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Last month when I was home I wanted to get into Mom’s cupboard in the garage, but there was a motorcycle parked in front of it that I couldn’t move. I’m not sure whether he just didn’t want to hear me whine anymore, or he didn’t want Daddy to know he had a motorcycle parked in the garage, but Donnie had moved said bike when I got back Monday.

Yesterday afternoon I went exploring in that cupboard. Many of the things I had anticipated were in there: Antique and vintage children’s books, Harper’s and Peterson’s Magazines from the late 1800s, a gazillion Betsy McCall paper dolls cut from McCall’s Magazines…more than I could possibly go through in one trip. But there was a surprise box, too.

On top of the boxes of paper dolls was a flat, open box full of old correspondence and sundry other paper goods. Knowing that I was supposed to be searching for treasures to sell at the Fresno Doll Show & Sale this weekend, I ignored potential sale items and started in on the box.

Peeking out from under other papers I saw an envelope whose return address read, “St. Mary’s Hospital and Sanatorium, Tucson, Arizona”. As soon as I saw the October 24, 1949, postmark, I knew what it was: the bill for Mom’s hospital stay for my birth. I had heard the story of this hospital stay many times over the years, and how good their insurance coverage was. But here was proof positive.

The envelope containing the bill for Mom's hospital stay in October 1949.

The envelope containing the bill for Mom’s hospital stay in October 1949.

Back then, of course, mothers giving birth were treated as though they were sick and/or extremely delicate, and a typical post-delivery stay was five days. Correspondingly, she was billed for 5 days at $8.50 per day ($42.50), $3.00 for anesthesia, $15.00 for the delivery room, $1.50 for x-ray (I think to determine that I was breech), $1.00 for clinical and pathological laboratory services (?), $4.16 for drugs, biologicals, medicine, and medications, $8.75 for nursery care, $1.00 for beads (those sweet ones that spelled out “Pender”), .50 for a prescription, and .10 for using the phone. Out of that $77.51 balance, Arizona Blue Cross paid for all but $1.60. Pretty amazing!

The final accounting from the hospital tweaked things a bit. Mom actually had to pay .40 for that prescription, .20 for the phone, $1.00 for the beads, and the extra I had heard about over the years — $1.25 for a radio for 5 days. So they paid St. Mary’s $2.85 and brought me home!

Every child should hear the story of his or her birth. As I got older, Mom told me about thinking Daddy had gone to work after checking her into the hospital (a story for another day) — she had no idea he was outside pacing the hallway during her labor and delivery. She told of being so embarrassed having a rare breech birth in a teaching hospital, as every doctor and med student in the place stopped by her room to look under the covers. “I finally just pulled the sheet up over my face and pretended there was someone else under those covers,” she told me one day.

I don’t really have a baby book, but I have memories enough for one. Somewhere in another box on another visit I found my own birth announcement and brought it back with me (although I have no idea what box of my own crazy papers I put it in), and now I have this lovely bill, spelling out the financial details of the week.

I’ll share more of the box’s contents tomorrow.