Twenty years and a few hours either way ago, I was as close to death as I’ve ever been. You see, I’d been in labor for three days, the baby was crowned, but there seemed to be no power on Earth that would make him actually come out.
This was a special baby – special for us, of course, as his parents. Special like every baby is to his parents, but more so because we’d waited six years for him and had thought we were never going to have any children.
And then I found myself pregnant. It’s funny because we never got told what gender he was. We had no particular objection to knowing, but at that time ultrasounds were not ALL THAT clear, and I didn’t want to be set on one gender, then have the other.
At any rate, it was all very much besides the point because I knew the minute I got pregnant and knew it was a boy. I also knew what I wanted to call him – had known for the last five years or so. The boy was Robert Anson Hoyt, after Robert Heinlein.
To make the story of that very long night short, we ended up in emergency caesarean, with three doctors in attendance, because he was crowned and it was all very difficult. And he was born.
Immediately after he was born, I passed out or fell asleep. I’m not sure which. I didn’t wake up for 18 hours, so I woke up to a very hungry little boy.
It was only when I was nursing him that my husband pointed out – not that he remembered, in the fog of battle, my brother had to remind him – that Robert Anson Hoyt had been born on Robert Anson Heinlein’s birthdate.
Robert turns twenty today and for the first time we’ve been unable to arrange to be with him on his birthday. He’s down in North Carolina working in a lab for the summer before returning to resume college this fall.
It seems like just yesterday he fit in my arms, but now he towers over me and is a full grown man. And yet the Robert story is only starting.
“Unka Tom? Tell me the Poddy Story–”
“At your age?”
“Please? I crawled up on his knees. “I want to sit in your lap and hear it once more. I need to.”
“All right,” he said, and put his arm around me. “Once upon a time, long, long ago, when the world was young, in a specially favored city there lived a little girl named Poddy. All day long she was busy like a ticking clock. Tick, tick, tick went her heels. Tick, tick, tick went her knitting needles, and, most especially, tick tick tick went her busy little mind. Her hair was the color of butter blossoms in the spring, when the ice leaves canals. Her eyes were the changing blue of sunshine playing down through spring floods, her nose had not yet made up its mind what it would be, and her mouth was shaped like a question mark. She greeted the world as an unopened present and there was no badness in her anywhere.”
“One day Poddy–”
I stopped him. “But I’m not young any longer… And I don’t think the world was ever young!”
“Here’s my hanky,” he said. “Blow your nose. I never did tell you the end of it, Poddy; you always fell asleep. It ends with a miracle.”
“A truly miracle?”
“Yes. This is the end. Poddy grew up and had another Poddy. And then the world was young again.”
“Is that all?”
“That’s all there ever is. But it’s enough.”
Robert A. Heinlein Podkayne of Mars.