23 years ago, I woke up to a startling popping noise, similar to the sound a bottle of champagne makes. It wasn’t champagne. It was the beginning of your journey into this world to meet me. I know there were (and are still) others you would meet, but I like to think this first time was meant for me alone.
I’ve told the story many times before: the long ride across the Coronado Bridge in the pre-dawn hours, the lights twinkling across the bay as my contractions grew stronger and closer together. Dad was flying from Bremerton where his ship, The Long Beach, was being dry docked for repair. We hoped and prayed he would make it in time, but he was just a few hours shy.
The nervousness of the taxi driver who didn’t speak English and seemed very concerned I might soil his cab with my impending birth. How I labored for several hours alone, waiting for your Nannie and Papa to drive up from Indio to be with me. The doctor and nurses placing bets about how big you were gonna be (they were all wrong…and so inappropriate!). How beautiful you were when I held you in my arms, all 22 inches of you. You were and are still a gorgeous girl–the kind of baby that made people stop and notice, involuntairly saying “Awwww” when they saw that unbeatable combination of eyes and lips and now, the long raven hair that you could have only gotten from your daddy’s Italian side.
Not surprisingly, your sister was a bit jealous. She tried to keep you out of Nannie’s room so you wouldn’t get any of the snuggles. She wondered out loud when you were going back to the hospital. In short, she was not impressed.
But you found your voice pretty quickly. You learned to stick up for yourself, to declare your opinion–sometimes to demand your own way. When you were four and Jody asked what you wanted Santa to bring you for Christmas, you summarily told her to “Grow up.” When I tried to replace your worn out Simba that you carried everywhere by its neck (because that’s how Simba’s mother would have carried him!), I “washed” him and came back with a new, less ratty version. You looked me straight in the eye and said, “This one looks … new. I want my old one.” You ended up getting two. It wasn’t too long before the second one looked as decrepit as the original.
I know you sometimes make jokes about being the ignored middle child but you know we couldn’t overlook you if we wanted to. Your beauty, talent, brains, wit and hilarity brighten up our daily lives and I don’t know what we would do without you.
And I think your sister may have finally gotten used to your being around. Just a hunch.
Happy Birthday, Sarah. I love you so much.
One more time, Sarah–here’s the song I was thinking of while taking that long drive across the Coronado bridge, knowing my life was about to forever change.
I’m so very lucky.