March 28, 2003. 6 a.m..

"I love you." (Kiss)

"Mmm."

"Happy birthday, birthday girl." (More kiss)

"Mmm."

"Um, where's your wallet?"

"Huh?"

And that, dear readers, was how my thirty-third birthday began -- with my husband hitting me up for cab fare.

Actually, the festivities began a day early, with my annual call from Mom.

"It was thirty-three years ago today...." she began.

"Ma, my birthday's actually tomorrow."

"I know that, but I'm going to be out of town."

"Oh."

"So. As I was saying. It was thirty-three years ago today. I was sitting in a rocking chair. Your grandmother and grandfather were there, and they were both staring at me. Or, rather, they were staring at my belly. I was late..."

"Wait a minute. How late?"

"Who can remember? Anyhow. I was sitting, and rocking, and they were sitting, and staring, and nothing was happening, so they brought in food, which was spicy, and quite tasty for DeRidder, Louisiana. And that afternoon, I felt a twinge. So I very calmly got my watch, and I sat in my rocking chair, and I timed things. And at about five o'clock that evening, when I was in good, active labor, I headed to the hospital. Which was locked. Because it was after five and everyone had gone home. So I walked around the building, carrying my suitcase, until I found a door that was opening."

"You were carrying your own suitcase?"

"It felt perfectly normal at the time. And at around nine o'clock, there you were. And my life changed forever."

Jen