Everybody Has a Story: A tale of Laura Lee’s ‘tocaya’



Once upon a time, many years ago, my mother went into the hospital to have me. She hired a baby sitter to watch after my four older brothers.

Many years later, I found myself teaching an English class. It is not unusual for teachers to remember many of their first students. One of my most memorable students was a sweet-faced, dark-haired girl with a melt-your-heart smile.

After that first year, I moved to Venezuela, where I married and started a family. My pregnancies and deliveries presented some difficulties. When I was faced with a third pregnancy, I decided to return to the United States, where I might receive specialized care.

My brother still lived in our Indiana hometown and seemed to know almost everyone. He helped me select a good hospital and a doctor. During his inquiry, he met a remarkable woman who remembered our last name and said that her mother used to baby-sit for our family. She told him an amazing story.

The baby sitter my mother had hired, all those years ago, asked my mother what names she had picked out. My mother told her that if she had a girl, she had chosen “Laura Lee.” The baby sitter then and there decided that if she ever had a girl, she would name her the same, and confided this to my mother.

Twenty-two years later, that curly-haired girl sat in my class and smiled up at me. Was that a knowing smile? I thought it mere coincidence that we shared the same names. Now I wonder if she had already known the secret that took me so many years to discover.

The girl eventually chose pediatric nursing as her profession. Because of her fondness for newborn infants and expertise in problematic deliveries, she became a favorite for obstetricians. She was assigned to my delivery.

Sweet-faced Laura Lee, my “tocaya” (Spanish for namesake), my very special student, stood by my side at the moment of delivery, received my newborn son and placed him in my arms.

Long ago, a teenaged baby sitter would have been astonished to know that the life of her own daughter and my life would be touched and intertwined in this amazing way. There is a saying in Spanish, that the world is a handkerchief. When you pick up the four corners everything comes together.

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