Monday, September 21, 2009

Belated

Sydney, Australia 10 September 1994

It was a Saturday night like any other in Sydney. The dorm I was living in had organized a pub crawl for that night and I, along with a large crowd of American and Australian students, boarded the city bus bound for downtown Sydney.

I don’t remember the details of where we went, but the idea was that we’d spend an hour at this pub, then an hour at the next, then the next and continue for a half dozen or so pubs. It was just long enough to get a drink, or two if you were ambitious, and then the crowd would move on to the next pub on the list. We pulled our hand-drawn photocopied maps out of our pockets, they were harder to decipher after each stop on the crawl.

I successfully completed the crawl and boarded the bus with my illegally gotten student rate bus pass. American students weren’t allowed to have them, only the Australians. I risked detection from a random bus inspector every time I rode on the bus, but I couldn’t resist the allure of a half rate bus fare. At the wee hours of September 11, I stumbled up the stairs to my 4th floor room. It was conveniently located right across the hall from the stairs, and one door away from the communal hallway payphone. I squinted as I tried to read the small note taped to my door. It was written in blue ink, in impeccably neat handwriting.

“Congrats BJ!! You’re an auntie!! Call home.”

I didn’t bother to unlock my door, and instead scrambled to the phone. I frantically dialed the international calling code, the calling card number, and drunkenly navigated the ridiculously complicated process of calling home to Connecticut.

“Mom! It’s me! I just got the news!”

“It’s a girl!” she cheered into the phone. She gave me the number of my sister in law’s room at a hospital in Hartford.

Your dad answered the phone, and you were crying in the background. I started crying too.

“Her name is Magdolene Jeane, and she’s perfect!” your Dad raved. “She’s so beautiful!”

Months later my brother sent me a video that was shot on the morning of your baptism. It was December, and I was in the throes of the Australian summer. I was living in a flat down the road, because the dorm was closed for the summer. The flat came equipped with a TV and VCR, but the VCR’s format was different than it was in America. I could hear the audio, but couldn’t get the picture. My flatmate Vanessa and I tried to get it to work, and I began to cry because I could hear your dad talking, but all I could see were the static-y squiggly lines.

I ejected the tape and ran to the media center in the library on campus. They had a machine that would show American tapes. I located it, and slid the tape into the VCR. With the headphones firmly in place on my ears, I pressed the play button.

Your dad’s voice guided me through the house until the camera panned to an infant giggling and bouncing in one of those jumpy swing things suspended in the doorway.

“And there’s my baby!” he cooed. His hairy hand extended from behind the camera and caressed your face as you smiled at your dad and the camera. Tears streamed down my face, and I laughed at the same time.

I didn’t meet you until you were 10 months old. You tottered up to me, after having just learned to walk. Without a hint of shyness, you smiled at me as I picked you up and held you for the first time.

And now you’re 15. You’re cool. You’re poised. You’re whipsmart. And I am so very proud of you.

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