Mahalia @ 1/4 Century

Happy 25th Birthday, Mahalia. Here’s a piece I wrote in Malcolm’s Monthly (1988-1998) when you were not yet 24 hours old:

The Overdue Video
On the very morning that Laura and I were to carry our daughter across the thresh hold of our home, I found myself waiting in a customer service line at Shaw’s Supermarket to return two overdue videos.  [Anyone out there remember overdue videos?!?] Facing the inevitable late charge, I gambled with a throwaway line: “How about a special exception for a new father?  My wife just had a baby.”

With that, two women in line broke from their conversation.  “Really?!?”  “That’s great!”  One of them turned to the woman behind the counter and suggested that I be given a break.  Ah, my casual ploy was about to work?

After I gave the basic stats — gender, weight, doctor, hospital, etc. — one of the women asked my daughter’s name. “Mahalia,” I answered.  Then, just as a started to tell the story of how we had gotten stuck on the names of some of the great female vocalists and how we thought the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson would be an inspirational namesake, the woman cut me off and demanded, “What kind of a name is that?”

I was caught off guard.  Everyone up to that point had at least feigned a pleasant smile.  As I searched for an answer, she continued on: “Whatever happened to nice simple names like Ruth?”

Six eyes were now studying me: two line mates behind me and those of the rather direct woman standing behind the counter.  I stammered and reflected on the name Ruth but thought better of offering any response for fear that this was the formal moniker of one of the members of this trio.  In the midst of my bumbling I heard, “Charge him full price!”  (She was joking, or so I thought.)  The next thing I heard was “six dollars and eighty cents, sir.”

They say that the great thing about marriage is not that adults produce children but that children produce adults. The former is definitely a pretty good thing all by itself. I can see how the latter could be true but I bet I haven’t paid my last late charge.

So, Happy Birthday, Mahalia. Come on home. We’ll hang out.  Ponder the future.  Watch some movies… On Demand movies.  My treat.  (No late fees!)

Love you. Onward, Malcolm