January 2 – Here’s To You, Mom

by Susan Wittig Albert

The moment of birth, the beginning, requires patience, implies progress. You are not alone.–The I Ching

Today is my birthday, a special day for me. But it is also a day that I celebrate my mother, Amber Lucille Webber (1909-2000). My special day was her special day, too.

I was born in a busy Chicago hospital, just at noon on the second day of the brand-new 1940, with the world peering anxiously over the precipice of war. President Roosevelt had submitted a record-breaking $14-million defense budget while proclaiming U.S. neutrality in the worsening European conflict. The New York World’s Fair had opened to an astonished, goggle-eyed public. Gone with the Wind was the year’s leading movie, and “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” was on everyone’s lips. The average price of a new car was $766, bread cost eight cents a loaf, and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup was nine cents a can. The sun was in Capricorn, the moon was in Libra, and Aries was rising over the eastern horizon.

But my mother was not concerned with social or celestial events. She was doing the belly-work of birthing: pushing, panting, waiting, pushing again. Breathing with the pain, staying with the rhythms of breath and body, past caring whether her first child was a boy or a girl, so long as it was healthy.

Then the miraculous moment: “You came out kicking,” she always said, retelling with pride a story she told me so often that both of us knew it by heart. “And the nurse held you up, red as a raspberry, and you squalled, and she said ‘Listen to that voice! This one’s going to tell the world all about it!'”

And many years later, when my first book was published, my mother told that story again, and again and again, to anyone who would listen. “That voice,” she would say, shaking her head. “That girl–always something to say. Telling the world all about it.”

That was my birth, according to my mother. So here’s to you, Mom: my grateful thanks for your birthing work on that special day, 71 years ago, that brought me into the world, gave me a voice, and sent me off to tell stories.

Susan is the best-selling author of three popular mystery series: the China Bayles mysteries, the Darling Dahlias, and the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. With Bill Albert, she co-authored the Robin Paige mysteries. She has written two memoirs: Together, Alone, A Memoir of Marriage and Place; and An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days. She founded SCN in 1997.

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16 responses to “January 2 – Here’s To You, Mom

  1. Lovely tribute sharing your birth-day with your mother…happy birth-day to you and your wonderful mother whose memory you continue through each birth-day…

  2. What a nice thought to share the day with the one who brought you life!
    I will think about this for my next birthday too!

  3. How cool to know what all was going on in the world when you were born – I don’t think I’ve really researched that. Especially wonder how much stuff cost. Happy birthday, Susan. Keep sayin’ what you have to say – the world needs your voice!

  4. This is a beautiful post, Susan! In a few paragraphs you have (a) honored your mother, (b) taught your readers a bit of history, (c) made me think about the fact that I have no clue what was going on in the world the day I was born – but might like to know! and (d) proven what it was that the delivery room nurse and your mother knew from the start – Susan Wittig Albert has a voice to share with the world! I, for one, am so glad that you do!

  5. Happy Birthday Susan!
    I really enjoyed reading the details of the world when you were born, and what an honor to your mother.
    I love how from the instant you were introduced to the world, it was known that you had much to share with the world, and that you have done and continue to do!
    Thank you for sharing this with us all!

  6. I really like the idea of not just telling about your birth but sharing the story of the woman who made it all possible. Like you, I’ve heard the story of my birth and, like you, I suspect the portents were there, though I hadn’t thought too much about that. Thanks for the memoir prompt. I’ll have to look into the connections. Great post.

  7. Oh, I do like this. You know, she is probably still saying it!

  8. What a lovely tribute to your mom, Susan–both your article and your life. Your readers, too, owe her a debt of gratitude for bringing you into the world, and to you for sharing your life with us.

  9. What a beautiful tribute to your Mom. What a wonderful memory.

  10. Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to read and leave a comment. I think this new SCN blog is going to give many women a chance to raise their voices and have their say. Please keep coming back to read and listen. That’s what SCN is all about, in as many different media/formats/venues as we can think of.

    And special thanks to Linda, Laurinda, and Susan for the creative energy you’ve put into this project. Wonderful!

  11. Birth stories are important. I used to wonder why women told them to each other, over and over. Then I had a child, and I understood. Happy birthday to you, Susan, and happy birthday to your mom, too.

  12. Your Mom would be so proud of this tribute, Susan. I’m glad she was your mom and you are here today. Happy Birthday!

  13. Happy Birthday, Susan!! Such a wonderful tribute to your mom. No matter what kind of relationship we have with our mothers after our birth, our gratitude to them for bringing into this world is boundless! Have a great day!

  14. Interesting to see we are both Capricorns born in the same year. You celebrate your day at the beginning and I celebrate mine on Dec. 26th. I was a “premie” by a month and my Mom always said I started out in a rush to get here and have continued that throughout my life! When I got older, I always gave my mom a bouquet of flowers on my b-day in thanksgiving for her gift of life to me. Thanks for your story and for giving me the opportunity to appreciate my Mom again this morning.

  15. Oh, you make me miss my mom. A fine tribute, and great writing prompt, too. Happy belated Birthday!

  16. Mary Ann Parker

    Continued birthday congratulations, Susan! I, too, had a 1940 debut, and I love the reminders of the “way we were”. I used to call my mother on my birthday to wish her Happy Giving Birth Day and never stopped smiling when she would begin again “Oh, that morning was so stormy and cold, and we were so proud of you.” Thank you for bringing that smile back to me today. Our mothers heard us first!

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