My mother, Lorraine Harriet Chase, née Fishman, sat happily in her hospital bed anxiously waiting for a nurse to bring me, her third child, into her room to meet her. She had recently awoken from the chemically induced coma obstetricians thought was the best way for most women to give birth in the 1950s and 60s.
She looked impeccable in her brand new size two pink peignoir from Bonwit Teller, a gift from my father, Norman Myron Chase, nee Chase. Then, as now, she had applied a full face of makeup and each curl on her head was perfectly placed. Of course she was also wearing earrings and her signature orange lipstick.
A nurse retrieved my father from the hazy open bar/waiting room/lounge. He was balancing a cigar between his lips and holding a scotch on the rocks with a twist in his hand as he followed her to see his wife and meet his newborn daughter.
By the time my father walked into the room, I had been placed in my mother’s arms. Thankfully she was wearing water-proof mascara because she took one look at me and burst into tears. She motioned for my father to come closer so she could whisper in his ear, “They gave us the wrong baby!”
My older sister and brother had been born with blond hair and fair skin.
I looked like a monkey.
My mother and father looked at each other, back at me, and then each other. My father, an attorney, assured my mother that he would investigate my pedigree even if he had to pay a visit to the chief of staff. He vowed to find out beyond a reasonable doubt if I belonged to them, another family, or if a newborn chimp was missing from the Ape House at Lincoln Park Zoo.
After much sleuthing, it was determined that I did indeed belong to my parents. My father brought my siblings to visit me at the hospital. They took one look at me and called me “Wild Boomba.”
I was born on January 7, 1961, although my mother wrote January 9, 1961, on the notepad that served as my first baby book. After learning of a friend who said his parents used the back of his brother’s baby book to chronicle his childhood I felt a little better.
Back in the day, women stayed in the maternity ward for 10 days after giving birth even though they had no recollection of delivering their children.
According to my mother, the nurses would bring babies to their mothers for feedings throughout the day, and the dads would come from work to dine on steak dinners and champagne with their wives. Add yoga and massages and you’ve got Canyon Ranch Spa.
By the time they left the hospital, some babies were already cutting teeth, crawling, eating solid foods, and a few even had their learner’s permits and were able to drive their parents home.
My parents were skeptical of my species until the day I pulled myself up to a standing position without attempting to climb up the furniture or scale the walls.
At least they kept me instead of dropping me off in a basket in front of the zoo. Besides, I don’t really like bananas.