October rolled around with the anticipation of another addition to the Strange family. The 1961 World Series ended with the New York Yankees winning in five games and Halloween was around the corner.
Earlier in the year-on Easter Sunday in fact-Mother and Daddy told us the news. They were both thirty-seven years old and even though that is not considered “old” in today’s world for having a baby, thirty-seven was considered to be outside of the preferred age for women to bear children back then. Besides, our family was already complete. We had two girls and one boy and another baby was not on the agenda.
Nevertheless, at eleven and twelve, Sissy and I were thrilled with the thought of another baby in our house-provided it was a girl. BQ was already four and the novelty of having a brother, in all of his mischief-was over.
In our new Easter garb-which I clearly remember as a beautiful yellow and white dress with embroidered yellow flowers on the white bodice-we walked up and down the street to our best friends’ houses to broadcast our news. Little did we know nor understand at the time, the fragility of life and our roles in caring the life that would be coming home in a few months.
This time, it was a girl as she finally arrived on October 23. I waited eagerly for her to come home from the hospital, being so excited about the chance to be finally be a big sister. The excitement didn’t last long as our parents told us there was a problem. She apparently was born with a herniated “something or another” and she needed an operation. An operation on a baby! We had never heard of such a thing as that. We were now scared and confused as trepidation slowly made its way into our home.
For whatever reason, the operation could not take place for six weeks and during that period; we could not let our baby cry. If she cried too much, the herniated “something or another” could strangulate and she could die. With this additional information, we defined our responsibility quickly-our baby was not going to die. We would not let that happen.
For the next six weeks in the Strange household, we carefully, lovingly and with a significant grasp of the gravity of the situation, set about to care for our baby. We passed her back and forth between usanytime she whimpered or even began to cry. Mother to Daddy. Daddy to Sissy. Sissy to me. And back again to Mother. I am not sure what Mother did during the day when we were in school and Daddy was at work, but we managed to keep her quiet and satisfied for that very long six weeks in the autumn of sixty-one.
The day of surgery finally arrived in early December. We understood the seriousness of it all and only wished for our baby to come home safe and sound. The surgery was a success and when she arrived home a week later, the only indication that anything had ever been wrong with her was merely a three-inch incision on her lower abdomen. We saw the stitches tightly sewn, holding the two sides of the surgeon’s precision cut together. Three inches, while not much bigger than a pill bottle, appeared enormous on her small body, while the overwhelming weight of fear disappeared from from our small shoulders.
The incision healed and we now heard the healthy cries of our new baby throughout our home.
Years later, we teased Mother and Daddy about spoiling her so badly. She would get away with things that the three of us would never have gotten away with, and in spite of their protestations to those facts, we knew that she truly was the baby of the family and the spoiling began the first day she came home from the hospital.
Today, technology and medical advances have improved the potential outcomes for many new babies who must undergo surgery for a variety of reasons-a liver transplant, a cardiac defect or a herniated “something or another”. This is now and that was then. Then, when there were now four.
Happy Birthday Yordy! No crying allowed-even if it is your fifty-first birthday. I love you!