My daughter, Rose, was delivered by emergency Caesarian, on the first day of Autumn, over in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio. “Autumn Begins in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio” also happens to be the name of a beautiful poem by James Wright, a sort of ode to the despair of the blue-collar workers in the Ohio Valley. I can’t tell you if the culture in Martin’s Ferry lives up to the poem’s description. Martin’s Ferry just looked like the inside of a hospital room, to me. For the Ohio Valley in general, though, it rings true.
And then Rose was there, she was screaming, and I was a mother.
I found a ride back to Steubenville three days later, and Autumn began.
My daughter turned one year old on the first day of Autumn in Steubenville, Ohio, in that nightmare apartment on a terrible street that backed a stately expensive street close to campus. Nothing in that ramshackle building fit with anything else properly, but we made do. The kitchen door didn’t shut securely, so I stuck a sack of potatoes in a crate and used it for a doorstop as Rose played on the kitchen floor, and I baked a horrible gluten-free birthday cake with vegan chocolate chips and no icing. We carried the cake to the park to celebrate, but a strong gust of wind blew the paper plates and napkins away so fast I couldn’t save them, so we ate it with our fingers. And Autumn began.
My daughter turned two years old on the first day of Autumn in Steubenville, and again we were at that same park. My grandparents came and brought apple cider and a Mickey Mouse balloon. I don’t think Rosie had ever seen Mickey Mouse before, but after playing with the balloon she loved him, and asked for any Mickey Mouse toys she saw. Soon after I bought her a beat up old stuffed Mickey Mouse with the nose missing, from the dollar toy bin at the thrift store. The nose immediately fell off, so sewed a black pom pom onto his face to fix it. She still has that Mickey Mouse with the pom-pom nose.
That birthday was the second to last time I ever saw my grandfather; two years later, he was dead.
And Autumn began.
My daughter turned three on the first day of Autumn, just a few days before we moved out of that horrendous apartment. We had no money because everything we could get had gone into the deposit on the tiny little house we were renting to escape the apartment, but I bought her a xylophone from the dollar toy bin at the thrift store. She told me with great confidence that Santa Claus had brought the xylophone for her. And Autumn began.My daughter turned four on the first day of Autumn in a different rental house, because the lease on the tiny little house was only eight months and then the landlord sold it to someone else. We’d been were terrified of being homeless, but at the last moment we’d rented a cavernous, dusty, mildewy old house a block away and spirited our things there– some in a friend’s van, some with a borrowed shopping cart. We got the house by virtue of being the first people to hand the landlord a deposit, which was nothing short of a miracle. On that block there were children to play with. Rose invited them to her superhero birthday party in our front yard. That day it poured rain so terribly hard that only three of the neighborhood children walked over, drenched and squabbling and hungry for party snacks, and all three of them too poor to bring gifts. We played games and ate cake on the porch. Then, at just the right minute, the mailman arrived with a package of rhythm instruments, a gift from Rose’s grandmother, the best present she’d ever had, and they played with those until evening.
My daughter turned five, and we celebrated in the shelter house at that park nearby with families from our church. It rained so hard the tennis court was underwater, so the children played in the water until they were all soaked and chilly. I called it a beach party.
My daughter turned six and it was too hot for a party; we put the celebration off for two weeks. Finally, we had a cool sunny afternoon, and friends from church came and played at the playground. I brought a silk parachute for them to play with and a package of balloons I blew up myself. The friends brought art supplies and superhero costumes, the things Rose likes best in all the world.
And Autumn began. And Autumn began. And Autumn began.
My daughter turned seven on the first day of Autumn in Steubenville, Ohio.
We didn’t think we’d still be living in Steubenville, Ohio, by this time, but here we are.
I’m still not sure how we lived to this point, but here we are.
We gave her teddy bears and action figures we’d squirreled away when they were on sale in the summertime. My husband walked her out to Wendy’s for a birthday dinner while I baked her another cake– still gluten-free, but not vegan or healthy this time. Somewhere along the line I’ve loosened up. I sat down for a moment while the house was quiet, to write something in tribute to my daughter.
And Autumn began.
(image via Pixabay)