Yesterday was my little sister’s birthday. We are more than nine years apart, so I remember the day of her birth very well. And why shouldn’t I? It was hands-down the most important event of my young life! Add to that the dramatic entrance she made, and, well… it was memorable.
I can’t resist recounting the story:
Mom was a few days overdue, after having had a false labor episode nearly three weeks before. For a nine-year-old, such waiting is excruciating. Our little family followed our high school boys basketball team avidly, however, and we were in the midst of the tournament warpath. So on March 17th, we packed up and headed for Lima to see our boys take on some far distant team in the regional tournament. The line to get in and claim a prime seat snaked out the school entrance and down the sidewalk. As we stood there shivering, a few snowflakes began to fall and Mom’s contractions began.
Apparently she was in labor for the entire thriller of a game. I bet she wasn’t thrilled when it went into double or triple overtime (need some help with the details, Mom or Dad!). It was a heartbreaker of a loss, but I think some of that disappointment was forgotten when we stepped outside (Mom urging us on by now) and found that the snow situation had escalated. Perhaps “blizzard” would be too strong a word, but we were definitely in a serious snowstorm. I remember sitting in the backseat, watching and listening to Mom and Dad cope with the emerging crisis: snow/bad roads, far from hospital, baby arrival imminent, extra baggage in the backseat. Dad signaled to pull over, and our close family friends, following in their own car, pulled over with him. I was packed into their car and Dad made a beeline directly to the hospital. How stressful things became in their car, I’ll never know! But I do know Mom wasted no time in delivering Heidi once they arrived at the hospital.
From my viewpoint, it was all a little scary– leaving Mom and Dad in that situation and driving off in a snowstorm. But I was in good hands with the Zieglers. We set off in the snowstorm ourselves– in a slightly different direction, I guess, because we were headed for home rather than the hospital. Of course, we somehow got turned around and suddenly the grownups were using that “L” word– you know, that word so terrifying to little folks? LOST. We drove and drove, and finally made it back to Archbold, where we went to my house to pick up an overnight bag. But it was nearly midnight by then. My young aunt, Terri, had just gotten off her second-shift job, and for some reason, she felt prompted to stop by our house. (Remember this was before the dawn of cell phones and constant contact– she’d just stopped by and waited on the porch for no apparent reason!) Rex and Donna left me with her and I groggily went in to get ready for bed.
I think I had already gone upstairs to bed when I heard the phone ring. I was about halfway down the stairs, and peering into the dining room (where our only phone hung on the wall) when I heard Terri say, “A baby girl?” My heart jumped, and I was down the stairs hugging my aunt in delight. A baby sister! When I eventually went back to bed, I know I lay there for some time, my heart so full of gladness thinking about my new little sister. Luckily for me, school was canceled the next day because of the snowstorm. But unfortunately, my teacher’s geraniums began blooming over the weekend, so we never knew who won the bet about whether the flowers or the baby would come first!
Thirty-three years later, I feel the same way. As I tell the story now, I want to hug Aunt Terri again and tell her how glad I am that she was there and I got to be home and hear the news from her. I want to laugh about the night with Rex and Donna– or hear Rex tell his version of the story, which I’m sure would be an entertainingly ironic “approximation” of the events of the night (but sadly, Rex is gone). I want to tell Mom and Dad “Thank You!” for giving me a little sister. Most of all I want to tell Heidi that I love her and I’m so grateful to have her for a little sister.
The sad thing about the gap in our ages– and this will be true with my kids, too– is that the older one grows up and leaves just when the younger one is getting to the tweens. We miss a lot, and it’s hard to stay as close as you were when you lived in the same house and the little one could sit in your lap while your read her a story. But the love is still there, even if there are periods when you don’t know each other very well. And I know that the tenderness I’ve felt for each of my own children when they were tiny always brought up memories of tiny little Heidi, and what a joy it was to have her in our lives.
When I pray with my littles, I always thank God for making our family– for putting each one of us together in it. I guess that’s kind of what this blog is about– just saying “Thank You, Lord, for the family I was born into. Not only did you knit each of us together in our Mother’s womb, but you crafted us together into a family for Your purpose. Thank You for what we have been together and for what we are now. Thank You that You are with us in all the years ahead, and help us to put You at the center of our lives. Bless us as the families that sprang from ours continue to grow and change.”
Blessings to all of you who happened to come along and listen to my Heidi story, too. You’re each special to me in your own way!