This is my first story.
I was the first and I was the only and like all first time mothers, mine was unaware of what she had signed up for. Mick Jagger was born on July 26th, I was not. My due date was the 15th of July, my mother wanted to pop me out on the 4th and I choose to stay a bun in the oven for an extra two weeks. On the 26th my father, an avid Stones fan, asked them to induce my mother (who swore I was a boy). I, Ian Tyler Smith (yes named after Steven Tyler of Areosmith), was to make my grand entrance into the world exactly 51 years after Mick. The doctor denied my fathers request. Instead I came out female, nameless, and a day late. Baby girl Smith was born on July 27th, 1994, at 7:42 pm, 16 hours after my mother insisted my father drive her to the hospital. Three days later a nurse walked in and told them that in order to take me home they would have to name me. Mom wanted Vivian or Bobby Jo, dad said no. She watched the Three Stooges while waiting to push and Degrassi after popping me out. Thankfully it wasn’t the other way around. I was named after the blonde hair, blue eyed, character Caitlin Ryan played by actress Stacie Mistysyn born three days before Mick, July 23rd, 1971. After this decision the nurse told them we could go home; they decided to stay another day.
Peggy Fleming and Leo Durocher were born on July 27th and on that same date in 1866 the Atlantic telegraph cable was successfully laid. I know these things because of the birthday video that the Toledo Hospital sent home with us when we finally decided to leave. It is five minutes of day old me, eyes closed, wiggling around while a man with a somewhat soothing voice recited facts about my day. It ends with him saying, “you’ve done a fine, no, a magnificent job”, a phrase that has become a long running joke in the Smith family household. I have watched the infamous video exactly 22 (about to be 23) times: every July 27th since it’s (and my) creation and once with a dear friend from high school.
My mother was a high-risk pregnancy, which is why I was born in Toledo instead of the country hospital 30 miles out, closer to where they lived. Her biggest fear was being in labor stuck in rush hour traffic, or worse, having me come out while speeding down the highway. My father was premature, number 8 of 9, he weighed 4 pounds and exited the womb in the hospitals hallway. He says of his birth, “mom tooted and out I came”. This seems to have set the precedent of his life, skinny, impatient and fun. My entry seemed to have paved the way to a life of solitude, curiosity and deep thought. My mother says it is the only time I have ever been late; she is not wrong.
Before me (and admittedly after me) my father’s baby was a 1955 Chevrolet, two doors and grey primer. My grandfather got to the hospital and immediately found my father to scold, “I can’t believe you drove my daughter here in that car”. Apparently on that hot July day in 1994 a ’55 Chevy, identical to my father’s, sat idly in the parking lot. He drove us there in a van, but quickly decided that his Chevy would be the first car I would ride in. 18 years later it would become the first manual transmission I would ever successfully drive. He still owns that car and it still sits in gray primer.
My mother only drank once while pregnant with me, it was a champagne toast at New Years 3 months into her pregnancy. To this day I hate champagne, I also hate New Years, unrelated to her toast I am sure. It was their last New Years without me. 6 years later was the start of a new year, decade and millennium; the three of us sat vomiting on the couch. Though millions of others have spent their January 1st that way, we spent the last hours of 1999 bedridden with the flu. Thankfully I was too young to realize that the year was changing and the world was ending (my overly sensitive heart hasn’t been known to handle those sorts of situations too well). Instead I was sick, asleep before both midnight and Armageddon. One picture exists from that evening, an underexposed, out of focus photograph of my father, mother and me, all smiles in a swimsuit. It was the last image of our family snapped in the 90’s, and as a photographer and a hopeless romantic, it is an image that I cherish. This picture signals both an ending and a new beginning, a precedent for the new millennium. I started school, met kids and became more worldly. I cried before the first day of kindergarten when my mother told me that little girls had to wear shirts and I cried after the first day of kindergarten when no one taught me how to read. From 1994-1999 I was innocent, living in the little bubble my family had created for me, the world was perfect, magical even, I now know that it is anything but. I am nostalgic for that time, a time of few memories, little personality and limited understanding, three things that, in my mind, preserve a perfect childhood. After 2000, I began to understand, think and question everything.
Born one day late, I am grateful to not be living in the shadow of Mick Jagger, I am also grateful to not be named after Steven Tyler. Those aren’t shoes that I want to fill, even though I spent most of my elementary career writing songs and dreaming of becoming a rock star. I have other, unknown, things laid down at the path before me. Maybe someday, in somebody else’s birthday video they will learn that on July 27th the Atlantic telegraph cable was finished, that they share a birthday with Peggy Fleming, Leo Durocher and Kaitlyn Jo Smith.