Tom will be eight this week. He was born a week early, and was still my biggest baby. His head measured in the 99th percentile, and my OB/GYN told me his was one of the biggest she’s seen, and at that time she had delivered over 2,000 babies. When she came by the next day, she was very sympathetic to my obvious pain after having been sewn back together like a rag doll. In hindsight, Tom’s delivery made me realize that if peeing in my pants from jumping rope for the rest of my life is the worst lingering side effect from the experience, I should feel lucky.
Tom was our baby who needed to be touched and held more than the others from the get-go. We often say it’s because he was evicted from the womb early, feeling eternally robbed of those last few days of being extra-close to me. Gordie spent countless nights sleeping on Tom’s nursery floor with his arm reaching up into the crib to cup his little fingers. That extra touch was so soothing for him, and on some nights made all the difference for us to get any sleep.
The back story of his birth is key to appreciating Tom’s reflections on Groundhog Day, which he shared with me after school on Friday. He began as he breathlessly ran up the back steps, his cheeks red from the blustery January air. “Mom, you would not believe how they treat Punxsatawney Phil!” he exclaimed in an appalled tone. “I learned at school today that they show up at his hole and someone reaches down and pulls him out.” I’m momentarily hung up on the “I learned at school” opening, fully expecting it to be followed by a tidbit pertaining to the highly touted new math curriculum, or perhaps something about the penguin project he is working on. I quickly refocus, gently grab Tom’s shoulders, and look into his eyes so he knows I am listening. “Mom, he is sound asleep, and he has no idea they are even coming. The next thing you know, he is yanked out. Can you BELIEVE that someone would do that? THAT is just MEAN.”
Prior to Tom’s narrative, I always thought that the camera crews sat patiently waiting for the little fellow to appear, or perhaps that they lured him out with some tantalizing treat. Leave it to Tom to fill me in on his version of exactly what went down, complete with the heart-wrenching tale of an unnecessary eviction. I was left momentarily speechless, and tried to distract him with a snack before feigning sympathy for an over-hyped rodent looking for his shadow in some Pennsylvania countryside. Our conversation ended in a lingering hug, and I leaned down and whispered in his ear, “Something tells me Phil will be just fine.”