69 years ago today, my mother Louise Alexander, gave birth to me at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Throughout my life she never failed to remind me that while everybody else was out reveling and bringing in the New Year she was in the hospital delivering. In her sometimes irreverent way, she remembered other young mothers there crying out in pain and calling on Jesus and she’d tell them “why you calling on him? He didn’t get you pregnant.”
My mother thought she was going into labor earlier but it was a false alarm and the Doctor sent her back home with my grandfather and told him to take the bumpy road back. She finally arrives back at the Hospital and I arrive. But even then it wasn’t that simple. I guess I still wasn’t ready for the world because I tried to back out of the womb. I feel that might be reflected in my personality even today because, I do tend approach things backwards, try to do things on my own schedule and in my own way. As my mother told me, the Doctor pushed me back in and brought me out in a natural birth.
I developed bronchial pneumonia and had to stay in the hospital for a while. When my mom came to visit me she was alarmed when she came to the room and I wasn’t in my bed. She soon found that the nurses were parading me around the hospital like they had not seen a cute real black baby before.
My mother would often tell me, by way of reminder, that I should never let myself become dependent on anyone, saying that “Nobody else was attached to your navel cord and it was cut from me when you were born.” Every New Year’s Eve, when the clock wound down to the new year, my mother would call me, wherever I was at, and wish me a Happy Birthday. I’d be at a celebration, or at home watching the ball drop in Times Square and I knew to expect her call. And now that she has returned to Allah (G-d), I know that is what I’ll miss most about the New Year—her calling me saying “I just called to say I love you” with Stevie Wonder in the background; her telling me about her travails with my birth and how I came just in time to ruin her holiday party; and her touching that emotional core in me that I sometimes forget. So, let me close this out before I start dropping tears on my keyboard and ruin my lap top. Allah (G-d) says “reverence the wombs that bore you.” Love your mother. Take care of her. Call her and make sure she doesn’t need anything. Don’t raise your voice or speak harshly to her. And when she is no longer with you, pray for her all the time.