Miss Ann drove me to the hospital in her Buick. She walked me through the parking lot, holding my hand.
We took the elevator. My father was pacing the hallway by the window.
“It’s a girl,” Daddy said. “A girl, can you believe it?”
He was wearing blue scrubs over sooty work clothes. A blue surgical cap. He looked ridiculous.
We wandered into a hospital room that was white and sterile.
Mama was sleeping hard. They handed the girl to Daddy first.
He stared the baby in the face. He examined her hands and feet, counted fingers and toes. He smelled her.
He smiled. “A girl,” he said.
When he pressed her against his chest, he wore the same look some drunk people wear. A sort of loose smile.
“A little girl,” he said again.
They let me hold her. She didn’t weigh much more than an unripened squash. Her eyes were closed tight. She smelled funny.
Daddy died a few years later. It didn’t take long before the girl could hardly remember his face.
The boy did his best to teach the girl important life lessons. Such as: how to fry bacon, how to scoop ice cream, how to spin a quarter, shoot bottle-rockets, and spit for distance.
And when the family dog gave birth to nine puppies in the garage, it was the boy who taught the girl to hold the newborn things.
“Is she a mama-dog now?” asked the girl.
“She is,” said the boy.
We stayed up for half the night, holding pups, giving them names like: Fred, Ginger, Waylon, Loretta, and Bill Gaither.
The girl got older. Prettier. Smarter. She played sports. She competed on a swim team.
The boy clocked out early from work to watch swim meets and cheer. And, it was the boy who took her to Waffle House afterward.
“I wish Daddy could see you today,” said the boy. “He’d be so proud.”
“Oh,” said the girl with wet hair. “Please don’t cry in Waffle House, you’re embarrassing me.”
On the day of her wedding, she held the boy’s arm. At the altar, the man asked: “Who gives this woman away?”
She was no woman. She was a girl who’d learned to say her alphabet on the front porch. Who played so hard her cheeks turned red. Who named puppies.
Who sat in her brother’s lap on Christmas morning and said, “Promise me that we’ll be together forever.”
A girl who nearly totalled her car once. A singer. A talker. A swimmer. A white-dress-wearing brunette on my arm. A friend.
Last year, I was out of town on business. I drove through clogged Atlanta traffic with my wife in the passenger seat. My wife’s cellphone rang. She held it to her ear.
She hollered, “It’s your sister! She’s out of the delivery room. It’s a baby girl!”
A baby girl.
I was fortunate enough to know one of those once.
And I can think of nothing finer.