Thursday February 12, 1942 dawned a pleasant summer day and this five year old climbed out of bed and headed for Eric and Maude’s bedroom as usual, to be tucked in for a few moments and enjoy parental conversation before all emerged to greet the day together. For some time now little boy Ian had been rescheduled to Eric’s side of the bed, a source of puzzlement at the time, Maude was being very careful about her movements now, and jumping on the bed had been ruled out long ago. Eric had a firm grip on his little boy just in case that new rule was forgotten.
There wasn’t much of encouragement for the parents to talk about in their morning conversations before Eric headed off to the office. Goebbels in Germany had just let drop the Nazis were looking seriously at their “final solution.” American troops had only recently arrived in Northern Ireland to prepare for a push against the Nazis in occupied Europe some time later. Japanese forces were heading down the highways of Malaya and would preside over the surrender of British troops in Singapore in just three days time. Australians had a collective knot in their stomachs as they contemplated the possible loss of their own country in this engulfing world war.
But the little family was focused on events closer to home that morning. Maude had noted those rhythmic pains were gaining in intensity and alerted Eric this would probably be a good time to head for the hospital. Her urging became more spirited by the moment and Eric, normally a ‘have it all together’ personality was proceeding urgently in all directions simultaneously getting things organized for the trip to the top of the hill and round the corner where the old nursing home, long since gone, was located. They were booked in and expected.
All three made it into the car, breakfast was forgotten but Maude had the presence of mind to see the wide eyed little boy had some munchies to tie him over the long haul ahead. This little boy had no idea what was going on, but the urgency of the trip was apparent and he stared at the tops of rapidly passing houses from his vantage point in the middle of the back seat. In those days there was no such thing as child restraints, and do you know something? We survived and made it to adulthood without rules and restraints anyway.
Nurses rallied at the hospital and Maude was whisked away into the deep dark recesses inside. Tears formed in little boy’s eyes. What were they doing to his Mother that was causing her so much obvious distress? Eric patted him on the shoulder and assured him everything was alright and Mother had gone to prepare a surprise for him. Eric was anxious to get a bit closer to the action and lend his support. In those days there would be no entry into the birthing chambers. That was taboo! But it was expected of Fathers they would pace the corridor in a time worn ceremony which indicated their support of what was transpiring inside the inner sanctum. Then a doctor or nurse would appear to slap the new Father on the back and proclaim him the custodian of a new life.
These were simple days when it was safe for a child to move around without close supervision. No one had bars on their windows, or security gates to protect them when front door was opened. If you went to town you left doors at home wide open, and it was only when the carnival came to town at city fair time people locked their doors and windows in the mistaken belief gypsies would find their way to town and take advantage of residential migration to fair grounds. Of course no one had seen these shadowy gypsies but this was an ancient belief to be passed along to future generations and thus treated with all seriousness.
So in that safe environment Eric came up with a solution which would permit him to perform his ancient birthing rites. He explained to little boy they’d ordered a baby and it was on its way. Now everybody knew babies were delivered by those majestic birds called Storks. Walt Disney said so! You could expect to see them deliver their babies wrapped in a white sheet, all four corners held tightly in the beak of the stork as it sought out the right address. Furthermore, storks deposited their babies from the sheet into cabbage patches, and Eric steered little boy to the back of that little country town hospital where a substantial vegetable garden was in evidence. All this made sense to the little boy who dried his tears and squatted in the garden with instructions to run and tell his Father when the stork arrived.
Little boy spent the next few hours watching the sky diligently, and now and then circumnavigating the garden in case he’d somehow missed the delivery and the baby had somehow been left to languish under a cabbage leaf. No evidence was to be found!
Then Eric appeared smiling broadly and took little boy by the hand, leading him back to the hospital and into a ward where Maude lay spent but happy while a nurse held a healthy baby boy for her to see. Little brother Barry had entered the world and was expressing his dismay at being rudely shaken from a comfortable environment and then, to add insult to injury, held upside down and paddled to make him cry to get those lungs working efficiently. We could see they were working well!
Little boy hung his head in shame. It had been his job to watch for the stork to come and notify Father as soon as the baby had been deposited under a cabbage leaf. Obviously the stork had come and gone, and he’d not done his job well. He expected to be scolded, but as both Mom and Dad appeared to be happy he decided to be happy as well. Now he had a little brother to share his time with.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2011”