My stepmother went into labor on Sunday the 3rd, after attending a party the night before. Sometime that day I was shuttled across the street to stay with my friend Eileen, who lived on the fourth floor of a brownstone with her blind mother and father. Her mother's sister lived with her husband, and two children on the second floor; their mother on the ground floor - she always wore black as all the good Italian widows did in our neighborhood. I was there because my mother had left our household less than a month before, unexpectedly, and was living in California.
After spending the night, I readied for school at the neighbor's but realized I had forgotten my gym clothes (I hated gym) so I dashed across the street. I have no idea what made me enter the parental bedroom during this trip, perhaps I heard a sound, but I was stunned to find my mother in the bed. I have no recollection of asking her anything but I suspect I did and the response was probably that she came home for the birth. Confused I made my way to school.
Coming home there was no one home and I headed back to my friend's apartment. At some point my father called there, and I eagerly waited to hear if I had a brother or a sister. The response was "It's a them!". I had one of each, and once again that day I was stunned, surprised and unsure what to say next.
My recollections are a bit fuzzy but I think they came home when they were five days old. The image that has remained in my mind all these years remains true. Fran sitting in the rocker nursing my brother, my sister in the single crib (did I mention we were not expecting two babies?) wearing a light blue one piece sleeper looking so tiny, so breakable. Standing motionless in front of the crib Fran told me to pick her up. I reached up and into the crib a bit terrified and awkwardly scooped her into my skinny arms hardly breathing for fear of dropping her. She seemed so tiny, so soft, and I felt nothing but love for these tiny beings. That feeling has never changed.
The next time I saw my mother was in late January when she came home to us and we became a house of six for a time.