My very first memory is of being in my crib in the dark, crying because I was wet and cold. I was standing up, holding on to the railing, wondering where my mother was. Whenever I cried, she always came to see what was wrong, and then would take care of me and provide whatever was needed. This time nothing happened. Nobody came.
After a while, I stopped crying. I remember the wrought iron railing--how cold it felt to my hands--and the little decorative bulges where the bars met the top rail. I stood there realizing that this was something new and not at all right. I had to do something. I remember feeling that I must get out and find my mother, and put all my energy into trying to get out of my crib to go find my mother.
I could see light from the hall through the partially open door. I had never gotten out of my crib before, but was determined to do it now. I remember struggling over and over to get over the side, and just falling back into the crib, but I kept trying. In the end I made it, and found myself triumphantly on the cold wooden floor.
I tottered toward the light from the hall, and just as I pushed the door open and went through, I saw my father coming toward me. He looked so surprised to see me there, out of my bed and in the hall.
He gathered me up in his arms, carried me back into my bedroom, and took care of everything just as my mother would have done. He changed my diapers and the crib sheets, and soon I was back in a dry, warm bed and fell asleep.
To have my father fulfill my mother’s role made a great change in how I viewed my small world. Since my mother had always been the one to come when I cried, she seemed like an extension of myself. Now, for the first time, I was aware that she was separate from me, and that I was separate from her. I knew I could decide to do something on my own, and then do it.
Much later, when I was older, I found out that on that night, my mother was very sick with the flu, and my father had to get up and take her place. When he did that, I became aware of him in a new way. Now he was more than a pleasant, smiling entity in the background. He was someone who could take care of me as my mother did, and who wanted me to be comfortable and safe.
It was the beginning of a close bond with my father that lasted until he died a few months before his 100th birthday. The night that this all took place, and that the bond began, was shortly before my first birthday, in January 1920.