I was supposed to go to dinner with my friends after climbing at Planet Granite. It was around 9pm on the 23rd of August, my 28th birthday. All afternoon I had been checking my phone at every moment I got, for S called me earlier that day saying “It looks like A’s going to give birth either today or tomorrow!” And I was supposed to take pictures of the event. No one was expecting it this early; she was actually due in mid-September.
In the brief minutes that I was distracted from checking my phone, Szilard had texted me again: “Come now! She’s giving birth!” The unread text sat on the screen of my iphone 6, as I was climbing a very tricky yellow-handhold 11B in the corner of the gym. The distraction continued in the form of friends crowding me in a circle, singing happy birthday in the gym during probably the most crowded time of day, as I pretended that I was also singing for someone while turning bright red. Of course they yelled my name really loud, just as A was probably screaming in effort to push a new life into this world.
My friends presented the “cake” aka a bunch of cut fruit in a cake tin, as the nurses placed an equally if not more sweet baby girl into A’s arms. My present had all sorts of fun things in it: figs cut in half, spears of pineapple, bright red strawberries, soft melon, and strips of dried coconut topped with unlit candles. In the same moment, S was gaping with awe at the soft-cheeked baby Changi with a bright red face, struggling to open her brand new eyes to this new world she rushed into. Was it really a good idea she must be thinking to herself? Unsure, she wails as she is placed on her mother’s bosom.
Mostly through my “slice” of the fruit-cake, I casually check my phone, and nearly choke on a piece of coconut. “Guys, I have to go, dinner is cancelled, my niece was just born!” After that, everything happened so fast: I throw my climbing stuff into my bag, jump into D’s car and we race to the curtly instructed location: West Pavilion, Purple Elevator. D drops me off, and I rush in the entrance, past the security guard. Having no idea where I’m going, I just feel my way through the hospital, looking for signs: purple elevator… purple elevator. As if I was being led, the elevator revealed itself in a corner; anyone watching me would probably have thought I knew exactly where I was going. Come on come on… open faster – I thought willing the sliding doors to open already.
Reaching the floor, everything looked calm, but I was anything but that. The lady at the front desk was my last obstacle. “I’m here to photograph the new child, last name is Suto,” I tell her. “Sorry, I can’t hear you, can you come closer?” Ahhhhhhh! But I put on a placid face. “The mother’s name is Arty.. I mean Tatawan Suto.” I say more clearly. The lady bobs her head, pulling out a sharpie as I’m tapping my foot impatiently and slowly writes on a sticker already marked with the date Aug 23: Suite 324. She points to a double doors, hands me the sticker-badge, and I’m on my way through the labyrinth of hallways and adjoining rooms, the 3 by 5 foot white poster board I brought floating like a sail in my right hand. I wanted to be prepped with a light reflector in case the lighting was awful.
I finally reach the door and knock. For a split second I thought I had the wrong door, as a low-pitched lady voice mumbles, “what?..” Then I hear my cousin S’s masculine voice as the nurse opens the door. He pushes past her and grabs the door wide open, with an even wider grin. I have never seen him happier, and I have known this guy for 25 years.
Let these pictures tell the rest of the story…
A set of meaningful quotes from the first two hours after Changi’s traumatic entrance into our world:
S: “I’m in love” [while holding a sleeping Changi in his arms]
A: “Nothing on my calendar matters anymore…”