1) A CHILD IS BORN
The frigid wind whipped through the streets and alleys of New York City on this chilly and nasty night. The screams of the wind matched the screams of pain coming from one of the Brownstone Townhouses on the block. A child is born. And the love between two people was made alive.
Raphael Franklin Hernandez began his existence on this cold January night in 2000, by being born to Raul and Sylvia Hernandez. Raphael entered the world like most babies do; crying all the way. However, even during those early times of his life, when his awareness of the ills of the world didn’t exist; where his world only comprised being well fed and comfortable, did a small smile glow on Raphael’s face. This made all around him smile in unison.
This loving couple always wanted a little boy. They tried for years to conceive, only to be left continually heartbroken. Everything they attempted ended in disappointment. The doctors gave no medical reason where to place the blame, but even artificial insemination proved unsuccessful. The couple finally relegated themselves to apply to an adoption agency. The process took a long and arduous path, but on a positive note, they qualified to be excellent candidates for parenthood.
Raul worked as a junior partner in a law firm in the East Village district of the city. Sylvia acted as a director for a branch of The Rescue Mission. Between the two , they made enough money to rent a beautiful flat on the lower east side. Their home didn’t rival the Ritz Hotel, but yet provided for a comfortable abode.
The house itself represented a traditional Brownstone design, in a row of other Brownstones. The ground floor offered a mud room with a washer/dryer and sink. By taking a few steps up to the next level, you would arrive in the kitchen, complete with modern appliances. Next, was the living room and a small bathroom. Finally a small bedroom/office, which Raul also used as a workshop.
At the end of the corridor, the master bathroom and another smaller bedroom for Raphael filled the space. Directly outside of the front door of their mud room, an alleyway traveling between E. 2nd Street and E. 3rd Street, giving them access to the city.
The neighborhood composition held an eclectic mixture of professionals, artists, poets and free thinkers. Most everyone worked a job, but a small component of ‘neer-do-wells’ existed. Obviously with a crowd like this came a fair amount of drug use within the community.
About a block from the house, a small bistro named ‘The Bowery Electric’, proudly offered their wares to the local residents. The two liked to visit periodically and enjoy a few drinks or catch a band performance. In the same neighborhood, a collection of deli’s, pizza shops, and small art studios filled the real estate. Considering all aspects, this triumphed as a good place to live where most people kept to themselves.
Every morning, they both would leave the Brownstone at between 7:30 to 8:30, headed for their respective work locations. Raul always took the bus. But Sylvia needed to take a subway because her office location stood up north in the Theater district, and they owned no car.
The day-to-day routine continued with a 5-day work week for both . They had weekends off for parties and social events. Out of the blue, Sylvia found she tested positive for pregnancy. Being a true soldier in her field, Sylvia worked to the day her water broke. The entire staff of co-workers pitched in and got her to the hospital in record time.
The birth proved difficult because Raphael came out as a breech baby; a condition where the feet emerge first instead of the head. Like a flaw that seeks perfection, and a will that would survive, Raphael came into this world at 10:44 pm; the exact time a Lunar Eclipse became total. The doctor told Raul and Sylvia their baby appeared healthy, except for him been being somewhat disabled; namely a cleft palate.
“His disability is not a major issue,” the Doctor assured them. “Actually, a cleft palate is really quite common. The condition happens when the left and right halves of the mouth don’t seal properly. This allows airflow up through the nasal passages. The problem can be corrected with surgery. However, we don’t recommend having anything done until the child reaches the age of 6 .”
“He’s going to be OK though isn’t he?” Sylvia worried.
“Oh for heaven sake, yes,” replied the Doctor. “When he learns to speak, you will recognize his words encompassing a nasal tone to them. You shouldn’t worry about this and like I said, we can do corrective surgery later.”
The joy of the parents approached overwhelming and both parents mapped out what would be best for their son. Both worked as professionals with solid responsibilities. They worried about who would care for their son when they spent time away from the home.
Truth be told, they enjoyed their work and the parties they went to. Even though they exuded happiness about being parents, they were sure they couldn’t afford to hire a nanny. One of the options being considered would be where Sylvia would quit her job, at least for a few years, to raise little Raphael.
Sylvia was dead-set against leaving her employer.
“Why should I give up my job?” Sylvia lamented. “It’s a job I’ve worked so hard to attain for all these years; it’s a job you supported because the job supported you while you attended law school.”
“Sylvia,” Raul said, “you understand I’m working hard myself. I hope to make full partner in the next two years. To accomplish the task, I need to put my nose to the grindstone and bust my ass for fifteen hours a day. The answer is simple; we need to sacrifice now to make things good later.”
This altercation became the first of conversations these two vocalized over the coming months. Both Raul and Sylvia assumed adamant positions about their work status and little room for compromise entered the mix. Due to this rift, events would likely unfold differently from either of their plans.
Raphael became the love of their lives. Sylvia took maternity leave and acted as the primary care for their new son. As soon as Raul came through the door after work, he would rush into the bedroom to pick up and snuggle his new son.
In the early years, life surrounded Raphael like a warm blanket. If he cried, either mom or dad would hold him. If he got hungry, either mom or dad would feed him. If he put on a tantrum, either mom or dad would snuggle him until he stopped acting out.
Much of this over-attention by both parents would prove instrumental in Raphael’s development. One of the issues looming in his life became the fact of Raphael being been born with a cleft palate. His medical problem didn’t disfigure his face, but the disability affected the sounds he made; either happy or sad sounds. He exhibited a muted, nasal sound in his voice.
Visually, Raphael possessed an elongated nose. His proboscis didn’t appear as a fat, flabby, Jimmy Durante type of nose, but more slender and narrow; like the beak of a bird. Even with all these physical detriments, this little bundle of joy enjoyed immense loving by his parents.
For the 1st year, the routine continually repeated itself. Raul worked and Sylvia stayed at home attending to her child. After about a year, she got bored with this arrangement and wanted to go back to work.
“A boy needs his mom,” Raul remarked, “especially when he’s growing up.”
“I agree with you, Raul,” Sylvia shot back. “But I need to do something other than park my ass in front of the TV and babysit. I gave up my job to give you a son. Now the time has come for you to give up your attitude about parenting and let me go back to work.
The last word of the conversation from Raul ... ‘NO’.