A Birthday Celebration… by JoAnn

A circle of cupcakes with the words happy birthday in it.

My daughter Christine recently celebrated her 37th birthday. She is my only blue-eyed baby. She took after her daddy in both blue eyes and height. He was six foot five, and she was a good five foot eleven. Myself being a shorty, I have always admired her long legs. I admire many things about my beautiful Christine.

Of my three daughters, she is the only one born in the dead of winter. We lived in a very humble trailer home. It belonged to my husband’s uncle and was a 1970s model. They placed it on my husband’s grandfather and step-grandmother’s farm property. We lived in the boonies, as I liked to call it. It was a peaceful, homey place to be raising two little girls.

One problem with a trailer from that period was it was like living in a tin can. Hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The week we brought Christine home from the hospital, it was a record-breaking cold spell. And as usual, the old electric furnace was giving us trouble. Her first night home, it went completely out. I panicked. How would I keep my newborn and 19-month-old babies warm all night in that little trailer? Thankfully, their “PePaw” sent over a kerosene heater for us to use. I knew nothing about kerosene heaters, but as soon as I felt that warm flame, I was sold. I placed Christine in the baby bassinet and put it near the kerosene heater in the kitchen.

If you are cringing after reading that last sentence, you should be! Please remember that I had just given birth via a cesarean section, and it was our first night back home. I was not thinking clearly. Hindsight is 20/20 and I should have never put the bassinet so close to that kerosene heater or in the same room!

Like all new mothers do, I woke up to check on the baby. At only a few days old, Christine was stretching her little head up over the top of that bassinet. Her little face was beet red. She was way too hot. I quickly came to my senses and moved the bassinet into our bedroom. How stupid I had been.

All the “what ifs” were taking their turn in my brain. What if the bassinet had caught fire? What if the fumes had gotten to my baby? No matter how tired or in pain I was, I had no excuse.

That was the beginning of my many mistakes as Christine’s mother. I made mistakes with each of her two sisters as well. All mothers do. But it doesn’t take away the guilt a mother feels every time she remembers.

Somewhere, packed away in a box, is a photograph of newborn Christine, raising her little head over the side of the bassinet, like a small turtle stretching toward the sun. People didn’t believe me that a newborn could do such a thing. So I took a picture. She didn’t stop there in amazing us with what she could do. She was just one of those kids that caught onto everything early and continues thriving today.

As I sit writing this, thinking fondly of my Christine, it is just as cold in my apartment as it was 37 years ago in that trailer. And like every other time that I sit in the cold I am reminded of that first night home with my blue-eyed baby, I thank God for keeping her safe the night I made a very unsafe choice for her. It could have been a tragedy for all of us, but the Lord kept all of us secure, and for the past 37 years, we have had the blessing of loving and knowing our Christine. Happy birthday, sweetheart!