WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR….
My nephew Johnny was born 35 years ago today, on 12/22/79. It’s hard to imagine being old enough to have a nephew who is that old. On the day I turned 35, I was heading out early that morning to play golf. I called my mother to say Happy Birthday to us. “Did you ever imagine you’d live long enough to have a 35 year old daughter? I asked her. “No,” she replied, “if I’d known that would happen, I would have taken better care of myself.” Indeed.
MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WHO YOU ARE…
Nobody in this world wanted to be grandparents more than my folks, Warren and Jo Seay. They yearned for it. Longed for it like their next breath. Wished upon any – EVERY – star for it. They practiced at it, actually. When their little dog Chi-chi gave birth to two puppies named Critter and Bandit, Daddy dragged the baby playpen down from the attic, where it had been for almost 20 years at that point, set it up in the den and he and Mother filled it with stuffed toys so they could watch the pups play and wrestle, then they rocked those little baby dogs to sleep as often as they could, carefully learning which puppy liked being sung to or patted on the butt to drift off to sleep. It was almost pitiful: if it hadn’t been so cute and endearing, I would have worried about them. Clearly, even though the pressure was on, they wouldn’t be getting those grandchildren from me. My ovaries had a mind of their own and were headed in a different direction. Our youngest brothers, the twins, were both single and unattached at the time. Our oldest brother, through a convoluted fracture of fate which could only be described as tremendous Good Luck was (thank God!) sterile as a gelding. When our sister married and became pregnant within a few months all of our parents’ wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ had been answered. The stars had aligned. Holy Mother of Maternity Ward, Jiminy Cricket was right!
ANYTHING YOUR HEART DESIRES…
On the day Johnny was born, I got this breathless, ecstatic call from Mother. “Oh!” she said, “Oh! You’ve got to come to hospital. The baby is here and he’s so beautiful, so, so beautiful He’s just the most beautiful baby EVER!” I jumped in my car and raced to the hospital. I found the baby dept., then the little incubator thingies where the brand new ones are parked for a bit right after they are born. Peering through the glass at the one containing my new nephew, I saw this squiggly, gooey life-form, his head kind of oblong and misshapen, his little pinkish-blue arms flailing about. Despite the fact that Johnny would grow into a beautiful baby, a handsome boy, and a striking young man, at first, like almost every other newborn throughout time, he was funny-looking and kind of battered. Getting born is not an easy process, I know; sort of like trying to shove a sneaker into a toaster, and some babies arrive looking like they’ve already been in a fight. Johnny wasn’t mushed or scraped up. His head wasn’t pushed up into a cone shape, like so many are. But, he did look, ever-so-slightly, like a baby Jiminy Cricket. I tilted my head to get a better look. Pushing my face up next to the glass, I watched the blood pulse in a vein on his little bald head. OH, BABY BOY, I thought, THERE IS A LOT RIDING ON YOUR SHOULDERS. YOU ARE THE BRINGER OF THE JOY.
About that same time, Mother & Daddy came screeching around the corner. They were out of breath, like they’d been running down the hall, like they were afraid if they didn’t keep their eyes on this boy constantly, somebody would dart off with him. Daddy’s chest was all puffed out like he’d just won the decathlon and Mother had a looooooong list with phone numbers on it, all of them written in Mother’s perfect handwriting and ticked off in ink, that precise way she had about stuff like this. They had been phoning friends and relatives all over America to let them know that finally – FINALLY – they had a grandchild, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BABY IN THE HISTORY OF BABIES! He was here and he was THEIRS. I had known those two people for many years at that point. I had seen them laugh and cry, be proud and be disappointed. I had even seen them at war with each other. What I had not witnessed, not ever in their marriage, was this kind of thrill. I had never seen them this happy, not ever. It was a delight to behold.
WILL COME TO YOU…
My sister Peggy, Johnny’s Mom, refers to that day as The Day Warren Seay Learned How to Drive Faster Than 20 m.p.h. It’s true. His 1966 Chevy truck hardly ever even made it up to the speed limit until Johnny came on the scene. After that, Warren Seay put the pedal to the metal to get to wherever his grandson was as quickly as possible, speeding up to the house, exploding out of the truck and sprinting across the yard to be able to pick up and snuggle that baby boy. Mother took a Polaroid picture of that little guy EVERY SINGLE DAY OF HIS LIFE for the first year and put them all in a book. You could put your thumb on the edge of the pages, flip through it and watch Johnny grow into a one year old, like in a movie. Mother and Daddy looked at the book constantly and showed it to everyone who even walked past their house. Johnny was a baby soaked-through with love.
It was intense joy, but it was short-lived. Daddy’s cancer returned and he died in Jan.,1982. Mother’s health deteriorated quickly after that. One night, when I was visiting with her, she confided in me. “You know, when Johnny was first born,” she said, looking around to make sure we were the only ones who could hear this, “Daddy and I knew he wasn’t the prettiest baby ever, not really. I mean, that’s what we kept saying, because he was, to us. But, truthfully, we wanted to be grandparents so badly that, really, if he had arrived with a horn in the middle of his forehead, we still would have thought he was beautiful. And, you’re right, he did look a little bit like Jiminy Cricket. Only cuter. Much cuter. Actually, he was perfect. And beautiful. And, perfectly beautiful.”
Indeed, he was. And is. Happy Birthday, John. You were what came true when your grandparents wished upon a star. I know you have made them, your Mom, your Dad, your sister, your 12,000 cousins, your uncles (and your Aunt Jody) very proud. Enjoy your day.