Hetty arrived in mid-summer. Basil’s parents had taken our daughter Mallory out to Long Island where Esther (her grandmother) and some of her relatives could dote on Mallory while we waited on Second Avenue to deliver her sib. We two had gone up the street for Chinese food to celebrate and late that night it took me more than a few minutes on the toilet to recognize that this was a baby coming, not over-indulgence in hot Schezwan. Yike. But Baz was a tower of calmness. He proceeded to shave, shave! while I was barely able to pull on some clothing. “I mean it. The baby’s coming!” I gasped.
A fellow park mother and good friend who lived on Great Jones Street had an actual car, a rarity among our friends, and had offered me something priceless. “Call,” Delores said. “Anytime. You know how taxis are.”
“Not in my cab, lady” canny drivers were likely to calculate when waved at by a very pregnant woman and a young man holding that tell-tale overnight bag. Baz woke Delores up. He might have been sure we had loads of time, but Delores took one look at me as we got in the car and gunned her engine. It was not quite dawn. By this time, Baz got it. Not one of the three of us realized we were going the wrong way on Second Avenue—uptown not downtown—until a cop car with siren pulled us over. “There’s a woman in here having a baby,” Dolores managed. It was sweet. “Follow us,” the lead cop said. We had a police escort all the rest of the way up to New York Hospital and no ticket, and not even a scolding. Dolores, still in her nightgown, drove home.
A little later was sweet for Baz too. He no sooner arrived in the tension-drenched ‘father’s waiting room’ than he was paged. The haggard dads-to-be glared as he rushed out. And there she was: perfect and plump, with a mop of black curls, and looking so like her father I wanted to pencil on a little mustache.
After seeing me settle down for sleep, Baz walked all the way from 72nd Street and the East River to West 42nd Street. It was a glorious summer day and at Grant’s Cafeteria, a now long-gone landmark, piles of the best hot dogs, a raw bar with clams and oysters, huge cold pickles, and tubs of spicy yellow mustard, waited. A camera crew was there, shooting something. B roll? A documentary? Baz happily signed a release, he told me, and the crew treated him to dogs while they filmed. So somewhere, maybe still, there’s film of Basil King welcoming his daughter Hetty on July 10, 1964.