When I was a toddler, I would climb on my rocking horse and ride vehemently, the front and back of its frame pulling off the floor in sound thumps. I was sure I felt the wind in my hair as I galloped through my imagined field, square in the middle of the living room. Those days, the only shoes I wore were my tiny black cowboy boots. It must have driven my mother nuts, the pounding of my little brown steed on its steel frame, the squeaking of the springs, probably me laughing and shouting as I rode hard and steady.
But she let me do it. She was like that. Betty Ann is much in my body consciousness today, all this week. Today, I am 67. I have outlived my mother’s lifespan by 35 years. She once spoke to me of my birth, with tears welling in her eyes. She was 18. She had developed preeclampsia, then known as toxemia. The OB-GYN had warned her that it was likely her firstborn would be stillborn, and that there was a possibility she would not survive. She told me she set her mind to ensure that her baby not only survived but was delivered healthy and whole.
She and my birth father were living on Scott Field Air Force Base. He worked three jobs. I can still sense the displacement she must have felt, and the fear as she was wheeled into the delivery room, the abject aloneness. I have been consumed for the past 48 hours with thoughts of her courage, her strength. She had a cracked rib from my kicking. But she got me here.
Some months after my birth, my father completed his tour of duty and started with a new company in the Hudson Valley, IBM, so we moved to a development of modern ranch houses near Kingston, a true 1950s young family.
The marriage did not survive. Life started its recurring cycle of change that has continued through this year, times when I am thrown into the need to redefine myself and my existence. In 1967, my mother died after giving birth to her fifth child, of H.E.L.L.P. Syndrome, a severe related form of preeclampsia. Nothing was ever the same. I can report that my sister is happy, a grandmother herself, a joy to all who know her. My other siblings are still with me. We have recently started a group text thread and are more connected than we have been in decades. It gives me great joy.
There is much more to the story. But that is part of the memoir still brewing in my subconscious. Today, I celebrate my journey once more around the sun. COVID has brought me into my home as my center. Everything changed again, but I am more stable now than I have been in more than a decade. My work is satisfying and can be done from my home office. My garden is overrun but giving me great joy. I bought a terrific new tool to yank unwanted saplings out of the ground, employing many Tim the Tool Man Taylor grunts of delight. It is almost embarrassing but in a time of such strife throughout the world, I am clear, focused, and safe in ways I have not felt in a long time. I don’t care to look at the outer terrors right now. I am taking the day off from my concern for our world.
So this is another year in which I start my birthday with a letter to my beloveds, my friends, family, community. I have a depth of gratitude I cannot fully express, so these words will suffice. Thank you to you all, for making my life worth the ride. I am a woman of countless riches, and you are all a part of my trove, you contribute to my success. Without you, there is no me. Thank you for all the ways you bless my life, and in the words of my Aunt Mary, my mother’s youngest sister and only surviving sibling, take good care of you for me.
Peace, power, & poetry,