Firstborn (640-word StoryADay Challenge–May 2014)

Phaedra Darnelle, really? How had her daughter ever succumbed to that? Yes, they were her son-in-law’s grandmothers’ names, but still! Linda cringed every time she thought of herself introducing her first grandchild to friends. In the waiting room she had practiced saying the name with a smile into her purse mirror, but her expression still looked like a grimace. Her daughter’s name was Sara—classic and feminine, too, without going overboard. Sara had already informed Linda that they weren’t going to shorten the baby’s name—no nicknames allowed. No matter, Linda couldn’t think of a good nickname for Phaedra, anyway, and Darnelle—well! Maybe she’d just try to use “granddaughter” as much as she could. No one could object to her calling her granddaughter what she was. Could they? Or would that make her sound too distant—too uppity. Shoot, she’d think of something eventually.

Linda and her husband, Bob, had been waiting to be called to Sara’s room to see “the new family’” for hours but hadn’t been called in yet. They had rushed to the hospital as soon as Sara had called them announcing she was going in. Silly of them. But it was their first grandchild. They had to be close to Sara, just in case. The two had played cribbage until the cards blurred and had reminisced ad nauseam about their children’s births. Jake was the toughest—the first usually is. Sara and Phillip both came fast and early. Now the new grandparents were quiet—lost in their own thoughts—close to comatose.

Actually, Linda wished she could be more like Bob. He could “go with the flow,” as they say. His favorite expression was, “C’est la vie.” He had no problem with the baby’s name. Sara and Ben could have named the baby “Moon over Manhattan,” wouldn’t matter.

Resurrecting the old memories of Sara as a newborn was taking up most of Linda’s time now. Sara had been such a good baby. Always calm and smiley, never colicky, except if she was teething. Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of Bob’s phone. After a few “okays,” he hung up, smiled at Linda saying, “We can go up now, Sweetie.”

Nothing could move fast enough—the elevator, Bob’s long strides—for Linda until she arrived at Sara’s room. But finally she was smiling at Sara, tears in her eyes. Sara glowed with motherhood, if a bit haggard. Speechless, Linda bent down and kissed her. “Hi, Mom, Dad, ” Sara said and patted her cheek. “Meet Phaedra Darnelle.” Suddenly Ben was by their sides offering them a swaddled bundle, smiling with pride.

Twenty minutes later, Linda was rocking Phaedra in the wooden rocker, cooing, and smiling while trying not to let the tears in her eyes fall to her cheeks. Oblivious to all else, Linda reveled in the almost-forgotten feeling of holding a newborn. How soft . . . warm . . . perfect . . . miraculous. Phaedra was sweeter than Linda could have imagined. Little wisps of brown hair, curly eyelashes over eyes like Bob’s, the cutest dainty fingers and toes, delicate movements. Linda finally knew what it meant to feel overjoyed. If it wouldn’t have meant putting Phaedra Darnelle down, Linda would have opened the room’s window and shouted. “Here’s my granddaughter, Phaedra Darnelle, you lucky world! You’ll hear more of her!” She would have flooded the fifth-floor corridor with pink balloons that had “Phaedra Darnelle” written in sparkles, worn one of those grandma sweatshirts with Phaedra Darnelle silkscreened on the front. Maybe arranged a televised ticker-tape parade down “Heroes’ Canyon”—majorettes carrying signs announcing her granddaughter’s name.This baby’s name could have been “Moon Over Manhattan” and Linda would have found it beautiful. As she sang the baby’s name she could feel how musical it was, how it danced on her tongue, how perfectly beautiful.


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