Recovery run today, I was thinking about names.
The mid-sixties evoke a certain image whether we lived through them or not. I always think of my mother’s hair. I don’t know why I think of my mom’s hair but the variety and style remind me of my early youth. JPD never really changed his hairstyle. He probably got it cut just the way he liked it when he was a teen and never changed his style. The sixties came and went and every day he looked like he was ready for the 1948 homecoming dance at St. Patrick’s High School.
By 1965, there were children in third, second, first grades and kindergarten at Mary Seat of Wisdom School. There was also three children ages 4, 3 and 1 at home every day. The house just seemed empty, no tiny baby. The Salettas had moved in next door and they had playmates for the little ones ages 4, 3 and 2. With playmates living next door and mom used to laundry baskets filled with diapers and only one currently in diapers, the house seemed empty with no baby. Just as this crazy idea had started to crystallize, the morning sickness started again. It was a good thing that the head of obstetrics at Resurrection Hospital lived two doors away because Fairview Ave was going to keep him busy over the next few years. Mom immediately started to gain the upper hand with the doctor speaking the OB language with authority. Mom was becoming the expert. Christmas 1965 came and mom was five months pregnant. Santa came bearing his sack full of toys. The boys got more G.I Joes and a slot car racing set, the girls got an Easy Bake Oven and Barbie, the younger ones got Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs – no choking hazard there. Katie got a Fisher Price Chatter Phone, it came with wheels (her first “mobile” phone).
The morning sickness had subsided and things were progressing very smoothly. Mom was learning from her OB neighbor all the tricks of the trade. She was regaining the clout that she had amassed back at St. Anne’s on the West Side and her confidence was high. She had some time and was thinking about names for the baby. Her grandpa’s name was Christopher Cleary McGrath. Every Friday when she was a little girl, mom and her sister would wait for grandpa to come and visit. He would put a hard day of work in at Chisolm Hardware Distributors and rush to see his beloved grandchildren. It was Christopher’s task to give the girls their 15¢ weekly allowance every Friday. They would wait patiently for his arrival, and when he came to the door, he would give three nickels to each little girl. The name Christopher was perfect, since JPD had named all of the other children it would finally be mom’s turn to name the baby. Christopher if it was a boy and Jennifer if it was a girl.
Mom had done her homework on this baby, her new best friend, the neighborly OB GYN would be her biggest ally. Easter came on April 10 and so did all the relatives. Mom was ready to pop but Easter meant that my dad’s whole family came to the house. They all came in the morning for breakfast and the kids were able to play in the unseasonably warm spring day well into the early evening. As usual, the day heralded a beautiful spring. Mom was ready to deliver this baby and on April 18, 1966 the weather was sunny and 75°F. What a beautiful day to have a baby. Mom knew that today was the day that Christopher or Jennifer would make his or her grand debut. So smooth, they arrived with plenty of time, checked in and mom was wheeled to labor and delivery. She met up with the doctor and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. As a newly minted lawyer, JPD would take care of the paperwork and the birth certificate.
“What was that name again, no matter, plenty of Apostles left. Just pick one and be done with it…Matthew, yeah that’s it! I think mom said she liked Jennifer, I can’t name this boy Jennifer, he will end up in therapy. No, Christopher, yeah Christopher, Matthew Christopher, just fill in the blanks and away we go.”
JPD saw the doctor and thanked him for his highly efficient work delivering Matthew Christopher. The doctor looked at him funny like he was walking on his hands, backwards. Without commenting on the name, the doctor pointed to the suite of private rooms and said your wife is waiting with “the child”. Dad showed up in the private room smiling wondering where that beautiful baby boy, Matthew Christopher, was hiding. Mom heard the name and just smiled, there would be plenty more opportunities to name a boy Christopher and a girl Jennifer. It was April 18, 1966 and Matthew Christopher had made his triumphant arrival. He was now the baby – number eight – of the family. Mom cherished her stay in the hospital, it was just her and her baby. Ten glorious days in a private hospital room with a full staff to do her cooking. She was introducing herself to her new baby, Matthew Christopher. JPD was in charge of the other seven.
My favorite sunrise. Favorite song today: Wild Cats of Kilkenny performed by the Pogues.