I was twenty-years old when our daughter Brooke was born. To say I was ill prepared and overwhelmed, is probably an understatement. Motherhood was a role I welcomed but, hadn't planned on experiencing until I was a few years older. In the perfect world, I would have preferred being more secure in my role as a wife, before broadening the scope of my identity to include being a mommy.
Rick was working as an industrial engineer at a fiberglass plant, high in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, when our daughter was born. We rented a small apartment above a doctor's office in town, which overlooked a train station, and parking lot. The latter, we shared with the few other residents of our building, the doctor's patients and the usually inebriated patrons of the corner tavern.
The only buildings in Huntingdon, that were less than a century old, were the Circle K gas station and mini-mart, the laundromat and the fiberglass plant. Across a bridge just outside of town, was a little strip mall that housed our only sit-down restaurant. One night a week, they featured an all-u-can-eat, fried chicken dinner special. We watched from our booth as a busboy ran orders back and forth to the KFC.
Prepared for the job or not, I attacked being a mommy with youthful exuberance. Any job worth doing, was worth doing well, I surmised, including being a stay-at-home wife and mother. Besides, I reminded myself, I came from a long line of nurturing women.
Our apartment had three small rooms; a living room, dining room, bedroom and galley kitchen. I turned the dining room into the baby's room - painted it pink and hand-fashioned a crib layette set. Practically everything I needed for a new baby, was provided by family members, including a car-seat, crib and high chair. It had all been gently-used, but was new to me.
Living in the middle of nowhere, meant that we had only each other to rely upon. If Rick had any reservations about becoming a father, he never expressed them. Nor was he apprehensive in any way, when it came to feeding or diaper duty. On weekends and after work, we were equal parenting partners.
There were no relatives or older married friends to call upon for hands-on-help with the baby. There was no Internet or library of parenting magazines or manuals available to us for reference. We simply made due by parenting the old fashioned way, utilizing the good sense God gave us. When truly befuddled, I called home and talked to Mom.
Most of Rick's colleagues at the plant were young single men. My only pseudo-friend, was the college-educated, girlfriend of another salaried plant employee. I had high hopes that we'd become buddies, but after the baby was born, she took a job as a cashier at the Circle K. Apparently, she knew nothing of babies, and had no intention of spending her time in the company of one.
Shortly after Brooke was born, we were invited to a party at the home of another unmarried engineer. I spent hours getting ready to go out and wore my best dress. I'd lost any weight I'd gained while pregnant and thought I looked pretty spiffy as I walked into the house full of strangers.
Our sleeping daughter was in her plastic carrier, safely tucked away in a downstairs bedroom. I was anxious to meet the people Rick worked with, and started to work the room. Within minutes, a woman I'd never met informed me that I had baby spit-up down the back of my dress, from shoulder to waist. I was crushed!
In spite of the fact that I had no adult female companionship, I never felt lonely. My husband was my best friend and my infant daughter, my constant companion. We found great pleasure in simple things.
Within a year, we purchased an old, three-story, brick row-house, where we could have been the subjects of a 1950s TV show. Rick walked to and from work everyday and even popped home for lunch a few days a week. We borrowed my parents' dog, and placed him in our quaint, picket-fenced, backyard. I quilted, grew rhubarb, and made whoopie pies that tasted just like those sold by the local Amish women, canned tomatoes and spiced peaches, and made homemade concord grape jelly from grapes grown in the backyard. I was young, happy and in-love.
On the occasion of Brooke's first birthday, we joined our entire extended family, for a weekend gathering at my uncle's cottage, a few hours west of Huntingdon, on Mill Creek. It was a hot, humid July day. On a break from playing in the creek, my aunt spread several large blankets across the lawn, under the shade of a big hydrangea. My mother, her sisters and I, lolled about on the cool grass, sipping iced tea and reminiscing.
Brooke, was the center of attention, as she toddled between us. Because we were sitting on the ground, my daughter and I were at eye-level. All at once, she plopped herself down in my lap, bent her little blond head back, and stared up into my face with the most loving gaze I'd ever beheld. The assembled gathering, issued a collective, ah! I felt a lump rising in my throat, and thought my heart would explode with the love I felt for my child. What a joy it was, to feel it returned.
The cottage on the Mill Creek, now belongs to Rick and I, and every time I walk the ground underneath the big hydrangea, I remember that day in July, 1981, and I thank God that there are some things in life you never forget.
The song above, from the 1980s children's program, the Elephant Show, was a favorite of my daughter Bridget - she sang that song so much, I'll never forget it.
The street photo is of Mifflin Street in Huntingdon. The others are of the front and back of our first house - Rick, Lynn and I at the Water Street Flea Market where I was eight months pregnant with Brooke - Brooke's first birthday party at the cottage - and a year later with Brooke on her second birthday, pregnant with Bridget. (the Laura Bush bio and the tulips, were Mother's Day gifts)