my grandfather called me ‘tempest’

By Kat

rarely does a hurricane enter the chesapeake bay. but when one does, it wreaks havoc, usually upon a most un-prepared populace. this is my story of hurricane able, which churned its way up the bay late in the day on august 31, 1952.

my mother was in her ninth month of pregnancy with me, my parents’ first child. her mother was certain that i would be an august baby, like so many others in the family. so, naturally, my mother insisted that i would arrive in september. everyone said she would have a boy. the first signs that she was in labor came around mid-day on, you guessed it, august 31, 1952.

settling into bed in her hospital room, a large, sort-of enclosed sunroom, mom remembered being there before. early in the pregnancy, she had been losing weight and had dropped below 80 lbs. being a quiet little mouse, she was happy to find that she had a quiet roommate during that visit. late one night the nurse came bustling into their room loudly proclaiming, “STOP that calling! i don’t have time for this!” and, again, a bit later, “would you STOP calling!” mom could hear someone down the hall faintly calling, “nurse, nurse.”

a day nurse popped into the room during her labor, and said that i would most likely be a september baby, and gave my mom two little pink pills, after which she remembers little. she does remember once feeling a spray of water on her face and saying, through her haze, “it’s raining”. “yes,” said a nurse, “it’s a hurricane. rain is coming in all over the place. there’s a foot of water down on the first floor. the nuns all have their skirts pinned up and are mopping the floors.” “nooo,” said my mother sleepily, “we don’t have hurricanes here.”

her doctor, blocked by a downed tree across the only road back, was stuck at the beach, so a new doctor arrived to care for my mom. “will my baby be born before midnight, or after?” mom wanted to know.” “hoping for that september baby?“ “no,” she told the doctor, “i just don’t want that screaming night nurse!”

being notoriously hard to wake after being medicated, my mother next remembers someone saying repeatedly, “you had a little girl. you had a little girl.” she thought, “i wish someone would answer her. i’m having a boy.” but she had me, at 2:10 in the morning at bon secours hospital, on labor day, september 1st, 1952, in the middle of a hurricane that she doesn’t remember.

September, 2013

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