Author's note: With the events of the past week, I felt the need to take a step back from the day-to-day snarkiness and take a little time to celebrate life. The snark-fest, I'm sure, will return come Monday.
All stories have a beginning. Mine starts with a shirt.
Kathryn was born in late July of the year 2000. Our house was clean that day. In fact, our house had been clean for a week. Our house had been clean ever since the morning a week earlier when we returned from the hospital after almost having Kathryn, which, coincidentally, was the morning after we had had over 100 of our closest friends over to
mourn celebrate our imminent journey into familyhood. 100 closest friends and their beers, the latter of which were strewn about the house in various states of consumption while we were at the hospital arguing with our obstetrician.
Never before had I argued with a medical professional, much less one whose job description makes my eyes roll back into my head until I can actually see the pain, but there I was, saying "I just don't think inducing labor right now is a good idea," while thinking, "If my mother-in-law sees my house right now, she'll take away our baby before we've even changed diaper one."
But a week later, the house into which Kathryn was born was clean. Steam-cleaned even, which was nice since it was to be the last time any of the carpets were even remotely white. When we sold our house four years later, our realtor looked at our carpets and asked, "How many kids did you say you had?" "Five," we lied.
But none of this is about the shirt. It's not even a shirt, really. More of a smock. A disposable, ink-stained smock.
When Kathryn was born, nurses descended upon her like an Indy 500 pit crew. No, strike that. If anything, they resembled the crew of workers, spray bottles and washcloths in hand, that swarm a car just after it comes out of a touch-free car wash. I half expected to see a little box marked "Tips" next to the exit. One of those nurses, the same one who I swear had just been buffing my new daughter with Turtle Wax, did the most amazing thing. She beckoned me over to Kathryn, who was apparently attempting to turn herself red enough to burst into flames. Another member of the pit crew was smearing black ink over the soles of Kathryn's impossibly small feet, then lifting each one and pressing it against a white sheet of cardboard. The nurse who had called me over told me to get closer. Even closer, she said. Even closer, until I was almost on top of this new, wild, fragile creature. Then she reached around me, grabbed each of Kathryn's skinny legs, and pressed the soles of Kathryn's still blackened feet against my hospital smock.
I was marked. I was marked from that day. This baby. This squirming, screaming, fist-clenching, redder-than-red child, this child was mine.
The shirt is wrinkled now, and faded, which is only appropriate, but I still have it. Even if I didn't, it is not beyond my now dulled abilities of observation to realize that those marks went straight through.