It was New Year’s Eve and I was cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway in my Dodge Colt. On a whim, I’d decided that morning to ring in 1987 back home in the Bay Area instead of San Diego, where I had been stationed in the Coast Guard and still lived. My SoCal girlfriends would be whooping it up at the Country Bumpkin, our dive bar of choice, two-stepping and shooting tequila and kissing every cowboy within reach at midnight. A year ago I was matching them shot for shot and kiss for kiss, but not this year.
I was pregnant.
This wasn’t part of my plan. I was 22, carefree and looking forward to a long military career as a Radioman. Children weren’t anywhere on my radar. I’d just started dating a Navy Gunnersmate after ending a relationship with a fly-boy. It seems I had a thing for sailors even back then.
John was a tall drink of water with jet black hair, olive skin and six-pack abs. He oozed masculinity and men and women alike openly gawked when he entered a room. I was a size 2, sunbleached-blonde surfer girl, known for throwing epic themed parties and spontaneous beach bonfires.
We were introduced by his roommate (who I randomly met in a dental clinic) after realizing that John and I had gone to high school in the same small town of Alameda. He was a star on the St. Joseph’s men’s swim team while I was the yearbook editor at the public school. We had a handful of common friends and it was nice to feel a connection to home in another city.
From the very beginning we were like oil and water. When you combine the two and shake vigorously, it’s a beautiful, wild dance. But left alone, water sinks and oil floats separately on top. There is no permanent way to hold them together. It wasn’t supposed to be long-term. We made a striking couple, were always the life of every party, and the sex was decent. But that’s where it ended.
I wasn’t just a party-girl; I was interested in politics and history and enjoyed a good debate. I loved trying new cuisine and seeking out cultural events throughout the region. He had a passion for sports and anything war-related and loved Jack-in-the-Box and Captain Crunch, his truck and watching TV at home.
Who knew that antibiotics made birth control pills ineffective? I surely didn’t. After a wild weekend in Tijuana, I contracted an awful case of food poisoning and was put on meds. A week later, I was back in rare form in time for a summer beach party. It wasn’t exactly “From Here to Eternity,” but I’m pretty sure that my daughter was conceived behind a sand dune. (Which is an interesting thing to ponder, considering that she adores water but hates sand.)
After missing my second period, I knew something was wrong. Even after three positive home tests, I didn’t believe it until a doctor confirmed my pregnancy. John was thrilled. He had been adopted and this child would be his first known blood relative. He wanted to be married immediately and was positive that it was a boy.
I was not thrilled. I didn’t want to be married and had no maternal instincts. My mother and I had never been close and she had become an alcoholic and prescription pain pill addict after my father’s death four years prior. She and her new husband strongly recommended that I get an abortion and even offered to pay for the procedure.
I wasn’t sure I was ready to be a mother, but I knew that the baby inside me deserved a chance. John and I became engaged and moved in together. I was honorably discharged from the Coast Guard and began work as an executive assistant to a real estate mogul. I stopped partying and surfing, ate healthy and read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and Dr. Spock’s “Baby and Child Care” cover to cover several times over. My good-time friends became distant and John and I fought. A lot. The only thing keeping us from killing each other was the baby and his frequent duty and deployments on the ship.
John wasn’t a partier and had volunteered to stand watch on New Year’s Eve so the young guys could celebrate. In exchange, he’d get Super Bowl Sunday off, his favorite day of the year. As usual, he didn’t check with me or care that I’d be alone for the holiday. So I threw some clothes in a bag and hit the road bright and early.
Being four months pregnant, the morning sickness had passed and I rested my left hand on my tiny belly bump. Huey Lewis came on the radio and I turned it up to sing along to his latest hit, “It’s Hip to be Square.”
I was thinking how much my life had changed already and that the future was uncertain. I wouldn’t be partying anymore as I prepared for motherhood and I didn’t know if John and I would last or what the new year had in store for me.
And then she kicked.
For the first time I felt the little life tucked into my body move. At that moment I knew that not only would everything work out, but that 1987 would be my best year ever.
Meghan Elizabeth was born on June 14, 1987. We expected a boy … instead we welcomed an 8 lb, 6 oz, 21.5 inch long girl with dark eyes and a ton of jet black hair. She made me a Mother and 25 years later a Nana.
Written December 2019 for To Live & Write in Alameda’s monthly “Alameda Shorts” challenge with the theme of “Square.”
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