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A baby for Christmas

December 21, 2016 - Jerry Nelson
Of all the Yuletides my wife and I have shared, by far the most memorable is the December when we got a baby for Christmas. We had just gotten married the previous March. We hadn’t discussed kids except in the most academic terms. “I think that children are important to the socio-economic health of any nation,” we might say to one another. Or, “My understanding is that the Child Tax Credit is set to increase next year, but only if your adjusted gross income as stated on Line Q in Section 7 on Form 2297(b) is less than $100,000.” While we’d had some general and generally agreeable kid-related discussions, it nonetheless hit me like a thunderbolt when my wife came to me one April evening and said that she was late. “Then you better get moving,” I replied. “By the way, where are you going?” She swiftly enlightened me as to what she meant by “late.” “What?” I sputtered, “How did this happen?” “You know darn well how,” she replied. “You were there.” We made an appointment with an ob/gyn, who confirmed my wife’s diagnosis. “Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Nelson,” beamed the good doctor as he shook our hands. “You’re about to become parents.” We were newlyweds and hadn’t even gotten accustomed to the “Mr. and Mrs.” part. And now they were going to slap us with Mom and Dad? The doctor prescribed some so-called “baby vitamins” for my wife to take every day. Those boluses were obviously mislabeled; the size of the pills seemed to indicate that they were intended for horses. Early on in the pregnancy process, the doctor turned to me and said, “Your job is to make sure that she gets plenty of calcium. Milk, cheese, malts. If it’s dairy, your wife should have it.” I was a dairy farmer, so this pleased me deeply. It was nifty to know that I was producing some of the yummies that were forming the skeleton of the mysterious creature that was growing in my wife’s tummy. Despite the apprehensions that beset all expecting couples, we were assured that the gestation was proceeding normally. The best guess was that the blessed event would take place on the first day of January. This was an astounding stroke of good fortune. I knew that the first baby born in the New Year was given megatons of loot. With any luck, it wouldn’t all be mom- or baby-related. With any luck, I might soon be driving that new pickup truck I had always wanted. But it was not to be. On Christmas Eve, my wife and I drove to my Grandpa and Grandma Hammer’s farm for their traditional Christmas Eve supper, which included massive amounts of that traditional Scandinavian delicacy known as lutefisk. My grandparents put on a colossal spread: roast turkey and ham, lefse, Swedish meatballs and enough mashed potatoes to feed a Third World nation. I loaded a plate and took it to my wife, who had settled herself into a comfortable chair. “Get that stinky stuff away from me!” she said, indicating the lutefisk. “Just looking at it makes me feel icky.” “Ok,” I replied, “More for me.” There was a surplus of lutefisk that night. I felt badly for my grandparents, so I did what I could to reduce the supply. Fourth and fifth helpings may have been involved. We drove home and went to bed. Shortly after midnight, my wife woke me. “My tummy really hurts,” she said. “We should go to the hospital.” “Too much lutefisk can do that,” I replied. “Just lie down and it’ll pass.” She whacked me upside the head with a pillow. “You dope,” she replied tactfully, “I didn’t eat any lutefisk, but the smell of it probably put me into labor. Get me to the hospital.” There followed a flurry of phone calls and a mad dash to the hospital. We needn’t have hurried. Labor lasted all through Christmas Day and into Boxing Day. The crucial moment finally arrived. Standing at my wife’s side, I recalled our Lamaze lessons and coached her, “Breathe. Breathe out like this.” “Good Lord,” exclaimed the doctor. “Have you been eating rotten carp? Put a mask on the father. No, I mean the kind that’s hermetically sealed. We don’t need any more suffering in here.” A short time later, a pink and wrinkly bundle named Paul arrived. It’s been 35 Christmases since that day. Paul is all grown up now and has a career in the high-tech industry. He has more smarts in his little toe than his mother and I combined. We are incredibly proud of him. And I doubt that we will ever receive a nicer Christmas present.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

 
 

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