74 years ago, at 5 p.m., she heard the serious noise of labor rising in the upstairs bedroom of their small semi-detached house not far from Berlin.
Her mother Hedwig was close to giving birth.
A mid-wife tended to her.
Her mother’s mother had traveled the 150 miles from Thuringia to help with household and new baby and had already laid down the law.
Her father Max was there, too.
This was quite out of the ordinary in 1940, a father seeing his child into the world. Max defied convention, just as he and Hedwig had defied the odds by having their second child at the age of 41 and 38 respectively. Max must have taken off his jacket, probably even his vest, and been in shirt-sleeves, although the mid-wife did the work and his wife the hard labor of pushing.
Some time before the clock struck six, the mother’s cries were replaced by the outraged high-pitched first screams of the new one: a baby girl. All they knew about her then was that she weighed eight pounds and had some hair.
As a three-year-old, this girl would sleep in a bunker at night during air raids on Berlin.
As a four-year-old, she would lose her mother to a brain tumor.
As a nine-year-old, she would have to leave her beloved aunt and go live with her unfamiliar father and step-mother.
As a 24-year-old, this girl would embark on the ocean liner called Queen Elizabeth that just 6 days prior to her birth had finished its maiden voyage in New York.
That day, her first, she was still just a sweet, unexpected, late-in-life gift in a darkening time.
The next day Tante Rosa, the new mother’s sister and the Unikum’s first wife, came by with cherry cake and admired her new niece.
“What a beautiful baby you brought into the world!” she told her little sister.
And someone else had a little sister now – my aunt, who was ten years old and over the moon that her days as an only child were finally, finally over.
She is the one who told me the story of my mother’s birth, as Mama, her once long-awaited little sister, lay dying at the hospice.
It’s good to have been always so wanted and longed-for.
But hard for those who want and long.