Subj: Little House on the Pennypack
Date: Mon Dec 18 00:03:40 EST 2000
A week that started out with me feeling like a Nervous Nellie about the state of my fixtures and fittings turned out to be something very special.
First of all, the Lasix seems to be doing some good. According to Elsa (one of my two "Putter On Of Socks and Shoes"), my legs are not as swollen as they were less than a week ago. That is a comfort, given that since taking the Lasix I am up every hour on the hour throughout the night to use "Lamb" which is quite tiring to me and to my getter-uppers. I keep my feet elevated on a small stool, so that helps too.
Nice things resulted from feeling rotten. Mim called twice this week, which made me happy. Whitney called AND she and Chad sent me a get well card. Peter stopped by this afternoon and he is taking me out for dinner tomorrow night and then for a drive to see the Christmas lights.
I called Peter on 12/15 to wish him a happy birthday. I sang a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday to You!" and reminded him of the time I showed Whitney, who was just a little girl at the time, of a picture of Peter at around the same age, sitting in an Adirondack chair. I asked her if she knew who it was and she said, "It’s me." "No," I explained to her, "It is your Daddy." She looked at the picture and she looked at me and, turning back to what she was doing, restated with unshaken confidence, "It’s me." They really did look a lot alike and to me the span of years between the two childhoods can seem the blink of an eye.
Elsa has been pumping me for Peter memories since a few days before his birthday. As I have already shared with this list, I did not have an easy time getting pregnant. It turned out I had a crooked cervix - between medication and exercise, it righted itself, but it meant my joy was especially intense at finding out I was finally pregnant. Then, when I was in danger of miscarriage, my OB/GYN Mike Bennett sent me packing to bed with the famous order that I was "not to lift so much as a tea cup."
I love all of my children, but there is something special about that first child. We had some interesting - and one terrible - adventures in those early years.
We brought Peter home from the hospital - Hahnemann, in Philadelphia - to the house at the foot of Fettersmill as you drop down the road from Terwood, the one with boulders on the road to protect the house from cars that miss the sharp turn to go across the bridge. It is a lushy-plushy place now, but back then it was the nth degree of primitive.
In 1938, when I became pregnant with Peter, Pete and I wanted to move out of Philadelphia and closer to Bryn Athyn. We needed to find a place to rent that we could afford and the "wagon house" rent was $15.00 a month. We knew that it would be difficult living there, but we were torn. Looking out the big north window, we saw a cardinal sitting on a tree - Pete looked at it and at me and said, "That is our sign." We moved into the house in September.
We were both blessed with a strong pioneer spirit. A roaring fire kept the place heated. Since a cord of fire wood was not in the budget, we dragged fallen branches home to cut up. Being surrounded by woods, it was a pretty easy thing to do. The place had electricity but no running water. We had to trek up to the spring in the little park across the tracks (in back of where George Synnestvedt Co. was, where Jim Connally’s wood working shop currently is) to get our water.
I must admit wondering what I looked like, this very pregnant woman walking across the bridge lugging a big branch in one hand and a jug of water in another.
You can imagine our joy that winter at discovering that the Water Company, to keep the pipes that ran under the bridge from freezing, had a run-off of the water right at the edge of our property. I can still see my sister Betty standing under that beautiful run-off, filling up a jug.
Our living conditions were rustic, but Pete and I were in love and over-the-moon with happiness at being parents. We made do with a two-burner stove and Dad Lockhart made us an iron grill so I could cook over the fire in the living room. To this day, it is a point of pride that I made an entire Thanksgiving dinner at that fire place.
None of it would have been possible if my sister Betty had not been there with us. She made all the difference. I can still see her, taking care of getting the daily supply of water, washing and hanging up the diapers to dry, doing a million other invaluable things for us.
In time, even Pete and I realized they were not the best conditions for raising an itty bitty baby. We left the "wagon house" and moved into an apartment atop the Alden house at Alden Road and Cherry Lane. I remember Leone Asplundh (now Graham) when she and Peter were both toddlers and Griff and Myrtle lived at what is now Dan Pendleton’s house. She came over to play with Peter one day in our one-room apartment. She looked around the room, took it all in, that announced, "Peter’s lucky - he got ‘tove in his room!"
I cannot let Peter’s birthday pass without telling about his birth, which turned out to be as unusual as the place we lived in. Aunt Norma, Pete’s stepmother, was afraid that I would go into labor during the day, while Pete was at work (there was no phone at the wagon house), so she had me move in with her and Gar’ in Germantown when I drew close to my due date. Thank goodness I was only there one night. Norma had her bridge club over the day I arrived and I was ordered not to come anywhere near her guests because I was such an "odd shape" - strange way of taking care of someone.
At it turned out, I went into labor in the middle of that very night. Norma called a cab to take me to Hahnemann. The cabbie was nervous enough taking a pregnant woman to the hospital, so it certainly did not help when Norma said in parting, "I hope you beat the stork!" The poor man was really on edge, so I spent the whole drive talking to him about his family and his job and anything I could think of to keep his mind off my labor pains.
When I arrived at the hospital, I came in one door at the same time Mike Bennett came in another. "Where is Pete?" was his first comment. At home, I explained - he would not know I was at the hospital until he got to work. Mike looked me straight in the eye and said, "You are a brave girl."
Of course, Pete tore over as soon as he got to work and got the news. Thank goodness I was in the delivery room but still in labor - Peter apparently had no intention of leaving the nice warm womb - when Pete arrived.
Back then, Dads were not allowed anywhere near the delivery room, so he was not allowed in anyway. I had just a whiff of anesthesia - just enough to take the edge off the pain - so I was aware of the delivery. I can still see the nurse waiting with a warm blanket to receive the baby - she had the warmest brown eyes.
When Peter finally arrived and the nurse held him up for me to see, I cried and cried - Dr. Bennett said, "Now what the hell are you crying for?" "I am so happy!" was my triumphant reply. Mike said that the baby was sure to be a prize fighter, the way he kept batting away at the doctor’s hands as Mike tried to tie the cord.
The staff bundled me up and I was on my way back to my room when we went past Pete. I knew that if I said I was okay, Pete would wonder if it was really true or if I was just trying to be brave. So, in an inspired moment, as we came up to him, I looked my beloved straight in the eye and said, "I would love a hamburger right now." That set him at his ease; he knew all was well.
Hope all is well with you and yours. Special love to Peter and to all my dear children. Am FINALLY - past midnight - on my way up the wooden hill.
Love - Peter’s Mom