Chapter 7 December 3, 1953 - I is born

Juliette had no problem falling asleep after the baby’s birth. As happy as she was that all went well, she could not overcome the fatigue and fell asleep before they wheeled her to her room. She only stirred a moment when they put her into the bed.

Dr. Orson met Henry in the waiting room. Henry was pacing, wondering when he would hear anything.

“Congratulations! You have a bouncing baby boy!”

“Thank you, Doctor. I couldn't have done it by myself.”

“That's true. Without your wife you probably wouldn't have had much luck,” the doctor joked.

“How is she?” Henry asked.

“Just fine. She's sleeping right now. Would you like to see the baby?” the doctor offered.

“Sure! Could you tell me how old he was when he was born?” Henry seemed confused.

“It's hard to say,” the doctor played along. “We'd have to take X-rays and study his dental charts first. A lot of trouble.”

“Well, it really doesn't matter.” Henry continued. “Let's see him.”

“All right. But I must warn you, he probably won't recognize you at first. In fact, he may even be frightened. It's something like a kid first seeing Santa Claus. Ho! Ho! Ho!” the doctor jested.

“You don't think he'll reject his father, do you?” Henry asked, concerned.

“No, with luck he'll be asleep. Maybe your wife is awake now. I'll bring the baby to the room.”

Henry was directed to Juliette’s room, and when he saw her, he gently placed a kiss on her forehead.

“Hello, dear. How are you feeling?” he tenderly asked.

Juliette woke up, but was puzzled by her surroundings.

“Just a minute… give me time... I'll get it yet... That's right. Hi, honey. I thought I'd seen you before.”

Henry let it slide. He knew Juliette had had a tough time.

“The good doctor is going to bring the baby in here.”

“Baby?” Juliette was still confused. She paused, “Oh, that's right.”

Just then, the doctor entered. “You may find your wife a little incomprehensible. She was given a pill to help her sleep.”

Henry replied, “I haven't noticed any difference. She just woke up.”

Juliette interrupted, “I had a dream while I was sleeping.”

Henry quipped, “That's usually when they happen.”

“What was it about?” Dr. Orson asked.

“Well, there we were, the baby and I. But he wasn't a baby; he was a man! And he was singing!”

“Singing! He can't even talk yet!” Henry observed, bemusedly.

“Don't be too sure.” Juliette responded, mysteriously.

“What was he singing?” the doctor asked.

“I don't know,” she strained to remember, “but there were a lot of people there. They all seemed happy. And a strange smell in the air.”

“How can you smell in a dream?” Henry asked.

“Well, it looked like it smelled funny.” Juliette replied.

“But he wasn’t happy,” she continued, “and he was asking for me to take a big load off of him.”

“That was some dream!” exclaimed the doctor.

Henry, remembering that he still hadn’t seen his new son, asked “By the way, where’s the baby?”

The doctor, distracted and confused by Juliette’s dream, replied, “Baby? Oh, that’s right. Let’s see now. Where is he?”

Dr. Orson left the room mumbling, and Henry and Juliette stared after him.

Henry returned his attention to Juliette, “I guess the hardest part is over. We'll be going home in two or three days.”

Juliette replied, “It was worth it. What should we name him?”

Henry offered, “I want to name him ‘I.’"

“Where did you come across a name like that?” Juliette asked, puzzled.

“It's in the dictionary. Ninth letter of the alphabet.” Henry declared.

“But why would we choose it as a name?” Juliette prodded.

“I like the sound of it. A nice ring to it, don't you think?” Henry insisted.

“Hmm,” pondered Juliette, “it's also the Roman Numeral I. Fitting, for our first and only child.”

“Only?” Henry queried, surprised.

“You don't expect me to go through that again, do you?” Juliette replied, somewhat indignantly.

“Well, I'm sure it wasn't that bad.” Henry meekly offered.

“You really have no idea,” Juliette responded resignedly. “Well, I certainly hope the doctor finds the baby.”

Henry confused at the sudden change of topic, replied “Baby?” He recovered his senses, and agreed, “Where is the baby? I’m going to check on him.”

Henry left Juliette, and she continued to ponder the morning’s event, and the eerie topics explored in her dream. What did it all mean? Why did she see her new baby as a man, and how did she know it was him? What harm would come to him?

As she thought about these things, the doctor arrived, carrying little I.

“Here you go, Mrs. Mall. All cleaned up and shiny!” as the doctor handed over the baby.

She tenderly cradled him, looking at his tiny face, again wondering where life would take him.

“Oh, Mrs. Mall,” the doctor interrupted her reverie, “There’s a television news crew in the hospital looking for some cute stories to air around Christmastime. I think they’d like to see a newborn baby. Would you like to see them?”

“Oh, I’m so tired. I’m just not sure.”

“They wouldn’t take too much time, just a few camera shots, and a short interview.”

“Well, all right. If it’s quick.”

The doctor left her alone to find the TV crew, and Juliette was getting a bit annoyed that Henry had not returned. When the doctor came back, Judith Abrey, the California correspondent for I.B.C. News, accompanied him.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Mall,” greeted Judith, “I’m Judith Abrey, from I.B.C. News. We’re doing a few stories for some upcoming Christmas shows.”

“Yes, the doctor told me about it. What do you want me to do?”

“We’d like to get some film of your baby, you and your husband and talk a bit about what it’s like to raise a family in the world today.”

“My husband is away at the moment, but feel free to film us now before the baby wakes up. I’m afraid he’ll start to cry and spoil the interview.”

“Oh that all right, ma’am, a crying baby is the least of our problems when we do the news. People understand that babies cry.”

The cameraman started filming, as Judith began asking a few questions. “We’ll have to get started, as I’m on a deadline. Perhaps your husband will be joining us soon?”

“He’s been gone awhile,” Juliette stated, concerned. “He should have already been here. He still hasn’t seen his son.”

Looking at her watch, Judith decided to begin the interview. “Your son is born at yet another turning point in America. Our new President is about to finish his first year in office, the war is not ten years gone, and now we are sending soldiers to fight again in a foreign country. Communists are being found all over our own country. We live in constant fear of The Bomb. How can a baby coming into this world survive?”

“Those are some pretty negative thoughts for a Christmas story,” Juliette mused. “Can’t we talk about something a little lighter?”

“You’re right, of course,” Judith apologized. “I guess it’s the reporter in me trying to get to the facts. Let’s start again: I’m told that your baby’s name is I. That’s quite unusual? Why?”

“It was my husband’s idea, but I quickly came to accept it. I like to think of I as my Number I. Or perhaps it could represent “I” for Important. I had a dream that he was going to be an important figure,” Juliette explained.

“But don’t you think a name like that will cause him to seek out his own importance, trying to live up to it?” Judith asked.

“My son is destined for importance,” Judith insisted. “I can feel it with every part of my body.”

“How do you…”

Judith was interrupted as I awoke and began to cry. Juliette, tried to comfort him, and his crying subsided. He began to babble when, clearly audible, the words “Rock and Roll” came from his mouth. Both Juliette and Judith gasped.

“Kevin,” exclaimed Juliette to the cameraman, “please tell me you got that on film!”

Kevin nodded and continued filming, but I fell silent, then fell asleep again.

The excitement in the room began to grow, and the doctor suggested “Let me take your son back to the nursery. All this noise will not be good for him.”

The doctor picked up I and exited the room. Judith turned again to Juliette.

“Those were words. I could have sworn that’s what I heard! But this baby is not even a day old. How is that possible?”

“I told you he is destined for importance,” Juliette replied. “He is my special boy.”

Judith asked a few more questions, but had a hard time concentrating. “I’ve really got to get this back to the studio. This I something that could even go on the National News!”

As the news crew began gathering up their equipment, Dr. Orson returned. “I’ve just left your son back in the nursery. He was laughing and cooing. I suppose he might even be telling jokes to some of the other little ones.” He chuckled.

“Is your husband still gone?” he continued.

“He mumbled something and took off just before the TV crew arrived. Probably went to the coffee shop downstairs. I’m a bit concerned, though.”

“I'm really delighted that I was here to witness it. You must be very proud of your new son,” the doctor declared.

“Indeed I am. His father will be sorry he missed it. When can I see the baby again?”

“I'll bring him back, if you'd like,” he said as he left.

A few moments later, Henry returned.

“Where have you been?” asked Juliette, edgily. “You missed the big moment.”

“You know I couldn’t be there,” Henry replied defensively. “I had to stay in the waiting room.”

“Not that big moment! I.B.C. was here!” Juliette exclaimed.

“I.B.C.? Something wrong?” Henry asked, concerned.

“Better you see it yourself. It’s almost six o’ clock. Turn on the news.” Juliette suggested.

Henry looked around the room. “Where’s the boy? I still haven’t seen him yet.”

“The doctor is bring him back from the nursery. Oh, here he is now!”

Dr. Orson entered, holding I, and Henry called out “Hi there, Tiger!”

“Please, Mr. Mall, only my wife calls me that,” the doctor jested.

Juliette interrupted the joking. “We’ve just turned on the news.”

“Mind if I stay and watch?” the doctor inquired.

“Please do,” although Henry was confused a bit by the doctor’s curiosity. “What’s going to be on?”

“Just watch and see,” said Juliette, excitedly.

The familiar I.B.C. logo appeared on the screen, and Hardy Rochester appeared in shadow. The announcer began: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, this is the six o'clock edition of the I.B.C. news with Hardy Rochester, brought to you each evening by Fender Guitars. ‘With a Fender you'll never bend your ears.’"

Henry always pined a little when he heard that introduction. He still hadn’t gotten over his yearning for the Fender bass guitar. In his reverie, he didn’t notice that Hardy had announced a special event that was taking place in California. The film being shown was of the very hospital they were in.

“Henry! Pay attention,” Juliette prodded, as she noticed Henry’s inattention.

Henry returned his attention to the screen as the story revealed local reporter Judith Abrey along with Juliette and I.

“We’re here today with Juliette Mall and her newborn son I. We’ve just witnessed something that is simply miraculous, I know that I’d never seen anything like it before. This little wonder boy has already spoken his first words.”

The broadcast cut over to a close-up of I as he uttered “Rock and Roll” and the stunned silence was quickly replaced by gasped and excited murmurings.

“You’ve clearly heard the baby’s own first words, and at only hours old,” as Judith returned. “This is Judith Abrey, reporting from California.”

“Thank you, Judith,” as the broadcast returned to Hardy Rochester, also barely able to contain his own excitement. “That’s December third. Goodnight.”

They turned off the TV and Henry stood there, stunned, for a few moments, trying to understand what he’d just seen.

“No! I won't believe it! A three-hour old baby just doesn't talk,” he exclaimed.

“Well, this one does. Both the doctor and myself distinctly heard something.” She looked at the baby tenderly. “He surely must be something special. If you hadn't been out of the room you would have heard it, too,” Juliette chided.

“I couldn't help that I had to go to the men's room. ‘When nature calls, don't ignore it.’ I always say,” Henry defended himself.

“You always say a lot of things. Why don't you try thinking once in a while?” Juliette joked.

Henry ignored her comment and turned to the doctor. “Maybe the kid is special, but that doesn't mean he can talk. What's your opinion, doctor?”

Dr. Orson reflected, “If I hadn’t witnessed it myself, I’d say it sounds like what I've read in my studies. Just baby talk.”

Juliette jumped in, “This was not baby talk! I think he was trying to tell us something. A mother's intuition tells me he's already chosen his direction in life.”

Henry glared at her. “Hold it! Hold it! You mean to tell me you got all that out of three words?”

“Not just three words, the manner in which they were spoken suggested...” Juliette began.

“We haven't even agreed that he can talk and he's already given a speech. Next you'll be telling me he's running for president!” Henry blurted out.

“Don't be silly, I wouldn't go that far. I'm just saying that he seemed to know what he was talking about.” Juliette tried to bring some reason to the conversation.

Henry was puzzled. “But ‘Rock and Roll’ doesn't have much meaning as I see it.”

“That's just it,” continued Juliette. “It's definitely a new concept. If you could imagine all the notions churning around in this child's head,” she paused a moment, turning a tender gaze back to I, “it must have meaning to him.”

Henry turned to the doctor. “I think she's going delirious. Maybe a sedative?” he prescribed.

“No, I don't think so. I've read of cases like this in medical journals. A woman, having been one with the child for some nine months, can sense the thoughts of the infant, and when he is born, she acts as spokesman. Naturally, the three words spoken, whether or not by accident, must have some deep psychological meaning,” the doctor lectured.

Henry observed, “That's all fine and good, but what does he mean by ‘Rock and Roll’?”

The doctor replied, “I have a feeling it's got something to do with gem tumbling. I've read in lapidary magazines...”

Juliette was frustrated with the direction the conversation was taking. “You've both got rocks in your heads. That's a new term for the kind of music they've started to play lately. You know, the songs with the bouncy beat.”

Juliette had noticed that music was changing as she listened to her radio while waiting for this big day. As she reflected internally, she felt that that change just might be centered on little I, though she wasn’t sure how.