Forty one years ago – to the day – Mama walked in circles around what is now Tulsa Regional Hospital. Lap after lap in the scorching heat. Contraction after painful contraction in her lower back.
She had endured this pain twice before, but she did it one last time for me. This time, though, she swore she wasn’t going to be suckered into buying expensive baby pictures at the hospital unless they were really flattering. She’d caved both times with my sisters. She’d be stronger this time, she said.
She bought my stinkin’ pictures, and they were the worst of all three of us. I had a difficult birth, so my right eye was almost swollen shut. I had scratches on my head and I still looked a little purple from the temporary lack of oxygen.
But I was beautiful, Mama said. How could she not buy the pictures?
Now we roll our eyes and we laugh. No objective viewer would ever see what Mama saw – or perhaps what she still sees. Leave it to love to see beauty.
She last wrote in my baby book when I was 27, and she still introduces me as her baby. She’ll be one of the first to call me today to wish me a happy birthday and she’ll want to know what we have planned.
I’ll tell her we’re getting ice cream because that’s our little family tradition, and I’ll say I wrote about her today – that she’s in the paper. She’ll chuckle and wonder why because she doesn’t think of herself as remarkable. She doesn’t know I could pick her hands out of a thousand, that I remember the time she was nervous about teaching a class at church and she invited me, a 7-year-old, to help her study.
She was just doing what mamas do, she’ll say, and she’ll remind me that she made lots of mistakes.
Ah, but leave it to love to see beauty.
We’ll catch up on family news. We’ll talk a little about the weather and what she’ll need to pack when she comes to visit New York in the fall. Before she hangs up, she’ll tell me that she loves me.
And I’ll tell her I already know.