Today is Miles’s 18th birthday. Happy birthday, Miles.
I remember when he was born in 1996, after 44 hours of labor. It was a little after 8 pm in Allegheny General Hospital. The room was in the upper floors of the hospital, and we could see the landscape of the city from our window. We saw the sun rise and set while Winnie labored and I did what I could, which was mostly nothing.
I remember it all vividly, like it happened yesterday. I remember seeing him take his first breaths, seeing him cry. It is amazing how even in those earliest moments, we see who they are in ways that carry on for their whole lives– the shape of his face, his nose, his lips. There is also more, something impossible to explain unless you’re a parent. But you see something and feel something that is their essence from the moment they enter this cruel beautiful world and breath the air and open their eyes and nestle into their mother’s body for the first time.
I held him too. I looked at his little feet, curled up. I noticed his ear. The top curl of his ear was flat like a thin membrane. He had pushed and pushed trying to be born, but his head was cocked to the side rather than with his chin against his chest so his ear had no curl to it. It was flattened by the pressure of his pushing so much. The curl returned after a few days, but his ear was always a little funny at the top. I want to call him into the room to look at his ears. I remember the last time I looked at his ears.
I touched his little fingers and fingernails and knuckles, as tiny as they would ever be. I cupped his tiny head in my hand. I held him close, something I did thousands of times for many years, until his body and mind were strong enough to be on their own. I talked to him, my baby boy.
As Winnie and Miles rested in their bed I could see the night’s traffic flowing across the bridges and highways, a train across the river blowing its whistle. I called family after he was born. “We named him Miles,” I told my mom, my Auntie, my brother. Winnie stayed the night in the hospital. I went home to her mom’s house, excited by holding my son, my Miles, my boy in my arms so tiny and fragile.
This song is from a compilation of bedtime songs for children that we listened to a lot when Miles was young. It is from the movie Dumbo. It is sweet and loving, like new parents gazing on their sleeping babies. It is wonderful. It is quiet and peaceful. It is beautiful and mysteriously strong, like a baby.