Cindy, Oh Cindy—By Rory Calhoun
I want to thank you—all of you—who sent Lita and me your good wishes for Cindy Frances. Your telegrams, letters and cards gave us a wonderful feeling.
Frankly, Lita and I hadn’t planned to have any pictures taken of Cindy until she was a few months older, but when Bob Beerman (Photoplay’s photographer, and an old friend) stopped by one Sunday afternoon we let him take a peek at her. Cindy was sleeping, and Lita, Bob and I tiptoed into the nursery. “Ah, she’s so cute,” Bob cajoled, “couldn’t we take a couple of shots?” We weakened and agreed—but it wasn’t easy. Cindy wasn’t at all cooperative.
Usually, Cindy finishes her nap early in the afternoon, but this was the nurse’s day off, and Cindy slept. So Bob and I went into the living room to chat while Lita got tea. At three o’clock I poked my head into the nursery to call for our model, but Cindy was still sleeping. Three-thirty? Cindy slept. Four o’clock? Cindy slept on. At four-thirty I went in and turned on all the music boxes in the room. It sounded like a department store the week before Christmas, with all the music boxes playing a different tune. Take a little “Rock A Bye Baby,” mix it up with “Ba, Ba Black Sheep” and add a little “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” and you have some idea of the din. But Cindy didn’t waken, and I went in to wind the music boxes up again. Lita said, “This baby is going to grow up neurotic if we keep doing this to her.”
Finally, Cindy opened her eyes and howled. When Cindy wakes up, you know it! I picked her up in my arms, and she quieted down immediately. “How’s my little girl?” I asked, the way I always do when I hold her, and she held out her tiny dimpled arm. “All right,” I said, real man-to-woman, “Grab my hair.” And she did. “Reach for my nose,” I coaxed. And she did. “That’s it,” prompted Bob. Lita and I held her and played with her and fed her, while Bob and his camera kept clicking away. Next afternoon, Bob stopped by with the negatives, and said, “Let’s choose one for the magazine.” But they were all so good we couldn’t make up our minds, so we finally settled on three: my favorite, Lita’s, and Bob’s. They’re the pictures you see here, and we hope you like them.
You know, I must admit that before Cindy was born, I’d listened to a lot of conversation from what I call the Young Fatherhood set. And I’ll admit I got bored—except perhaps when I’d listen to Eddie Fisher or to Guy Madison. So before the baby came I promised Lita I wouldn’t overplay that fatherhood role: no pictures in the wallet, no dinner-party conversations about the baby and no articles in magazines. I can’t explain why, but now that Cindy’s here my resolutions have gone out the transom, and here I am, talking about her. Maybe because there’s something about watching that tiny bundle of energy change into a vibrant, living personality day by day that takes you by the heart—when it belongs to you.
Before the baby came our gynecologist, Dr. Blake Watson, used to see me and say, “You can take on bets Rory. It’s going to be a boy.” I’d grin from ear to ear and Lita would look up at me and answer, “Well, really honey, we don’t care if it’s a little girl, do we? Darling, whatever God gives us.”
I’d nod my head and say, “That’s the way I feel. That’s exactly the way I feel.”
Then later I’d start thinking about it, and get so excited I’d slap my knee and exclaim, “Boy, I can hardly wait until that boy gets older. I can take him fishing.”
“Sure,” Lita would answer quietly. “But maybe it will be a little girl.”
A month before Cindy was born, my cousin asked me what I’d want to name the baby if it were a girl, and I thought for a minute and said: “We’ll call her Sharon. Only of course she’s going to be a boy and his name will be Rory.”
Then, one evening when we were sitting in the living room, Eddie Fisher’s hit record “Cindy” came on. Lita fell in love with it almost immediately. And I noticed whenever she’d be doing the evening dishes, or maybe straightening up the pillows on the couch, she’d sing softly to herself: “Cindy, oh Cindy. Cindy, don’t let me down.” The day before Cindy was born, Lita asked: “Darling, don’t you think Sharon sounds sort of uppity?
“I don’t know,” I answered, seriously giving it thought.
“How do you like Cindy?” she asked. “Don’t you think it’s a warm, human name? And Cindy and Calhoun sound well together, too. Besides,” she teased, “it’s a lovely name for a dark-haired little girl.”
“What do you mean girl?” I asked, pretending to be astonished.
I didn’t say much further, but made a mental note that “Rory” sounded pretty fine, whether he had dark hair or not.
Early the next morning, Lita tapped me on the shoulder. “Darling.”
“Darling, it’s time to go to the hospital.”
“I think the baby’s coming. We ought to go to the hospital.”
I woke with a start. “How do you feel?” I asked.
“I feel fine.” Lita smiled, but the smile didn’t last long, and she closed her eyes for a minute, to blot out the pain.
I kissed her on the cheek and held her. “It’ll be over real soon honey,” I said and jumped into my clothes.
And then I drove our car out to the front. It was still only about 7:00 o’clock in the morning; it was cold, and dew gathered in little drops on the windshield of the car and settled around us in its dampness. I put my arm around Lita protectively.
“Are you cold? Do you want my jacket?” I asked.
Lita crossed her arms and huddled in a corner of the car. “I’ll be okay,” she said softly, throwing her shoulders back—and I put my foot down and stepped on the gas. I thought we’d never get there.
When we finally arrived at the hospital, I left Lita with one of the sisters who showed her to her room. As Lita walked down the long white corridor away from me, I had the sudden, horrifying thought: “What if something should happen to her?” The following hours were little short of a nightmare. Lita’s mother was there, and I called Vic Orsatti and Stan Musgrove, my agent and publicity manager, to come down to keep us company—but even that didn’t help. There was nothing to do but worry . . . and wait.
Some time before noon, one of the sisters started walking down the long corridor toward us; her face set and solemn-looking and I thought the worst. “It’ll be ten minutes more,” was all she said. That was all.
At exactly 12:29, Dr. Watson stuck his head out the door for a moment and announced softly and matter of factly: “It’s a girl.”
I was so glad it was over that for a few minutes I was numb. And then—feeling started to come creeping back. I thought of the fishing poles and the rifle and the cute little powder blue silk shirt and trousers that were my first presents for the baby, and I shrugged my shoulders. “Welcome Cindy, baby girl,” I said softly. “God bless you.” I smiled at the “Cindy”; it was a slip of the tongue, and I thought Lita would like that.
About five minutes after the baby was born they placed her in the oxygen drawer where they put all babies for the first 24 hours, and the sister let me take a quick look at her through the glass window. Looking at that little fat-cheeked thing, so tiny and defenseless, was touching, and all I could do was push back the lump in my throat and say, “Hi ya, young one. I’m your father.” It felt so good just saying that, and so right, and all the plans I’d been making for that son of ours just slipped away with the waiting for her, and I felt so happy I was almost groggy.
Later I went in to see Lita. “She’s just beautiful,” was the first thing I said. “She’s got the longest fingernails, too; and the most beautiful little hands.”
Lita looked sort of serious and said, “Well, it’s not a little boy.”
“I don’t care, honestly,” I answered, and the minute I’d said that I knew that it had come from deep down inside, and that I’d meant it. It’d slipped out naturally. “Cindy’s adorable.”
“*Cindy,’” Lita smiled weakly. “I was afraid for a moment you’d stick with Sharon.”
“With that dark hair? She couldn’t be anything but a Cindy!” I insisted. We both started to laugh, and I felt good, and I leaned over and reached for Lita’s hand.
Each day after visiting hours, I went home to the nursery Lita and I had gotten ready for the baby. First thing, I took down the huge cowboy and cowpony I’d hung up on the walls of the nursery and transferred them to the kitchenette. Nobody as feminine as Cindy should sleep in a room with a cowpony! And a cowboy, indeed!
For several weeks before the baby came, Lita and I had been making the nursery
ready. We’d built a new room onto our house, and we’d furnished that as a bedroom for ourselves, turning our old bedroom into a nursery for the baby. Lita had bought unpainted furniture, painted it with a marble-type paint, and I had hung huge Mother Goose toys on the wall to decorate the room. There were still a few odds and ends and I tried getting them all finished by the time Lita came home. A wonderful day that day Lita was released from the hospital. We’d bundled the baby into a nest of warm and fluffy pink blankets, and Mary, our nurse, sat in the back seat with the baby while Lita and I sat in the front.
The ride back from the hospital was slow and cautious, just as the one going up there had been fast and anxious. When we got home, I lifted the baby in my arms and carried her into the house. “This is the moment I’ll remember for a long, long time,” I said solemnly to Lita. “Just as I’ll never forget carrying you over the threshold to our first apartment.” I looked down at that tiny little face with the fat cheeks and button of a nose, and I got a warm feeling as I put her in the crib.
Both of us were thinking that this was a wish we’d been afraid to wish for, a dream we’d been afraid to dream. Lita and I had been married for nine years, and we’d wanted a baby so badly it hurt to think about it. Lita had become pregnant twice, and twice we’d lost the baby. It had seemed so unfair to come so close to happiness, only to have it snatched away again. “God will bless our marriage with a child,” Lita had said the last time—and both of us believed it. Only for a long time, it didn’t seem as though it would ever happen, and Lita and I talked of adopting children. We talked about it often, but never really did anything about it. And then Cindy came along.
Now I know what it really means to be happy. Sometimes I look at the baby. and I’ll gloat. “Hey, you’re part of me. I’m half responsible for your being born! You wouldn’t be here without me!” And I’ll throw out my chest and practically explode with pride.
Our baby’s a month old now. Shortly after we got home from the hospital, Father Kanaly came over to christen the baby “Cindy Frances,” the “Frances” being Lita’s mother’s name.
There are times, I’ll admit, when being a father takes some getting used to. Like the time at the hospital when Lita and I were talking, and I said, “You’re a little weak, honey; why don’t we take a holiday in Hawaii for some sun and sand.”
“But the baby?” Lita wailed.
And then I remembered: I had responsibilities. I’d completely forgotten about the baby for the moment. Then the time that I had an early-morning call, and Cindy kept us up till four a.m. the night before. But most times it’s so natural having a baby around the house you hardly notice the change.
Driving home from the studio the other day, I started thinking about the baby and stopped off at a children’s shop. (I bought her a rattle—a little pink and white one with bows on it. It’s right for a girl: I’m learning!) And then I started to hurry, for I remembered about how wonderful it would be to get home, to Lita and Cindy, to pick up the baby from her crib and say, “How’s my little Cindy? How’s my little girl? That’s it. Reach for my nose. Grab my hair.” And a warm, wonderful feeling spread through me.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JULY 1957