My aunt just posted one of the only photos she has of just her and her mom, my grandma, to Facebook. The picture was from the summer of 1976. My aunt is 10, my grandma is 50. They are standing in front of a rocky shoreline at sunset, my grandma’s arm wrapped tightly around her shoulder, my aunt’s head snuggled into her embrace. It’s one of the only pictures of her and her mom because she was the eighth in a family of nine kids. The photo has the aged, yellow glow of an Instagram filter, warmly reminding my aunt of that hug from her mom forty-some years ago.
But it is not 1976. Kids like mine will have countless photos from their childhood. How will they curate their own photos when so much has been documented of their little lives?
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The day my grandmother died, I missed the phone call to tell her goodbye. I’ve often wondered how I would have handled the weight of that moment. Surely many “I love you”s would have been blubbered through tears, but would I have told her what I’d known for as long as I could remember? That if I was lucky enough to have a daughter someday, I would name the baby after her? I’ll never know.
But let’s not talk about that, she would say. This is not a sad story. A year later, I did have a baby girl. And I did name her after my beloved grandma, Corinne.
My pregnancy had been pleasant and uneventful until my water broke five weeks early, dousing the front seat of our car as my husband and I headed home from our first parenting class. Two hours later my baby was out and I enjoyed regaling the tale of our late-night surprise to my family, friends, and even clients via calls, texts, and emails. It was 3 a.m. and I think I was still high on adrenaline and whatever drugs they gave me for the C-section. Initially, doctors said to expect a week-long hospital stay for our preemie. I had only seen her for a second before she was whisked off to the NICU while I stayed on the table to be sewn up.
Eight hours later, with my husband’s coaxing, I finally stood up in slow motion and shuffled my way toward the NICU wing. I stepped into the room and froze. She was tiny. She was hooked up to tubes. She opened her mouth to cry, but no sound came out, a ventilator stuck down her throat. She would spend nearly three weeks gaining strength in the hospital, while I found myself in a dark fog. Even after she came home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had missed out on so many “firsts” of motherhood.
Then, something miraculous happened. My dad emailed me a direct line to the past. My uncle had come across a typed essay my grandma, my new baby’s namesake, had submitted to Reader’s Digest sometime in the mid-1960s. It was never published—he also found the rejection letter—but today she may have been a bonafide mommy blogger.