Monday, August 29, 2005

Happy Birthday, Fetal Positions!

My blog turns one year old today!

In a little retrospective, I was glancing back at some of my more favorite-er entries over the pregnancy.

Stuff like August 30th's "Your Baby and Citris Fruit" Sept 14th's ""the fat lady's float" Sept 16th "into this chaos, a new life" and October 5th's "il bambino bilingue."

October 8th is an interesting one since it's another fiasco with the Jetta. Then there was October 20th "In a bi-costal state of mind" - though it had little relation to babies or motherhood (or cars). I liked November 3 (what child is this?), 8 (the chemical make up of ginger chews) and 15 (my little fruit fly), and December 28 (a gathering of grandmas). Jan 7 and 27 hold some interest too. And I realize that if I was savvy and had time to spare I'd make links to these pages, not that you all have time to spare.

Anyway, there it is. My own half-assed retrospective. Meanwhile, Isaac is rolling around like a log these days and cutting tooth number three...loudly and with significant drama. And me? Hey. I'm an old pro. Like, well, I thought about whether or not the ink was non-toxic after I smooshed his little foot into it to preserve his tiny toes in the baby book, didn't I? (Dude, it was for the book. )

Monday, August 22, 2005

when you’re a Jet-ta: "adventures" with cars

Just once before I die I’d like to say I traded in a car instead of tried vainly to donate what was left of one.

Well, darn if our car shopping stalled a long time ago and darn if that didn’t come around to kick me in the pantelones. The fact that my car would choose to die on a weekend when there is a major car show in town attracting people from all over the world who want to show off, sell, and/or buy each other’s incredibly expensive, sleek, racy machines is not something that surprises me. The car gods have no mercy. They are a cruel, mirthless lot that enjoy irony and human suffering.

It’s really not as bad as it sounds, though. I mean, when my car just refused to continue moving in the intersection of two busy four-lane roads with my baby in the back, causing me to fear being rear-ended before I could find my flashers and extract Isaac from his car seat and then dodge minivans (it’s always the freaking minivans!) to reach safe ground, I was, after all, on my way to a gynecological check up. So you see how my life doesn’t completely suck.

Once we escaped to the sidewalk, I turned to the first people I saw walking by – two men, one possibly approaching fifty and smoking a tiny cigarette butt, and one older and more wizened in the face. I had failed to find my flashers myself, you see, and I asked for their help. They kindly suggested actually pushing my car off the road. Ah, this sounded like a plan even better than the one I had concocted.

They were on it in a skipped heartbeat and then, before I knew it there were more of them – two more, three, four, five? At least six or seven men had convened on my lame vehicle – appearing all at once out of carpet showrooms and from behind desks at notary publics. They were all around the blasted Jetta shouting and steering and aiming for the nearest parking lot. They had, it would seem, been waiting for just this moment: staring at the clock ticking slowly through their Friday afternoon, just wishing for a chance to push a car. And then I showed up and their dreams were realized.

I called my midwife – whose house I was headed to in the first place – and she set out to get me and the babe. By then, most of the cleanup team was withdrawing, back to their sorry 9-5 existences, their short-lived glory a fading memory.

The two original men and I had questions for each other: "Are you sure your friend is coming?" they asked in chivalrous tones. I told them yes. "Are you sure I can leave my car there for a while?" I asked them. "This is our neighborhood," they told me, "We’ll take care of it." All of a sudden I was in West Side Story? (When you’re a Jet-ta, you’re a Jet-ta all the way…) "Give a call to Wayside Garage," they further advised. "Tell ‘em Woody sent you," said the older man. He’d been behind the wheel in the triumphant pushing episode. Woody. Yes, of course. Of course, your name would be Woody. What else would it be?

This is where your parent brain kicks in and you turn to your baby who is squinting from the midday sun and thinking about beginning to wail, and lie as best you know how. "We’re on an adventure!" I said brightly to Isaac. "Here we go!" I continued, as if reading a conversation between Pooh and Piglet, and punched the button for the cross walk signal harder than I needed to.

The people at the carpet store brought a chair out on the sidewalk for me to sit down. And that’s where I was when Maggie found me. Planted in orange floral upholstery, absurdly stationed on the sidewalk of Broadway Avenue, still sticking to my "adventure" story.

In the moment the adventure line makes some sense, but I refuse to carry it too far. I don’t know about your childhood photos, but ours have always included the shots with the cars. There’s the family, standing next to the car. The brother posed with the first moving hunk of metal he made run himself. "Oh that was the station wagon your father loved," people caption. Or, "Remember that Ford? What a good car," they muse, looking past the collection of small people dressed up and looking miserable clustered in front of the heavy doors. How come there’s never a picture of the piece of shit that had a penchant for untimely hood releases, or Kodak moments of when the U-Haul hitch broke on the bridge that time? If we’re gonna document here, then let’s get down to it. When I get myself back to the new spot where my car died for the second time after Mike added the part he was sure it needed, I’m bringing the camera. It’s going in the baby book. "Look here, Isaac. This car sucked. See the peeling paint on the roof? Here we are standing by the side of the road, stranded."

The only thing worse than having a car die, is the exercise of buying another one. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

banana bread

My time at home with this little baby person is easier than it used to be. I was forced to admit this recently when a friend asked me, in just those words "It’s easier than it was at the beginning though, right?" "Uh, yeah," I said, conceding. It doesn’t tell you much really, but a going-on six-month-old who laughs and gurgles is far better company than a barely six-week-old who still only stares in your direction occasionally with a look that says "Who ARE you??" and then screws up his face to scream … again. Yes, sure, easier. In the meantime, there is loads still to deal with for me, not the least of which involves trying to keep my mind alive while I hang out for hours and hours with an infant five days a week and the adult world only stops by long enough to predict dire futures for the boy and let him chew on their fingers (See forthcoming blog on "work".)

This endurance test has brought on a sometimes-desperate need to create -- something. For example, I am overwhelmed with the desire to buy presents for my friends’ birthdays and wrap them in unique ways. I wake up imagining silk scarves used as bows or poems in calligraphy fluttering softly from the handles of baskets of goodies they’ve always wanted. And I have found myself, since Isaac was born, much more often than I can explain, in the kitchen.

Normally, you see, I don’t cook. Don’t like it. Don’t do it. Rather spend my time on other endeavors, say, eating. That’s why I married Mike, a man who has been known to walk in the door from work and, with one hand still on the knob, reach for the cookbook. Early in our dating life, I can remember several incidents when conversations with friends who were demanding to hear in more detail just who this guy was I was spending so much time with, ended abruptly enough. "He cooks for me," I’d tell them beaming. "He cooks for you?" they’d repeat incredulous. And the conversation would need go no further.

Since having a baby, things have altered slightly. "I’ll make dinner," my husband might innocently suggest on a Tuesday evening. My gaze flits between the baby lying on his play mat zoning out the way he does just before a really big poo and Mike’s back headed for the kitchen "NO!" I rush at him. "Why don’t you watch the baby," I say, trying to hide the quiver in my voice and bounding forward to block his way. "I’ll make dinner" I smile with what I hope looks like genuine pleasure, somehow, I think to myself, I’ll make dinner. In the next scene, I’m standing in my tiny kitchen, hands at my sides, shouting to Mike in the other room "What do I do next??"

You might think that helping to "create" a human being would have satisfied me for a time, but it does not. Perhaps I recognize just how little I had to do with all that. Instead I crave a product from my days, other than a pile of diapers. Another discovery about the real impetuses behind the choices in domestic life. Those 50’s moms in aprons were screaming for help. (Well, maybe we knew that already.) I hate to jump on the bandwagon in times when color-coded warnings instruct us how afraid to be, but I feel it’s only fair to tell you all, if we don’t find a sitter on Wednesdays soon so I can escape back to my writing group (see forthcoming blog on "sitters"), there’s going to be banana bread… lots of banana bread.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

when good babies go bad

(been fighting with a few new entries I can't make work. in the meantime, here's this - in my opinion - only mildly satisfactory offering.)

Baby-rearing is rife with euphemisms.

For example, if someone asks you "Is he a good baby?" – this really means, "Does he sleep for long, continuous periods during the night?" If someone tells you "He is a good baby!" – this really means, "I haven’t heard him cry within my earshot in recent memory."

I am personally not in favor of parsing out the essential being of the youngest members of our society in terms of "good" and "bad". It is false and unhealthy. It is a goal of mine to avoid referring to my son as a "good boy." He will do good things and bad things, but of course he is good. He is good. Whether he cries or sleeps or slashes the neighbors’ tires. He was not born "bad". He did not arrive slathered in original sin. If I’m not mistaken, that white slippery stuff they shimmy out covered in is called vernix.

When did the shift happen? I used to be regaled with people delighted by my baby, whom they saw as cute and innocent – period. These days, hand in hand with the strangers waving and cooing at my son, adults suddenly turned into gooey, gaa-gaaing versions of their passive-aggressive selves, come the other comments. People are quite fond of repeating lines to me they think they are the first to deliver like, "Wait til he goes to junior high!" and "Wait til he gets his driver’s license!" If I’m lucky, they stop there. If I’m not, they continue their doomsday diatribe, recounting a thinly veiled version of their own offspring’s sad path toward the juvenile detention center. In the aftermath, I’m left standing, covered in drool, my own mouth slack, wondering what exactly I should do with these offerings. Should I thank these people? Should I wish them a nice day? Should I cover my babe with my body and run, fast and hard, away from them?

Toting Isaac around the grocery store the other day, I became aware of a woman speaking loudly. "I hate shopping for kids! They don’t like anything you get them!" To my dismay, I realized she was looking at me. Once she had my complete attention she continued: "You’ll see! Give it a few years! They hate everything!" Ah, my fellow parents, how I cherish their counsel. I smiled uncomfortably and moved swiftly away from her through the obstacle course of carts and displays of sandwich cookies.

Label your own damn kids if you have to, but leave mine alone. Come to think of it, leave yours alone too – they have to interact with mine. And you don’t want to mess with my kid – he’s baaaaaaaddd.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

socks: the mystery continues

Okay, so apparently baby socks disappear in the laundry in equal measure to adult socks.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

the mom’s plea (in progress)

Another cup of tea
I didn’t get to drink
perches on the coffee table,
a cold, still pool.

My new robe, an anniversary
present from the man
I married, smells of soured milk.
My old robe often smelled
of sex and look
where that’s gotten us.

I rummage about in drawers
-- something to wear –
the knowledge that today, again,
I will not get a shower, sharp around me
like a noon sun.

I am the mom.

Do not, therefore, bore me
with your shy attempts at art,
your designer poetry
in building blocks of careful vocabulary,
your plodding articles with obvious
conclusions. Throw yourself
into it; you don’t have time
to waste and neither do I. My mind
is splintered in a million directions:

poopy diapers laid out before me
like accident sites, cats in want of attention,
the fight I had with the man I married –
the robe gifter – at 4:00am this morning.

You’d do best to wow me –
short, swift bursts of splendor or grit –
not comet showers and grand finales,
but the stuff of every day, the
underbelly of an oatmeal breakfast,

so that I may see a truth, step out
of my life for an instant, throw back
my head in amused recognition,
like I did before
life became a quest
for a hot cup of tea,
and be back on the job again
by the time the baby is done
with his nap.

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