A Christmas Miracle

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve’s eve, in 2012, when Barry and I lived in a condo complex in Mililani Town, I was hanging out with the neighborhood kids—mostly girls, a couple of boys—at the new jungle gym outside B building. The girls, would-be gymnasts all, jumped and twirled and did amazing flips on the foot-friendly padded surface of the playground. I liked how their eyes lit up when they saw me, their “Aunty Liz”, who listened to their stories, and gave them goodies.

As was my usual this time of year, I prepared to pass out Christmas candy to the kids. They had rushed to carry my groceries from car trunk to second story condo, then waited in the playground while I stuck their homemade cookies in Christmas bags. Then I hurried down the stairs to join them. A ten-year-old girl gushed about her new crush—“Oh, Aunty Liz, he’s so cute and nice”—and asked me, “How do you know when a guy’s the right guy?”

I was trying to formulate an answer to that monumental question when a young Asian woman ran out the front door of a ground floor apartment beside the playground. She sprinted back and forth in front of her door, screaming unintelligibly at the top of her lungs, tears streaming down her face. The only word I understood was “baby!”

A middle-aged Japanese man working under the hood of a Toyota belonging to Sam, a tenant I knew, stood up straight and lay his tools down. He and the rest of us startled bystanders moved toward the hysterical woman. Cautiously, we surged like an unstoppable wave toward her front door, wondering what horror awaited us.

A blue baby girl lay on the kitchen counter, her tiny body still. The woman made frantic gestures with her thin hands. The woman’s friend translated for the woman as she acted out the baby slipping beneath the water in the bathtub when the woman left the bathroom for a moment, she said, to fold laundry. She moaned, cried. A woman in the crowd rushed to wrap her arms around the wailing mother. Another woman held her toddler who kept repeating, “What, Mommy?”

The mother yelped like a wounded animal.

The Japanese man cradled the baby in his arms. He covered her mouth and nose with his mouth, blew his breath into her five quick times. “Come back, baby,” he ordered. Enlisted. Army, I thought, noticing his uniform for the first time. The baby was still blue, still not breathing.

“I’ll call 911,” I said, pulling out my cell phone. Stepping outside, still watching the saga unfolding on the kitchen counter, I gave the ambulance dispatcher the address and told him about the baby. He told me to direct the ambulance to the apartment once it entered the complex.

The man lay the infant back down on the counter, gave her tiny chest 30 quick pumps below the nipple line, gently turned her over, then upside down, and tapped her back. Baby lay limply, like a broken doll, her lips still blue. “Come back, baby,” he demanded in his quiet, insistent voice.

The children vanished. Some people whispered prayers. No other sound came from the crowd. I watched and prayed.

The man covered the baby’s nose and mouth with his mouth, gave her two quick breaths. He continued holding the infant, giving CPR, demanding she come back.

The ambulance siren sounded in the distance.

The man placed the baby on his shoulder, as if to burp her. He gently tapped her back. “Come back, baby.”

Suddenly, she coughed up water. She cried, then wailed loudly.

The crowd rustled with laughter and sniffles and Thank God’s. The mother fell on her knees, grabbed the Japanese man’s knees, bowed her head, and said something I couldn’t understand. The man patted the woman’s head with one hand, and held the baby with the other. The baby wailed.

The ambulance crew talked to the Japanese man. Inside the ambulance, they checked out the baby. The man stood by himself, leaned against a tree, and smoked a cigarette, a faraway look in his eyes. “Scott’s been a CPR instructor on Fort Kam,” Sam told me, “for 15 years.”

“Wow,” I said. “He sure was in the right place at the right time.”

A few nights later, I told the story at a Christmas party. A midwife with dozens of deliveries under her belt told me, “Scott called the baby’s spirit back. Some of the mothers I’ve midwifed have called the spirits of their deathly sick babies back, too.”

Calling the spirit back. I call that a miracle, one that puts me in mind of another miracle involving a baby. An infant who called his children to be saved. A savior. Most of us know that the word Christmas is a compound word meaning Christ’s Mass, and is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  

Merry Christ’s Mass to all!

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