Old Stories, New Siblings

Samuel R. Delany remembers Little Red Riding Hood. These are his own words.

The night in 1944 that my mother, pregnant with my sister, went into the hospital to have the baby, my Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Myles came over to Harlem, woke me up out of my crib, and took me with them, in the car, my uncle driving, to stay with them for a few days in Brooklyn. My sister was born when I was two years and seven months old–and I have almost traumatically distinct memories of the whole evening, though nothing particularly unpleasant happened. In the car, while we drove through the November night, my aunt held me on her lap and told me the story of Little Red Riding Hood. (As I recall, I knew the tale even then.) Next she sang me the lullaby “Go, Tell Aunt Rosie,” to which, finally, I went to sleep, to wake up the next day, in their row house on MacDonnough Street in Bedford Stuyvesant, and talk to my mother in the hospital on the phone. All I said was “Hello,” and “I love you, Mommy,” while, in the dark mahogany second floor hallway, at the phone table, my aunt positioned me between her knees and held the phone to my ear.