New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1893, was spectacular. The Waldorf hosted a magnificent New Year’s ball for its guests.
Mr. Astor traveled from his home in England for the gala. “Mrs. Myer, it is an honor to meet you. Your father and I had several business interests before I gave up my law practice and moved to England. A frank and honorable man, I developed a warm appreciation of him and valued his counsel. I was sad to learn of his untimely death.”
“Thank you, Mr. Astor. Father often spoke of you and the trust he placed in you. That trust is one of the reasons that Walter and I chose the Waldorf.” I stepped forward and kissed Mr. Astor on the cheek in the European manner. “Why Mr. Astor, I believe I’ve embarrassed you. If so, please accept my humblest apologies.”
“No Madame, if anything, I’m flattered that you would bestow one of your kisses upon a man of my advanced age.” He was forty-five and an attractive man. “Now you must introduce me to Mr. Myer before he demands satisfaction.”
Standing next to me, Walter is enjoying every word of our conversation. Excusing myself, I return to our suite. Dressing for the gala, and visiting with old and new acquaintances has taken its toll. I was becoming what the good doctor wanted me to avoid, exhausted.
Walter, always the dear, came to our suite once he could politely thank and say goodnight to our host. Mr. Astor, the father of five children of his own, understood my condition and Walter’s concern.
Waiting for the magic hour to arrive, we reflected on the year coming to an end. “My marriage to you, Lura darling, was the happiest moment of my life. Nothing will ever equal the joy I felt when Pastor Carter pronounced us man and wife.”
I kiss Walter and tease him. “And will not the birth of our son in a few weeks be the happiest moment in your life?”
“It will be. But it will be a happiness of a different nature.”
We mourned the loss of my father and mother as I said, “Only you and I remain of our families. We’re as alone as orphans.”
Walter can always bring joy to cheer my spirit. “We were blessed to be loved by George and Elizabeth. And now we’ll be blessed again when our son is born in the new and wonderful year of 1894.”
Before I can answer, the bells of the city begin to ring in the New Year. It is 1894. It’s a blessing that we don’t know what awaits us in the coming days.
We awake to a fresh storm that covers the city in a blanket of icy snow.
“Nurse, you can take the day off, with your pay. Go home and enjoy your family. I can take care of Mrs. Myer for one day.”
“But Mr. Myer, I’m responsible for the mistress and the care of your unborn child. Doctor will be angry with me if I leave her without proper care.”
Walter gathers up the nurse’s belongings. He wraps her cloak around her shoulders, walks her to the door, and pushes her out with a smile. “Be off with you. If doctor becomes angry, he can be angry with me. Now go home.”
It is a wonderful day, an idyllic day. We talk of our future and of our child. Walter is positive we will have a boy. He continues to insist, “The boy will be just like your father, only with my handsome looks. That is why he shall be George Walter Myer.”
I’m overjoyed, and filled with love. “If that’s what you want my master. It seems as I have no choice but to bow to your will.” After a pause, I become more serious. “Tomorrow we must visit the doctor and the hospital. I don’t know why he insists that I deliver the child there. You and I, and our parents before us, were all born at home.”
“Lura, we’ve talked about this many times. The doctor insists that the birth will be much safer at the hospital under his care and with trained nurses in attendance.”
“I know. But the papers talk of the many people who go to hospitals only to contract some malady or another from other patients. Hospitals are where people die. I don’t want to die in a hospital.”
“You won’t. I promise.”
Walter makes another promise before sleep overtakes us. “I promise you that 1894 will be the happiest year of your life.”
Like the night mother died, I wake with an alarming sense of dread. The time is 4:00 a.m. As before, Walter sleeps soundly at my side.
Death is in the cold still air.