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Family Fiction: Birthday Wishes

Faigy Schonfeld

Okay, so a birthday party would be nice. But, Miriam, you’re a big girl now. It’s not like nobody appreciates you nowadays

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

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T he white lights of the hospital beam in the distance and Miriam smiles. She slows the car, looking for a space to wedge in her Sienna. Beyond those lights and bricks and mortar is a softly lit world where new mothers weep with joy and itty-bitty things yawn and stretch and kick little chicken feet.

At last, a parking spot. Miriam backs in. With clammy fingers, she smoothes her wavy wig out of her eyes and tenderly gathers her packages — a thermos of chicken soup with vegetables, containers of rice and crispy schnitzel, blueberries and cubed mango, a box of chocolate, two magazines, and a creamy velour onesie nestled in a little carton. Three balloons dance in the wind, flashing pictures of bottles and booties. She clicks the car locked and strides in the direction of the lights. A new baby. Her Shira, another baby, a mother of two...

She blinks in the stark brightness of the lobby, tastes antiseptic mingled with strong brew, and she coughs. The receptionist cups a yawn in his thick hands and Miriam pities him.

“Visiting hours are over, ma’am.”

Miriam indicates her bags. “Please, sir, my daughter just gave birth and I’ve brought her something to eat.”

The receptionist eyes her bags warily, yawns again, and waves her through. Ding. Fourth floor.

Immediately, the smell of... of newborn. High ceilings gently lit, crackling whimpers from the nursery, squeaking of bassinets wheeled down the hall. She licks her lips and a tingle steals across her heart. Her daughter has given birth and she is here, to help her, hold her, bearing nourishment and love.

“Ma, you’re fast!”

Miriam turns. Shira reaches over to hug her. Miriam holds her tight and swallows tears. “Shira, mazel tov. What are you doing here, running around?”

Shira giggles, her face lined with exhaustion and lit with deepest joy. “I feel wonderful, baruch Hashem.” She peers into her mother’s bags. “I’m starving. I was just going to check on the baby. You must see him, Ma, he has that sharp nose and boxy chin, he’s a total Goldman boy!”

“Oh, my goodness,” Miriam laughs as they turn together toward the nursery. “Well, I suppose it’s their turn now. Aidy looks just like you.”

“Right, how’s Aidy doing? I hope it’s not too much for you, with Aidy and all the kids and well, it’s a boy, which means a shalom zachar and—”

“—and a vach-nacht and a bris.” Miriam nods, suddenly giddy. “Aidy’s adorable, the girls were putting her to bed when I left. And just as soon as we get you fed, I’ll be on to simchah planning.” Shira glows and something sighs in Miriam’s chest, full and content.

Even though it’s been ten children and 24 years of giving, it still feels good. Her sisters Bina and Esther and Rikki ask her for recipes and advice, and Ma gloats over her housekeeping skills. Even after 24 years, they still marvel at her, the precious porcelain baby who never could do much other than charm them all. Today, she gives. She dispenses advice and wisdom and kisses and so much love. And it feels good. Very, very good.

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