An old 1980’s popular song was playing on the stereo. Tammie leaned forward to share a thought with her sister Niki. They both began to laugh. I leaned out of the kitchen to look at my daughters, suspiciously questioning, “What are you two getting up to?”
Still snickering, Tammie teased, “It’s nothing Mom. You didn’t know about it when we were in grade school. Knowing about it now won’t do you any good.”
Strolling into the room with a cup of tea, I harrumphed, “Some of your secrets weren’t as secret as you thought. Would you girls like to join me in a cup of tea?”
Just as we were settling down to tea and apple crumble, the home-recorded tape in the stereo started to play the next song. Niki exclaimed, “Whenever I hear this song, it instantly takes me back to one evening during my freshman year in high school! I remember sitting at the dining room table during Christmas break, listening to this song and trying to write the lyrics. I can almost taste the Christmas candy I was eating and smell the roast you had in the oven!”
“I know what you mean.” Tammie exclaimed. “When I hear certain songs, they take me directly to cheer-leading practice with Sarah braiding my hair, or a hot summer afternoon with Dee Ann and me hanging out, eating freezer pops while Mom was at work.”
Licking the last of the wonderful apple crisp from my fork, I nodded in agreement. I didn’t share the song that immediately came to my mind. Ironically, hearing Donna Fargo’s popular 1972 hit, “I’m the Happiest Girl in the Whole USA” always takes me back to a very sad time in life.
Arnie and I married in the spring of 1970. Shortly after our honeymoon, we found out a baby was on the way. When our little Christy was born the following February, we discovered she had a serious birth defect. Both of her arms were missing bones, her hips were dysplastic, her digestion didn’t function correctly and worst of all, she had a low platelet count so her blood didn’t clot normally. She lived only two months.
The doctors told Arnie and me the chance that the birth defect would happen again was significant if we were to have more children; the same chance a person would have playing Russian roulette with a four-chambered gun and one bullet.
By the second spring of our marriage, Arnie and I were weighing what our next steps should be. Adoption was one option, but the process was long, requiring many inspections and visits by social workers. We were told the wait for a normal healthy baby could be a long time, maybe even years after approval.
Through Arnie’s sandlot baseball team, we met a couple a few years older than Arnie and I, who had fertility problems. They had completed the adoption work-up and were given a little boy that summer. The team threw a huge baby shower for the new mother.
I remember the party was held on a warm, sunny summer afternoon. Smiling, but feeling hallow, I ate cake, but didn’t taste it, acted happy, but felt miserable; I tried hard to act normal in a situation that was anything but normal for a bereaved mother. Although I was happy for the adoptive parents, inside my heart there was a pain that burned like an unquenchable fire.
Everywhere I went that entire summer, the song, “I’m the Happiest Girl in the Whole USA” played on the radio. The song was written about a newly wed who was deliriously happy with her husband. But whenever I heard it, I thought, “If Christy had lived… If I had had a healthy baby. If… If… I’d be the happiest girl in the whole USA.”
Hearing the ‘Happiest Girl’ song doesn’t bring back sharp pangs of grief any more. What it does, is it reminds me that I not only survived the experience of losing my baby, but also that I did feel happy again eventually.
Realizing that hurtful life experiences don’t prevent future happiness has been a valuable life lesson. The knowledge makes me feel like the happiest girl in the whole USA!