My mom lay there on a shiny steel table. I was upside down, paralyzed at the ankles as a man in a bright white coat held me with one hand and examined me with one giant brown eye. Water from his eye slipped down his cheek as he breathed the lingering ether from the general anesthesia. He pulled strips of sticky stuff from my warm red body as I squirmed for a look at my mom, lifeless with a tube taped into her mouth. She didn’t move even when I cried. The man had a soothing voice for such a hard handed grip. He talked to a woman in the corner who wore a stiff white uniform and wrote fast on a hard board. A large round black and white clock ticked and tocked right over her head. The man’s attention turned to flashing red and yellow lights as a pulsating beep brought many footsteps. The man with the big eye handed me to the woman in the white uniform who wrapped me into a warm white towel. I heard my mom moan. I closed my eyes against the bright white lights.
But a year later, hanging from my mother’s hands, I laughed ear to ear as the sea rushed over my sandy feet and brought more joy than any toy. My dad was invisible, working day after day, then there all at once, helping me do circus tricks, flying from his belly with my arms out-stretched as he held my legs real tight. He looked at my mom, who gave him a wink. He just smiled.
In the blink of an eye my brother was born. He was in my mom’s lap, bathed in soft white light from the living room window on Painter Street, sucking away on a large pink breast. Cars honked outside, and there were occasional shouts from the college kids across the street. It was quiet inside, except for the shuffling of feet going by my crib, and the creaking floor boards in the corner where my mom rocked my brother to sleep. I closed my eyes and sucked my thumb loudly, wanting what I could not have.
This memory is vivid, and some say I could not possibly remember that far back, but I do and it seems so real. I think it sticks because I almost lost my mom that day; my birthday. It’s always connected with the ocean though, like a salve that smooths all wounds.