Mim loved being pregnant, despite the queasiness in the early months and her waddling walk in the last weeks. Ephraim was over the moon.
Mim gave birth to Paul Daniel Jacobowitz at 4:38 in the morning on May 8, 1916, after 17 hours of labor. I was so frightened for her, because she was such a slip of a thing, and this was her first child. Mim had planned to have a midwife. I persuaded her to try the new “twilight sleep” that they offered at the hospital. Morphine to ease the pain, and another drug to help her forget the whole experience. Yes, that was bossy of me, but I didn’t want her to suffer, and “twilight sleep” was all the rage then. After a week of hospital care, and six weeks of a nurse (my baby gift to them) at home, Mim was almost back to normal.
Dear Mim, she missed the fun our friends and I had celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Berkeley. I mean Berkeley the city, not the university. May 24th. I rode in the Shattuck Hotel automobile in the parade, because Uncle Edward had business connections with the hotel owner, William Woolsey. Everyone applauded the University’s float, with the model of the new campanile on it. I knew even then that the clock tower would become a landmark for Berkeley, and it has.
Paul was a good baby, as babies go. He slept through the night early on and he rarely fussed, which was no surprise, the way Mim and Ephraim doted on him. Ephraim still worked at Shaker Press then, and they lived in a tiny apartment about half a mile from my delightful little house off Allston Way. I lived on my own then, although Alexei was what you might call a frequent guest.
The months flew by. Ephraim worked longer hours that summer and fall, to put money aside to buy a place of their own. They hadn’t planned to have a child so soon. Well, sometimes these things happen. I took Mim and Baby Paul to relax and play with Aunt Helen, and to picnics in the park, and several times on the ferry to San Francisco.
As we got closer to Halloween, Mim’s mood took a down turn. I knew why. “It’s been 13 years since Danny died,” I told her. “He was the world’s best brother, Mim, but it’s time to stop blaming yourself for his death.”
She worried a strand of bobbed hair. “I know, Florrie. It wasn’t really my fault that he stepped on that roofing nail and my father didn’t get a doctor in time. But I still dream about him. My steadfast tin soldier off on adventures. If Danny were alive, he would have loved to play with the baby, don’t you think?
I handed her my handkerchief and took Paul for a stroll in his pram. She needed time alone to grieve, even then, at 20, for the loss she suffered when Danny was ten and she was only seven.
I couldn’t have been gone more than a few minutes. Maybe a half an hour. The apartment was quiet when we got back. Too quiet. I left Paul sleeping in his pram and hurried into the living room and then the kitchen. No Mim. I opened the bedroom door, and there she was, sitting cross-legged on the bed. Rocking back and forth, and clutching some sort of raggedy furry thing to her chest. Smiling from ear to ear, with tears streaming down her cheeks.
I rushed to her and held her close. “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all. Look!” She relaxed her grip, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Your old teddy bear!”
She nodded and sniffed, cradling that bundle of matted fur in her arms. “And Danny’s, too. Baloo was his first. I hid Baloo from my mother once as a sort of bargaining chip, but I gave it back to her right before I left for California. The postman brought this while you were away. Read the note.”
Lillian had used her best stationery. She asked after Mim’s health and said something polite about EphraimI don’t remember exactly what. She and Julius hadn’t yet visited since the baby was born. There was always some excuse. But finally Lillian was doing the right thing by her daughter. She ended the letter this way:
You dear brother Daniel would have wanted your baby, Paul Daniel, to have this beloved bear that I have cherished for so long.”
What can I tell you? We were both in tears. The baby woke up in his pram, and started to cry, so that made three of us. Mim changed Paul’s diaper and put him to her breast. I hugged Baloo and whispered, “Welcome home.”
Later, when Paul was napping again, and Mim and I were peeling potatoes (which is something I rarely did, but I wanted to make myself useful), I cleared my throat and wiped my hands. “You hid your brother’s teddy bear from your mother. Whatever for? Mim? Don’t you think it’s time I knew the whole story?”