My parents got to the hospital just in time for me to enter the world. I was born several minutes past midnight, deep inside the womb of Saint Mary’s. When my dad went to pay the bill, he was informed by a dulcet-faced nun, he owed not for one but two full days. He inquired about the additional charges.
The congenial nun responded, “According to our paperwork, your daughter was born on May 19th, not May 20th. Our records do not reflect daylight savings time.”
Vito didn’t like being taken advantage of even by elevated folks of the cloth. He argued with the administrative woman of God. But with wife and newborn held as good faith collateral, my father relented and paid the extra twenty dollars.
I retell this story every May 19th to remind anyone who might care – “It’s okay to give AnnMarie, 2 birthday presents.”
As a kid, I found any morning walk to my bus stop after a heavy rain daunting. Neither me or my earthworm friends were very happy. I couldn’t bear to watch the endless sea of pinkish-brown bodies wriggling on the wet blacktop. Whenever this upsetting scene accosted my eyes, my inner-tomboy morphed into a worm-plucking machine. Running in a serpentine pattern, I’d grab as many worms as my little hands could carry. Then onto the nearest lawn went the hapless earthworms. I’d continue saving worms until the bus arrived. Once seated, I’d wipe my dirty hands on my navy-blue knee socks so the nuns couldn’t think I’d been digging for the devil.
I don’t save earthworms much these days. I’d like to think that over the last forty years their little earthworm brains have evolved and they’re better equipped at saving themselves. I’ve since taken up offering roadside assistance to bewildered dogs. To prepare myself for this challenge, a nylon leash is stowed in my car and I watch The Dog Whisperer, whenever I can. To date I’m happy to report-I’ve reunited several lost pooches with their owners (though one little dog with oddly big teeth scared the crap out of me).
Bringing me to the reptile saving. A few years back there was an incident which compels me to save turtles for the rest of my life. I learned a terrible, horrible and valuable lesson. Every spring where I live many turtles venture out onto the road. While driving the tank, if I happen to spy a slow-moving shell I pull over and return the turtle to safety.
On this particular spring day several years ago, I’d been rushing to collect the big son (who was much smaller at the time) from elementary school. We had to find a birthday gift then get to a party. On the way to his school, a large snapping turtle – the kind that live 150 years – was making his way across the road. He was better than halfway and the road was not heavily trafficked. A fleeting thought entered my mind, “Pull the car over and make sure the turtle gets across.” Followed by the next fleeting thought, “No time. Everyone will see that giant turtle. It’s impossible not too. He’ll be fine.” I continued on my journey feeling nary a twinge of guilt. I picked up the big son and we proceeded to Target.
On the return ride, my jaw dropped open, my mouth hung agape. I was in disbelief. The huge, ancient, beautiful turtle didn’t make it across the road. I was broken-hearted but the guilt was far worse. I vowed from that day forward, much to the giant husband’s chagrin, to save every single turtle or reptile, no matter the time, place or situation.
I will admit that picking up and carrying that giant snapping turtle last year was not very smart, but the darn thing wasn’t moving fast enough and I had to help him cross the road.
If it were humanly possible I’d wrap time up in a sturdy box. I’d bind that amazing box with ribbon so secure, time would have no other choice but to stop.
I’d paint portrait after portrait to freeze my children’s beautiful faces in their most innocent moments.
I’d fill our home with festive balloons year round so my children would stay young forever.
I’d bake rainbow cakes piled so high with color, all escape routes would be blocked.
But there is no sturdy box to hold time, only birthday gifts wrapped in pretty foil bows and birthday pizza cookies.
I can paint all the portraits I desire but each canvas will only reflect an older face.
And my children will continue growing up and growing wiser than their silly mother…
Happy Birthday, dearest delicate daughter.