgeon scrubbing up for surgery. 

And then, the way you turn towards the complicated slant of the hospital bed and say Beautiful, beautiful and then, could I hold him a minute?


But by the time I was able to make the phone call and schedule the visit, this friend, who is practical and wise beyond her years, had decided, after hours and hours of labor finally falling asleep with the baby in her arms just long enough for the hospital’s photographer to walk into the room and wake her up, to go ahead and check out and head home.
So I missed the ritual hospital visit, but at least I was able to share in the just as important telling of the birth story usually spun out during that visit over the sleeping (or fussing) baby’s head.  
Sorry for all the gory details she said when she got to end, which is of course that little human bean, extruded-looking and red-faced but beautiful all the same, strapped into the car seat beside her (they were driving home when I called). 
Why is it that so often we feel we have to apologize for what might be the most important stories we have to tell?  I used to be hip but now I’m just Mommy, a new mother mourned yesterday in an online neighborhood forum I happened to read.  
I remember being twenty-seven or so, unfettered, free, and I and another graduate student sat in a windowless room at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas reading slush for a literary magazine:  oh, that younger self that I once was, who saw things as so cruelly cut-and-dried!  When I cast my eyes over a story that included babies, or birth, or motherhood, my eyes tended to glaze over.  
Not gory at all, I want to say into the phone to my friend who just had a baby. I never get tired of this story. Tell me again.
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*What happened six years and nine months ago that led to this boomlet? Six years and eight months ago, the Towers fell, and as fitting as it would feel, narratively speaking, to explain all these April Birthdays with that fact, the math doesn’t quite work.

**All the pillows and stuffed animals from Younger Girleen’s classroom are in a black plastic garbage bag on the front seat of my car, newly washed and ready to take back to school, because of this firestorm, which this year involves squirrel encroachment on school territory (inside the water fountain???) along with more usual personnel wrangles and base and baseless discontent.

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