In honor of…well…me, I decided to share this selection from my novel Sid Sanford Lives! Enjoy it as I get a year closer to being ancient.
Jocelyn didn’t need to look at the calendar to know that summer had finally arrived. Gail Sanford’s living room had made the transition from spring in spectacular fashion. The mantle above the fireplace was alive with fresh purple flowers and sweet smelling baby’s breath. Several candles had lids off and were offering more summertime scents. All the windows were open, letting in a cool June breeze that wiped away the remnants of the cold New England winter and rainy spring.
There were new pictures on the wall. Gone were the pictures of farms covered in snowdrifts, children building snowmen in the front yard and a family of ducks walking through a rainstorm to get home. They had been replaced with boys playing baseball on summer legs and scenes of the beach on a busy weekend. The Sanford matriarch had also taken the heavy curtains down and replaced them with white lace ones that would let the sunshine fill the room during the day. Jocelyn didn’t know how or when the woman found the time or energy, but Gail never disappointed.
Jocelyn carefully put her steaming cup of hot chocolate down on the coffee table. She walked over to the Sid’s mother’s craft table. Her eyes took in the scrapbook that had been left open and all the other odds and ends that were scattered across the table. There was a basket of goodies ready to be delivered to someone on the far corner. Jocelyn knew that the Sanford boys wasted much of their breaths trying to get their mother to sell some of the crafts she made instead of giving them away. She always refused, saying that it would then be nothing but a job and not as much fun.
“Don’t touch anything over there,” Sid said walking into the living room. “She knows exactly where everything is. I borrowed a pair of scissors the other day and didn’t put them back and I think the back of my head is still red.”
“Well, your mom told me I can do whatever I want because she likes me better than you smelly boys,” she said. She plopped down on the longer of the two couches and stretched out. “Besides, I helped tear down wallpaper and paint in here, so shut up.”
Sid put down his coffee cup with less care than Jocelyn did. She cringed as she watched the light brown liquid swish wildly in the cup, threatening to spill and stain the table. Sid put up his hands in surrender and did his best to get comfortable on the love seat.
“Hey, I was there too remember and I don’t get any privileges in here,” he said hanging his legs off the side of the seat. “I still feel the pain in my shoulder some days from tearing down that damn paper.”
Jocelyn rolled her eyes.
Gail had taken over the family living a couple of years before. She had bought new furniture for the first time in her life. She spent the better part of a summer picking out the perfect paint, removing wallpaper that had been stuck on the wall for over 20 years, trashing the old furniture and setting up her crafts and decorations exactly how she wanted them. She converted the extra bedroom into a television room so that the men in her life could watch baseball and movies while burping and farting to their hearts content. She had a room all to herself now; one she could disappear into for a while to escape the pressure of keeping four men on the right track everyday.
“So what do you want to do?” Jocelyn asked. He shrugged his shoulders.
“You wanted to go see a movie?” she offered.
“You want to rent a movie?”
“You want to play a board game?”
“You want a hit in the head?” she asked balling up her fist and showing it to him.
“Sure,” Sid responded without moving a muscle.
Jocelyn gave him a playful jab to the head and then took a long sip from her hot chocolate. Her eyes scanned the room again. They lingered over all the old pictures Momma Sanford had on the shelves that surrounding the fireplace. Several generations of her family, as well as Sid’s father’s family, were represented. She liked the picture of Sid’s French uncles playing cards drunk. They all had sloppy smiles on their faces and all their cards were facing the wrong direction. There was a small picture of Sid’s Uncle Clifford in his Army uniform she liked too. The first time she saw it, she though it was a picture of Sid dressing up for Halloween. Sid was definitely the Frenchman of the household.
She liked the fact that the Sanfords were so proud of their history. Her mother kept albums, souvenirs, and mementos, but nothing like this. Her father wasn’t the emotional type, so he didn’t find much use for old pictures and knickknacks. Most of her aunts and uncles were still alive too; much of her history was still being written. Gail was the youngest of eleven children. Her history had branched out long before she came into the world and had limbs that were scattered across the country. It was a history that the matriarch treasured and preserved and kept on display no matter what season it was.
“You could be nice and show me your photo albums again,” Jocelyn said hopefully. “We could reminisce a little. I mean, we graduate high school tomorrow, when would there be a better time?”
Sid finished the last of his coffee and glared at her. She’d seen every picture and had heard every story twice over. He tried to make his face do all the talking and let her know she needed to come up with a new idea.
“Come on Sid, please?” she asked trying to look as cute as possible. “It’ll put you in the right frame of mind for your speech tomorrow.”
“How is me re-telling stories you could probably recite to me help put me in the right frame of mind?” Sid asked.
“I don’t know, it just will,” Jocelyn said making a move toward the shelf with the photo albums. She was not giving him a choice now. “We’re not going to decide to do anything anyway and I’d rather do this than sit and stare at each other all night.”
“Good point,” Sid said. Tomorrow everything in their lives was about to change. It was the perfect time to take a look back. He hated when she was right.
“What album do I get to torture you with first?”
“Your baby album,” she said carrying the dark brown book over and putting it in front of him on the coffee table. “I want to hear all the stories about what life was like before you met me.”
Sid smiled. There weren’t too many memories that he could recall without Jocelyn in them. All the stories about his early life had been passed down from his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. He wore them all close to his heart like badges of honor.
He opened the familiar brown binder. His ran his fingers over the fading stickers that were pressed to the back of the front cover. They explained that Sid had been eight pounds, two and a half pounds and was 20 inches long. They kept his date of birth, the name of the hospital, who his doctor had been and the date he was finally able to come home.
“You were so cute!” Jocelyn said giggling. She wrapped her arm around the inside of Sid’s and inched in closer. “Look at that hair!”
In the picture, Sid was wrapped securely in his blue blanket. His eyes were closed tight and his little hands were balled into fists. It looked as though he had a full head of hair and it had been perfectly combed and parted.
“My mother likes to tease me, saying I came out fully prepared to hit on all the nurses,” Sid said. “After crying my head off for two straight days, she didn’t have anything to worry about.”
“Your father must have been so proud,” Jocelyn said turning the page. “Tom must have been too, look how happy he was holding you.”
Sid chuckled and leaned back on the couch. Jocelyn feigned looking confused.
“What’s so funny?”
“Well, they both almost missed me being born,” Sid said returning his focus back to the picture of him and his older brother.
“Your mother must have been pissed.”
“Oh, she was,” Sid said. “But on the day I was born a blizzard hit; and it was a big one.
JANUARY—18 YEARS EARLIER
Kenneth Sanford paced the small living room one more time. He started biting the nail on his thumb. He took his glasses off and wiped them with the bottom of his shirt. He put them back on again and watched the basketball game on television for a few seconds. He started pacing again. Kenneth stroked his moustache as he stopped at a picture of his wife as a little girl. He smelled coffee.
“Please Kenny, sit down and have some of this before you put a rut in my living room floor,” a voice said quietly behind him. His wife’s mother Cecile Blanchette’s French accent was reassuring; so was the hand she put on his shoulder. He reached up and squeezed it, trying not to let the tears sneak out of his eyes.
“I was right next to her when Tom was born. I was holding her hand. I was helping her with her breathing. I knew she was scared and I was helping her,” he said staring at the picture. “If I’m not with her tonight, I’ll never forgive myself.”
He looked out the window. The snow was still falling rapidly and the wind was stronger now than it was when it was blowing the Sanford’s compact car all over the road on Kenneth’s way over here. He had gotten the call that Gail was going into labor at work and had eagerly left the store. He had walked into the biggest blizzard to hit Connecticut in 20 years. He knew Tom was safe and sound at his Mémère’s house and that the hospital wasn’t that far away. With the weather the way it was, he knew there was a possibility of getting stuck at his mother-in-law’s. He thought about how excited Tom had been last weekend helping his mother get his new brother’s room ready. Kenneth decided that if he was going to see his new son being born, then so was Tom.
“Daddy, am I going to see my little brother tonight?” a voice behind Kenneth asked. “I have his stuffed animal all ready for him.”
Kenneth turned to see Tom standing in the doorway. He had his coat on and the stuffed animal stored safely in a plastic bag. His winter hat was pulled down past his eyebrows and he had a very serious expression on his face.
“Of course you are,” Kenneth said. He bent down to hug his son. “Daddy is just waiting for Uncle Skip to come pick us up with his big truck. Daddy’s car can’t make it very far in this weather.”
“Is he coming soon?” Tom asked. His brown eyes widened, but the serious expression didn’t leave his face. It wouldn’t until he got answers or was on his way to the hospital.
I sure hope so, Kenneth thought.
“He’s on his way to save the day right now,” he said. “You can probably take your jacket off though. It’s warm in here and I don’t want you to get sick.”
Tom rolled his eyes and headed back down the hallway to his playroom. His head was down and the plastic bag was dragging on the floor.
Kenneth’s heart broke all over the place.
Less than an hour later, a truck thundered up the steep driveway. Its big headlights cut through the falling snow and illuminated the house. There was a heavy knock on the door moments later.
“I heard someone needed a lift,” Skip asked loudly.
“I do! I do!” Tom yelled running down the hallway. Cecile stopped him so she could put his jacket back on him. He impatiently let her and then hurried out the front door.
“Mom, the weather’s bad out there,” Kenneth said watching Cecile button her coat. “Skip can come back and get you when the weather clears up a little bit.”
“Kenny, I lived most of my life in upstate Maine and had eleven children,” she said calmly.
“When that thought was running through your head, did you really think I would listen to you?” She asked wrapping a warm scarf around her neck.
“Good. Now get your coat on and make sure you button it all the way. It’s freezing out there.”
Kenneth nodded his head and did as he was told. He helped his mother-in-law up into the truck and hopped up himself. Skip put the truck in gear and they started out into the snowy night.
Hang on Gail, he thought. Your men are on their way.
Gail was as comfortable as she was going to get. A nurse fluffed a pillow every so often, but it was an exercise in futility. She was fed ice chips every so often as well. The doctor always had an encouraging word when he stopped in. He said it wouldn’t be too much longer. He kept saying that. Gail didn’t know what time it was, but she was sure hours kept going by. There were two things that weren’t happening: her baby boy being born and her husband next to her holding her hand. It was a toss up which Sanford male she was more annoyed at. For the moment, she was giving her baby a break on this one.
She winced as she felt another pain. She felt like everything below her neck was screaming out. Her blue eyes remained fixed on the door as the pain subsided momentarily. She wanted Kenneth to walk though the door so badly. She really didn’t want to do this without him. Gail was fairly certain that he had a good reason. The doctor had said something about a snowstorm. She decided to go easy on him when he got here. He’d smile and hold her hand until he didn’t have any feeling left in it. He’d be here soon enough. He’d have Tom with him too. He’d be here to see his family get a little bigger.
Yes, she thought. I promise myself I will go easy on him.
Gail thought she was hallucinating when he rushed past her door. She blinked expecting him to come back or for her to return to the real world. She wasn’t dreaming; she heard his voice somewhere down the hallway.
Where the hell is he? She thought. What the hell is he doing? Who the hell is he talking to over there?
“Kenny!” she yelled.
She heard footsteps on the hospital floor. Moments later, Kenneth was standing in the doorway. He looked tired and ragged, but he still had a twinkle in his brown eyes and an apologetic smile on his face.
“Where the hell have you been? Do you know how many hours I’ve been in labor? Did you get lost on the way here? Do you know I’ve been alone all this time? You better have a good reason for nearly missing the birth of your child! Speak, boy!” Gail yelled all in one breath.
Kenneth chuckled a little as he tossed his jacket on the chair in the corner. He walked over and kissed the top of his wife’s head.
“You wouldn’t believe the snowstorm that’s going on outside. Your brother-in-law rescued us from your mother’s house. I almost came right here, but I didn’t want Tom to miss it,” Kenneth said. He sat down next to the bed. He quickly grabbed her hand and held it tight. Gail looked like she was thinking over whether or not to forgive him. She decided to let him off the hook and gave him the best smile she could.
“O.K., that’s a good reason. How is Tom?”
“He’s excited. I would have been here a few minutes sooner, but I had to explain to him that his other grandparents were on their way. He was worried they were going to miss his little brother. I told him not to worry, that everyone that could be here would be here as soon as they could,” Kenneth answered.
“How are you feeling?”
“Are you serious?” she asked taking in breaths. “Do I really need to answer that? Are you that much of a guy?”
Kenneth put his free hand up in surrender.
“Your doctor was in the hallway,” he told her. “He said he’d be in soon.”
Gail rolled her eyes. She was sure he was going to bring the same news. He’d tell her that her son was almost ready to join the world. She just wanted him to be here already. She was ready to hold him and stop him from crying. The pain didn’t matter anymore. The worse it got meant the sooner she’d have her son in her arms.
As if on cue, the doctor walked through the door. He was all smiles.
“How are you feeling?” he asked Gail.
Gail was about to let him have it, but Kenneth started talking before she did.
“I don’t know if you want to ask that Doc,” he said. “It’s a sore subject with her at the moment.”
The doctor laughed as he wheeled his stool between Gail’s legs. Gail doubled over in pain. The doctor peered over the bed sheet. He had good news this time.
“I think your little man is ready to come out Gail,” he said sending his nurses into a flurry of activity. “I think he might have been making sure his Daddy was here to see him, that’s all.”
Kenneth’s heart swelled with pride. His wife’s hand tightened up on his. The doctor commanded her to start pushing. Her grip got harder and harder each time she was coaxed into pushing. After 10 minutes, there was still no baby and a bruised hand.
“Honey, can we switch hands? You’re really doing a number on this one,” Kenneth said in between tries.
“Are you fucking kidding?” Gail asked breathlessly. “And no, we can’t.”
She started pushing again and she doubled her grip. Kenneth winced. She stopped again and took a deep breath.
“I’m serious darling,” he said. “My hand really hurts.”
“It’s not as bad as your head is going to hurt after this is over. Suck it up Kenneth!”
The doctor told her to start pushing again. Kenneth braced himself. His wife had moved her hand lower and was now starting to crush all of his fingers together.
“Shut up Kenny!”
“You’re breaking my hand!”
“Shut up Kenny!”
“O.K.,” the doctor said as calmly as humanly possible. “I need you to give me one more big push!”
“Ahhhhhhh!” the two parents screamed together.
Tom swung his legs. Worry was still all over his face. It felt like he had been waiting forever. He had to wait months after his parents told him the news. He had to wait to find out whether he was getting a brother or sister. He had to wait to find out his name. Tom was tired of waiting. He wanted his little brother now!
His eyes looked down the hallway again.
His father was walking toward him fast. Tom stood straight up. He held on tight to the stuffed animal. His father was smiling. Tom smiled back.
“You want to come see your new baby brother?” Kenneth asked holding out his hand. “We named him Sid.”
Tom jumped up in the air and then took his father’s hands. They walked down the hallway together.