The women in my family have a gift for remembering birthdays, anniversaries and other special dates. My sister and I call it "The Birthday Game." Even as my mother degenerates from her early onset dementia, she retains the knack for remembering dates. I half expect to get a call from her today so she can tell me that it is the sixth anniversary of my grandmother's death. She doesn't need to tell me because my brain works that way, too, and I won't forget what happened on April 22, 2006.
Waiting for the baby to be born, I have flipped through the catalog in my mind of what potential birthday connections could be. On Thursday night, two days before my due date when I was having contractions, I thought about giving birth in the early hours of April 20th. My crazy-making brain couldn't let go of the fact that this was Hitler's birthday, even though I consoled myself with the fact that it is also the birthday of my friends Ben and Buster who are two of the kindest and gentlest spirits I know. The contractions ended along with my worries and my hope for early liberation from pregnancy burdens. The waiting game continues.
Four years ago, I went into labor with Charlie on what would have been my grandmother's 92nd birthday. He managed to push his entrance into the world past midnight, choosing to arrive with the summer solstice rather than share his birthday with Gram. Now, I feel a sense of connection as I wait for this baby around the end date of the life of the woman who did the bulk of the work to raise me. It is comforting to feel connected to her as I get ready to take on this womanly work for one last time.
Despite the tumultuous nature of our relationship while she was alive, on this side of her death, I mainly feel the strength of her as my ancestress. Mary Lundgren may have shaken her head at many of the choices that I have made, but I know in the end, she was always proud of me and secretly admired the stubborn way I insisted on pushing against limitations and doing things on my own terms. She was pretty damn stubborn, too, and that's the kind of help you need in your corner when you are poised to bring a new life into the world.