The last sound I heard as I drifted off to sleep was the howling wind. In the middle of the night I was awakened by a scream from the back bedroom.
My dog Trouser came over and licked my face. I sat up and draped a wool blanket around my shoulders. Then slid out of bed and walked across a cold hardwood floor.
I found myself standing at the bedroom door. The scene was strange and scary, like something in a dream.
Sitting on white wicker tables, one on each side of my mother and father’s bed, were kerosene lamps with thick yellow flames dancing inside glass mantles. The outlines of the people in the room cast dark shadows on the bedroom walls. The smell of burning oil permeated the air. I backed up when I saw a tall, broad-shouldered man with bushy white hair standing at the foot of the bed. My heart began to pound when I realized who it was.
“Push. Push.” Doc Barnes shouted, his deep voice rumbled like thunder. My mother grunted loudly as if she were trying to lift something that was too heavy each time Doc raised his hands in the air like a conductor.
I looked around when the front door banged open against the living room wall. My dad rushed in carrying an armload of wood. The cold chill of a winter wind that followed him snuffed out the flame of a candle burning on the coffee table. A half-dozen icicles blew off the Christmas tree and landed on top of presents wrapped in shiny red and gold paper.
“What you doin’ up, Son?” Dad asked, as he dumped the wood in a box beside the black cast-iron stove and brushed pieces of bark from the front of his bib overalls. He opened the stove door and pitched a cedar log in on top of a glowing bed of coals.
“Best you go back to bed. Get ol’ Trouser under the covers. You’ll both stay warmer. There’ll be a nice surprise for you come morning. I hope.” I looked up at Dad towering over me and began to cry. He closed the stove door, picked me up and carried me into my bedroom.
Dad sat for a spell and told me a story and as usual, before he finished, I drifted off to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I lay in my bed and patted Trouser as he looked up at me with big brown eyes. I was trying to sort out if all of the commotion the night before was real or my imagination when I heard a baby cry. My brother Robert, later called, Rob had been born a few minutes past midnight on Christmas Day. Doc Barnes carried him outside and rolled him in the snow because he was not breathing. The shock of the cold did the trick and brought him around.
Many a birthday have come and gone since December 25th, 1939 but nary a one holds a candle to the night my brother Rob was born. Even though I was only three years old I realized my world was never again going to be the same.