I was expecting. My daughter was due to be born in a hot dry June in Altus, Oklahoma. By my calculations she was overdue but the doctor said she was due a whole six weeks later at the end of July or even early August. He said I wasn’t big enough yet. At five feet ten and a half I knew he was wrong. I didn’t stick out when I was pregnant. There was lots of room for the baby to vertically stretch her little feet up under my ribs. She didn’t need to poke herself out in front.
I played tennis and went hiking and did yoga. I had a great time with no periods and no cramps. I felt wonderful. But when was that baby coming anyway?
It was so hot and dry. No rain for ten months. The biggest drought since the 30s. Hundreds of rabbits ran between rows of dried up cotton. Water tanks were going dry. Only drops of water, stained with red Oklahoma dust, trickled out of faucets.
That baby was sticking her feet up under my lungs now. The moon was new. I trimmed hedges at night and looked at the new moon, when babies were supposed to be born, asking, “When, when, when?”
The next morning my husband, three year old son, Michael, and I set off for a drive in our little yellow VW bug. With the radio blasting we headed way out into the country where the hills looked slick, like satin, but, when we got close to those hills, we saw that they were really mile long mounds of long narrow rocks.
We continued along a small narrow road through the dried out countryside. The radio started to play a new song, “I’ve never been to Spain, but I kinda like the music.” We slowed down, laughing and enjoying the song.
Coming up over a little hill Michael yelled over the music, “Look mommy, look. A horse!” We slowed down and looked and looked. What horse where? Finally we saw a horse laying down at the side of the road. Then we noticed his legs were sticking straight out as the song continued, “but I kind of like the music. They say the ladies are insane there and they sure know how to use it.”
All the while the music played on while we stopped to see what the horse was doing and discussed how to get him up and take him back to the nearest farm until we finally realized that it was a dead horse. Dead and stiff. Legs straight out.
Sitting in our car, in the middle of nowhere, in blazing heat, on a dried out plain in Oklahoma with a stiff dead horse on the side of the road we listened to the music, “I’ve never been to heaven but I’ve been to Oklahoma. They tell me I was born there but I really don’t remember. In Oklahoma, not Arizona. What does it matter? What does it matter?”
We laughed like crazy. Yes, this was Oklahoma, we sure weren’t in Heaven. Maybe the horse was in Heaven. And the baby, this was her song. these exact words, her words. We will tell her she was born here but she really won’t remember. We laughed and laughed and laughed and wondered when she would arrive.
She came that night. It started with rain, rain at last, rain. Then there was thunder and lightening and hail. We were awake still playing cards and listening to the rain and thunder when my tummy got hard. Just hard, then soft, then hard. We went to the hospital as the wind picked up bringing hard rain, blinding flashes of lightening and giant hail. We were locked out of the hospital and while hail pounded us on our backs and shoulders we pounded on the doors until they let us in.
She was born quickly, as the storm reached it peak. The drought was broken. She was here now, at last, Heather, who really can’t remember Oklahoma. Except in her dreams, in her dreams where she sees the sun rise with a crystal clear view of the sky stretching across the Oklahoma prairie from horizon to horizon.
I see her there, against the sky.