Wednesday, April 26, 2006

April 26


By nearly every conceivable measure, my daughter -- a healthy, happy, staggeringly beautiful 7-pound mound of joy -- chose a bleak day to pry herself loose from the comforts of the womb. Labor commenced at 5:30 a.m. on April 25, a day relatively unmarked by the traumas of history. True, on 25 April 1972, the North Vietnamese Army unleashed the Nguyen Hue Offensive, which over the course of three months killed 100,000 NVA and 25,000 South Vietnamese troops; among other things, the invasion underscored the failure of Nixon's "Vietnamization" strategy as American ground forces prepared to leave by Autumn of that year. And April 25 was also the date in 1847 on which the last survivors of the Donner Party emerged from the Sierra Nevadas, their lips still glistening from the roasted meat of their dead compatriots -- about a half dozen of whom they had eaten.

So April 25 had its share of depressing connotations, but my daughter was clearly holding out for something more. So following 36 maddening hours of labor, during which neither of her parents earned more than a few moments of sleep, the baby at last arrived at 5:34 yesterday afternoon -- a day later than anyone had expected, but just in time to observe the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Guernica; the 20th anniversary of the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant; the 63rd anniverary of the formation of the Gestapo; and the 399th anniversary of the day English settlers made landfall at Cape Henry, Virginia, three weeks prior to the founding of the Jamestown settlement, from whose loins a 250-year regime of North American slavery would would spring. By sheer coincidence, April 26 is also observed in Forida and Georgia as Confederate Memorial Day, a date originally proposed by a Mrs. Charles Williams of Columbus, Georgia, who in 1868 appealed to the readers of the Columbus Times to pay tribute to the men who died on behalf of the Lost Cause. "We beg the assistance of the press and the ladies throughout the South," Williams wrote, "to aid us in the effort to set apart a certain day to be observed from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, and to be handed down through time as a religious custom of the South, to wreathe the graves of our martyred dead with flowers, and we propose the 26th day of April as the day." With the exception of Arkansas, every other former Confederate state observes a Confederate Memorial Day at some point during the first half of the year.

Although I can't be sure that my daughter has any knowledge of Confederate Memorial Day, the horrors of war, the brutality of chattel slavery, or the assorted follies of nuclear age, her father is pleased to report that she has spent the day discharging load after load of meconium -- the tar-black fecal matter that every baby grunts from its bowels during its first hours of life -- into her tiny diapers. If there's a more appropriate commentary on these and other historical matters, I doubt I'll ever hear it.

Welcome to the world, Audrey. Keep up the good work.