Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, August 15, 2016


A number of years ago -- it seems almost like yesterday, but it was back in the time when airplane hijackings were becoming all too common -- Kitty was offered a job as a federal air marshal.  Kitty decline the job because on the same day she discovered she was pregnant.  We were overjoyed and scared stiff.  We had only been married for two years and we wondered if we were actually ready for a child.  I mean, my God, children are for grown-ups, right?

This was back in the days when natural childbirth was not the norm.  We were one of the first couples to have natural childbirth in our area.  Kitty's doctor was all for it, but the maternity ward nurses did their best to dissuade us.  (Kitty threatened to kill me if I listened to the nurses and camp out in the waiting room.)  I stayed; Kitty did all sorts of breathing and before we know it Jessamyn Celia House introduced herself to the world.  She was the most beautiful baby in the world (argue with me if you want -- it won't do any good) and she grew into a beautiful girl and into a beautiful woman.  During her first 24 hours she developed jaundice and was placed under a new-fangled invention called bilirubin lights, which the hospital had recently acquired.  That's when we discovered she also was the type of child who had to be heard.  She didn't like the lights and she bucked and arched and wailed at the very top of her dulcet tones.  A couple of days later we took her home, one of the best things that ever happened to us.

She had beautiful long, blonde curls.  Until she was about three. when a playmate found a pair of scissors and cut off half her hair (the right half, if I remember correctly).  The girl's mother apologized profusely before he let us see Jessie -- "Now, don't be mad.  Please, don't be mad!  They"...meaning her daughter..."didn't mean to do this!  Please don't be mad!"  And that was the worst thing that happened to Jessie for a couple of more years.

When she was five, there was a cyst on her head that seemed to be changing.  Kitty could get no support from the pediatricians, so she phonied a reference and brought Jessie to a surgeon.  The surgeon was all "now, now, let's not jump to conclusions" but he called in a diagnostician from Boston.  It was a very rare form of cancer that had not metastacized, normally discovered when a child reached puberty and then almost only fatal.  The spot that they biopsied did not heal and for five weeks, the doctors tried to cauterize it until they decided not wait any longer and excised it.  The night before the operation, the nurses at the pediatrics unit told us they expected to see a very sickly child, especially since they could not find the type of cancer she had in any of their medical books.  They did not expect a very active five-year-old who was soon doing wheelies in her wheelchair -- something her grandfather taught her.  After the surgery, the surgeon was very proud of himself.  ("I had to really hit the books last night for this one, you know!)  The cancer (actually a pre-cancer) was completely excised.

We had thought that would be our only major medical emergency for a while, but we didn't count on Jessie.  One evening, while cooking dinner, Kitty told her, "Don't touch!  Hot!"  Of she touched.  she turn a whole pot of hot turkey grease on her.  Kitty has always been good in emergencies.  She stripped Jessie down and, using the hose at the kitchen sink, sprayed her down while I filled the tub with cold water.  We wrapped a towel around Jessie and rushed her to the emergency room.  Jessie was shivering.  Of course she was was the water in the tub was cold. it was a cold night, and the poor kid had only a towel around her.  We were told the damage could have been extensive except for the actions Kitty took.  Jessie was told (by the nurses), "The next time Mommy says don't touch, don't touch!"  She ended up with a tiny scar on her leg that only she or Kitty would be able to find.

Our pediatrician began to say the Jessie's middle name was "Takeitout," because every mole had to be excised -- just in case.   When she was twelve, it appeared that the cancer had returned, but after another operation the surgeon was relieved when he told us it was merely scar tissue pushing through.  On her last day of junior high school we got a panicked call from her school, saying she had been stabbed.  It turned out a boy was fooling around with a compass (you know, those pointy things used to make circles), swinging it around near some girls, and stabbed Jessie on the skin fold between her thumb and index finger.  Didn't even need stitches.  Then when she was fifteen and trying out for some sport, she pulled a muscle (she thought).  To be on the safe side, they x-rayed and found a spot where the leg joined the hip.  This one had the doctors arguing.  One said he didn't think it was osteosarcoma; his partner said of course it is.  So they sent us to Boston Children's, which had the best pediatric cancer experts in the area.  The first sentence from the doctor's mouth after they saw Jessie was, "It's not osteosarcoma."  It was just a cyst that had pearlized.

If anyone wanted to know where my gray hair came from, I would just point to Jessie.

All these things aside, Jessie was a joy and delight and a source of pride.  Once, while working at a local theater, a patron had an epileptic attack.  Jessie calmly (and on her own) placed stanchions around the woman and her caretaker and kept crowds away from the woman until the attack was under control.  How many 16-year-olds would be able to have that clarity of mind?

Fast forward a number of years.  Jessie is mother of two wonderful young girls when her husband Michael has a fatal heart attack in the living room.  Despite her devastation, Jessie was able to hold her family together, easing the girls' heartbreak and doing whatever had to be done.  She and the girls stayed with us for several years and, when she felt she was ready, moved the three of them to Massachusetts to be on their own.  Now that Amy, her youngest, has graduated high school, everybody has moved down to Florida.  Both girls started college today.  Also today, an offer was made on a house (which everyone hopes will be accepted -- it's a really cute house!).

So my beautiful, wonderful girl is starting a new year and a new beginning.  Look out, Florida!  Jessamyn is here and she's loaded for success! 

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