In 1968, my family and I lived in Lubbock, Texas. We lived near my mother's and father's families and were very close to our relatives,especially the ones who lived nearby. My mother's sister, Loretta and her family lived within a mile from our home, we attended church together, and my cousins were two of my favorite playmates and friends. During the years we lived in Lubbock, I don't remember a week when we did not see their family.
One day my mother told me that my aunt Reta was going to have a baby. This was such an exciting event since there had not been a baby in our family for at least four years. I don't really remember much about her being pregnant, but I do remember seeing her at a church social wearing a reddish orange maternity dress. She looked young and lovely in my memory. She was probably due to deliver the baby sometime in late January or early February.
Early, on December 1, I awoke to seeing a light in the kitchen and hearing whispers and murmurs from my parents. Being December, it was common to wake-up before sunlight, but on this day, it seemed earlier and there was definitely a feeling that something was not right. When I got out of bed, my dad told me that my mom had gone to Reta and Buddy's house because my uncle Buddy had taken Reta to the hospital to have her baby. Mom was going to get the girls ready and bring them back to our house and take my cousin Judy and me to school. THIS WAS IT! THE BABY WAS BEING BORN! I asked my brother what the baby would be, but he wasn't forthcoming with any information. What was supposed to be such a wonderful and exciting time was quiet and full of concern. When my mother arrived with the girls, I was hustled to the car and driven to school. Mom didn't say much, but Judy and Linda seemed as normal as ever.
At school, it was not easy to keep my mind on my studies. A baby was being born and I was missing it all! I don't remember the day dragging, but I was really relieved when my mom and the girls picked me up from school that afternoon. My mother didn't look all happy and excited, but she told me that I had a new cousin, and his name was "Charles Greg". Instantly, I was in love with this unseen little baby. His name was perfect and I was beside myself as I discussed this with Judy and Linda. They had a little brother and I would be able to share this event as we shared everything else, together. My mother told us that our grandparents would be coming to our house for supper. It just kept getting better!
However, when we got to my house, things were still quiet and serious. More phone calls and this time, my mother closed the doors to the kitchen and the dining area. Judy and I talked about the secret they had to be keeping from us. There had to be something going on and in my child-mind, it had to be something even more wonderful. I crept up to the door outside the kitchen and tried to listen to what my mother was saying into the phone. I must have bumped the door or given her reason to know I was listening outside because all at once, the door flew open, smacking me right in the center of my forehead. I fell back on my bottom and my mother grabbed me by the arm and proceeded to spank me with an amazing amount of energy and obvious anger. I was no stranger to spankings, but this never occurred when my cousins were around! My mother grabbed me by the arm and steered me into my parents' bedroom where I was told to stay until my father got home. Lucky for me, he came home early.
When Dad came home, my uncle Buddy was with him. Buddy quietly took Judy and Linda to my bedroom and closed the door. My daddy took me by the hand and put me in his lap as we sat in the red rocking chair in the little den in our house. My dad told me that my aunt Reta had not just had a baby, but had actually had twins. He was so gentle and so sweet as he told me that these babies were terribly tiny because they had been born too early. He went on to tell me that one baby, "Craig" had been too small to live and that he had died. Died? A baby had died? I buried my head in my father's shoulder and cried at this horribly sad news! What about the other baby? What about Greg? My daddy told me that he was alive and weighed just over a pound. He explained that Greg was so small that his body would fit in my father's hand. I remember looking with my dad at his hand and imagining a perfect little soul resting on his hand. Dad told me there weren't even diapers small enough to fit him and he was "naked as a jay-bird". However, this new baby was going to have to live in the hospital for some time and of course, there would be a funeral for the other baby.
Finally, the mystery was over. When Buddy, Judy, and Linda came out of my room we could talk about Greg, but there was a feeling like a dark cloud in our home that evening. My grandparents, aunts and uncles came for dinner but the celebratory feelings you expect with a birth were missing. I remember clinging to my grandfather for security, because everything seemed so unsure.
I can't remember what happened for a couple of days after that. My family's lives didn't seem too different, except that my cousins were staying with us while my aunt was in the hospital. The funeral would be on Saturday, and I could go or stay home with my brother. I chose to stay home that day. On Sunday, there was a red rose in a vase on the altar at church to honor Greg's birth. It always bothered me that there was not two roses that day.
During the days and weeks following Greg's birth, my mother began spending time at my aunt's home. She would drive my aunt to the hospital and take care of Linda while my aunt would go upstairs in Methodist Hospital and feed Greg. When it was after school, the girls and I would sit quietly in the hospital lobby and my mother would go upstairs with Reta. The hospital rules were specific, "No Children Allowed". It was boring sitting in the lobby, and I often dreamed that I would one day be allowed to go upstairs and gaze at the growing baby. Unfortunately, this didn't happen. I secretly blamed Judy and Linda for this. I was sure that I would be considered older without their presence if they were not there.
Suddenly, it was Christmas Eve. Like most ten year olds, I was excited for the next morning when there would be surprises and wishes come true waiting for me under the Christmas tree. My family and I ate dinner and went for our annual drive around Texas Tech to enjoy the Christmas lights. Only, instead of heading for home, my dad drove the four of us to Methodist Hospital. My parents explained to me that my aunt, uncle, and the girls were spending the night with Buddy's mother in O'Donnell and they khad been to see Greg earlier. I thought to myself, "Great, sitting in the lobby on Christmas Eve." Only, this time, my parents told me that I could go upstairs with them to see the baby! This was so unexpected! I couldn't believe it was actually happening!
Together, the four of us climbed the stairs and walked to the nursery where Greg had been living for almost a month. I knew he spent all of his time in an isolette where he received very special care. What I didn't understand was that when I looked through the large window, over to the side was his little bed, away from all the other babies in the window. He wasn't on display like all the regular babies who were swaddled in blankets. It was like he was isolated from the group. However, I could see his little body and to my relief, he was wearing a little tiny white gown and was tightly wrapped in his own blanket. He was small, but he was so terribly precious. At that moment, I was overcome with an amazing sense of love for him. While I was looking at him, I felt my mother's hand on my shoulder. I turned and buried my face into her stomach and felt her wrap her arms around me. It was a very comforting and very loving feeling. This was truly a Christmas blessing.
When you are ten, you think about the toys you want Santa to bring. I was no different. However, the gift my parents gave me that Christmas Eve will always be a wonderful memory and a moment I want to remember forever. Some presents come unexpectedly, and they are always a blessing.