On Christmas Eve, Louie, Monique and my father went to the grocery store on a last-minute errand—whipped cream, or vanilla– something like that.
My mom was checking on everything, in calm sequence: the oven, turkey steaming and sweet potatoes bubbling; the microwave, with a casserole dish of steamed canned corn; the refrigerator, where cranberry sauce was gelling; the rolls on the counter, ready to duck in and brown after being painted with butter.
We were talking about the new little coffee shop she wanted to take us to. I was placing a good plate in front of each chair.
“This girl I know told me that the day she was born, her dad ran down to have breakfast in the hospital coffee shop, and ran out without paying the bill because he was so excited.”
“Oh, my.” She stopped and leaned against the counter, the butter brush still in her hand. “I was so scared when you were born—you and Louie, too, of course, but you have no idea!”
I set down the last plate, and went to the silverware drawer.
“The day you were born,” she continued, crossing her arms, carefully pointing the brush away, “The day you were born, I had taken off work for the last week or two, and Jerry was home with me. I was so pregnant, all I could do was watch ‘Donahue’ and change Jerry’s diapers on the floor, yell at him to be quiet. I was grouchy. That morning, they had a show on parenting or something, and I kept thinking, ‘Oh, please, let me have this baby, don’t make me be a whale anymore, even though I’m a terrible mother, even though I’m a monster!’” She laughed.
Forks to the left, knives to the right, spoons to the right.
“I called your aunt, and while we were talking, and Jerry was still napping, my water broke, and she came and took me to the hospital. Your dad met us there.”
“He didn’t forget to pay the bill?”
She rinsed the brush’s tendrils, and I opened the freezer. “You know your dad can’t eat when he’s nervous. A girl, huh?”