Mothers and daughters across time and space


We were much smarter parents when our daughter, Jocelyn, was born in 1974. After all, we had practiced on Jason for two and a half years and had perfected our child-rearing skills.

When he turned 40 two years ago, I observed that he was doing remarkably well despite our abysmal inexperience during his formative years. We put him to sleep in a rickety second-hand crib padded with child-smothering bumpers and blankets. When he was teething, we rubbed his gums with a diaper soaked in Jack Daniels. We hired a baby nurse who, turns out, shared his taste for smooth bourbon.

Then Jocelyn arrived, the tiny beneficiary of our experience. We figured all we had to do was do what we did with Jason, only better. But, no way; she was trouble from the start. First of all, she refused to be Jason, and he was our only child-rearing template.

The day she was born, May 5, 40 years ago, was sunny and warm, as it has always been on her birthday. I decided to put my tomato plants in the ground, since I knew her birth was imminent.

The tomatoes were an enormous effort. Imagine a small buffalo kneeling on the ground in order to dig and plant, dig and plant. At one point I know I threw a large pitchfork, but my husband had very good reflexes in those days.

About 5 p.m. I felt the baby “drop.” We barely made it to the hospital. Jocelyn came flying into the world, turbo speed, and hasn’t slowed down since.

The first sign of trouble was the little mix-up at North Shore Hospital, when they gave me the wrong baby. I knew my baby had a head of black hair, and the impostor baby they gave me in the morning was bald. We got it straightened out eventually; the nurse said they had put the babies in the wrong bassinets during the night. But I figure it was just Jocelyn, beginning her lifelong passion for travel.

She weighed 5 pounds when we brought her home. I hired a nurse for a week who could hold her in one hand, and she didn’t drink nearly as much as Jason’s nurse.

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