The beginning was very hazy. I was riding bikes in our neighborhood in the far western suburbs outside Chicago, maybe twelve or fourteen years old. I was the gangliest, most awkward kid ever at that age. Nineteen arms and legs, wiry, the whole deal. We had lived on one of the culdesacs sticking out of a circle, the way suburban streets sometimes are. So I went into the house and upstairs, where someone of the older-brother variety said to me, "hey, you can't ride that bike without a license!" Yes, I had known that, but I couldn't get a license. Where did you get them? "On the street!" I had known that as well, but no one was there. "Well, listen, I'll let you use this one I have in my dresser, but be sure to get your own soon, ok?" Ok.
I don't have an older brother, or any older siblings, so this was strange. Strange in a nice way, but. How weird to have someone taking care of you like that.
My whole family as it is now was back in Chicago, apparently living there. The "whole family" included potential and extended family; John was there, for instance, and my younger brother Brian's significant other, Bronwyn, plus god knows how many cousins and things. I came downstairs and into the front yard, which wasn't our front yard at all but a bit like the courtyard and steps in front of Trask Coliseum, where all the kids in my family graduated from high school, at UNCW. But across the street there were still the houses from our old neighborhood, and it felt the same way our neighborhood always did. It was calm, early evening, and the air smelled like cut grass and wildflowers. I was my regular age, 24, as soon as I stepped out the door.
Bronwyn was having a baby. Not as in "guess what I'm pregnant!" but as in having the baby Right Now, out in the front yard. As in they already had one child, a baby maybe a year old, who I ended up holding almost immediately in order to get other people's hands free to help. I didn't have any children, although Brian and Bronwyn are both two years younger than I, and it stands to marginal reason that I would at least be having kids at the same time, if not first. Witness for instance that I keep dreaming about babies.
I couldn't tell whether anyone was married, or whether any of us were older, but it didn't matter. Everyone concerned was entirely committed.
The whole birth was strange. It seemed to be a ritualized thing within the family; everybody was helping, for one thing. Everyone totally surrounded Bronwyn. I couldn't tell what was going on at all. I was just walking back and forth with the baby, being anxious, and wanting to help. It felt almost like I had been excluded, although I knew someone obviously had to watch the baby; this baby was just as important as the new one. So I walked back and forth and talked to it and kept it happy.
I don't know the baby's name or what sex it was or anything. It liked me, though. It chortled at me, and kept blowing spit bubbles.
Then it was over, and there was a new baby for everyone to celebrate. "Celebrate" was the active term. Everyone was laughing and happy (although I don't recall seeing my parents' reactions). It's so strange: for years of high school all you get is this completely negative picture of having children too early, and then as an adult you do a total about-face. Apparently Bronwyn was old enough for social acceptance; everyone was ecstatic. Brian was some kind of stunned and had to sit down.
The new baby was a girl. Someone came and gave her to me to hold. She fit in my two hands, with her legs all bunched up, and was a bizarre shade of translucent orange. I could almost see the fluids moving under her skin. Oh well, babies are all sorts of red and orange and purple when they are first born. She was stabilizing as I watched her. Her skin was turning pink.