A Spot of Sunshine

The two slipped outside, hand in hand, under a pure blue sky.

Even the shadows, usually cool and creepy, felt warm and inviting.

“Watch out for snakes,” his mother warned.

She didn’t want to believe that a serpent would dare infest her garden of Eden but knew it was possible.

She found the skin of one in the grass, brown and paper-thin, left behind as useless as heels and pressed pants during this phase of life.

Overhead two white cranes honked at each other,

Speaking the private language of family that they somehow understood.   

Framed

We pulled away from the curb with Baby Brother napping in back and Little Legs begging for a snack.

“Bar? Coo? Nana?”

(Translation for the lay person. I would like a fruit and grain bar, a cookie or a banana.)  

It was a devastating blow for the child to learn that we did not have any of these things in the car. To be clear, it was meant to be a quick trip to pick up a picture that was just framed. And the boy was not starving, by any means.  

With Daddy Longlegs at the helm steering us towards home, he asked, “How did it turn out?”

“Oh, it looks great, but you won’t be happy,” I explained.

“What do you mean?” Daddy Longlegs took the bait.

“Well, I think they did it backwards. The matting might be on the wrong side.”

I dug into my purse so Daddy Longlegs wouldn’t see my laughing face.

“I couldn’t bear to break it to Brenda. She was so proud of her work.”

“Brenda? Who is Brenda? Do I need to turn around and go back?”

“You might, but not right now, obviously.”

Baby Brother woke up and started making the sweet wah, wah, wah noises that usually led to full on squalling within a few minutes, while Little Legs kicked at the back of Daddy Longlegs’ seat, chanting demands for various snacks.

“Brenda showed me another project that she just finished so I know she worked hard on this one.”

It was a hand drawn, black and white, cross-eyed dog that stared out in two different directions from an off-centered picture on the wall.  She pointed it out after she found my order, tucked away in a stack of other pictures wrapped in brown paper.

“That’s one of mine, too,” she said proudly through her mask.   

“You did a fine job.”

I nodded at the picture on the wall with my eyes and then looked back down at the picture on the counter.

“Thanks, Brenda.”  

And she really did a fine job, but I was not going to let Daddy Longlegs know that until we got home.

It was my way of keeping him on his toes, as though the boys didn’t do it enough. This was our relationship after two babies.

Exciting, glamorous, and sexy.

 

Games

“Little Legs?” she called.

The baby was in her arms, freshly diapered and tickled under the neck. Her older son was right behind her pushing a truck back and forth across the rug, until suddenly, he wasn’t there.  

The room was conspicuously absent of vrooming.  

She stepped out of the nursery, pushing the door completely open.

The baby cooed and laughed with his pink tongue hanging out of his mouth, oblivious to his mother’s worry.

“Little Legs?” she called again, louder this time.

 She peered into the kitchen and down the hallway.

The door squeaked as it swung towards her and a tiny figure jumped out at her from the dark shadow.

 “Hide!” Little Legs shouted gleefully with his hands over his eyes.

“Oh God,” his mother jumped back and the baby lurched forward, his wobbly head guiding the way.

“Little Legs, you can’t jump out at me like that.”

His mother’s heart pounded in her chest and she felt sick thinking about the momentary lightness in her arms.

A wail rose from the baby in protest of the bumpy ride and his brother skittered off like a water bug shooting across a pond.

He was ready for the next game.

Baby’s Trip to the Doc

While driving home from the pediatrician’s office, I glanced in the rearview mirror. Baby Boy was already fast asleep, his face still red and splotchy from crying. Screaming and sobbing, to be more accurate.

It was the first time in a week that I had on makeup, a shirt with sleeves and pants without an elastic waistband. It felt good to see the outside of our house and spend time beyond our yard. I even dressed Baby Boy up in a brand-new outfit and brushed the few hairs on his head over to the side.

He looked handsome and well-groomed, for about thirty minutes.

It started with a total blow out, somewhere between the car and the exam table, which went all the way up his back. As I peeled off his onesie, once so cute, now smeared with a mustard yellow that would certainly stain, I sighed. It had somehow reached his shoulder which was impressive, but also disgusting.

We rushed to clean up the mess, which is a word that is far too simple to describe what happened in that exam room. Fortunately, we worked fast in our clean up efforts and were ready in a fresh diaper by the time the nurse arrived.

“Oh, I see he’s already stripped down,” the nurse said in surprise.

She expected to wait while I undressed Baby Boy and had to leave her usual barely disguised look of annoyance for the next patient.

After the nurse weighed and measured my sweet little homebody, the doctor breezed into the room wearing safety glasses and a face mask. Interestingly, it is far easier to show annoyance and irritation through a mask, than a sense of warmth and generosity. However, it’s not impossible and the doctor gave it his best effort, smiling with his whole face and crinkling the sun-browned skin next to his eyes.

Baby Boy was born into this strange world of only seeing the eyes of strangers and faces of family. I wondered how this would impact his development. Would the kids of 2020 be known as the Maskies who are only comfortable at home, using Zoom and Facetime to connect with real people?

I couldn’t spend too much time dwelling on the future because we only had a few minutes in the present with the doctor to ask all the questions about sleep, poop, play and development that kept me up at night, even with Baby Boy as a second child.

Doc looked down his nose at the report of Baby Boy’s growth over the past month and gave a whistle.

“Let’s get a look at Fat Baby.”

It was like that was his name. Obviously, the doctor was unaware of his position of thin privilege or that Fat Baby’s mother was feeling over the top sensitive about weight and fat rolls and labels.

At about that point, I started to fall apart, as though held together by a thread that started disintegrating the moment we left the house. Perhaps all the time away from the public had made me too sensitive or out of touch? Maybe it was the effects of the post-partum hormones? Maybe it was too close to lunch time and my blood sugar was dropping.

Whatever the cause, I shut down and focused on Baby Boy, aka Fat Baby, forgetting to ask my important questions and plans for sleep training. The doctor obviously did not mean offense and it was more of a compliment to FB’s primary source of nutrition, me, than anything.

Still, I wondered when the pandemic ends, and it will eventually, how any of us could possibly reintegrate into a world that doesn’t appreciate fat rolls?

Enjoy the Blow

It’s a direct quote from my dad

after he worked all afternoon with my husband installing porch fans.

He has a remarkable way with words,

although they are few,

they are carefully selected

like picking the juiciest peach from a tree.

They are always just right.

peach

 

Paint Splatters

paintHis tiny fingers wrap around my arm.

The contrast of white against brown startles me into momentarily wondering about the origins of this beautiful child.

He is another unfinished project, like the boards of the deck, half-way painted before being abandoned by a rain shower.

The splatters of paint on my feet are reminders of the job that still begs to be finished along with the dishes, mopping and yet another load of laundry.

Where is the time? And where does it go?

I have the same 24 hours in a day and somehow it passes through my hands like sand in a sieve, constantly flowing until suddenly there is not a grain or a minute left.

I know that everything will get done, eventually, but it won’t be today.

Today, I would much rather push trucks across the carpet with Little Legs and hold Baby when he cries, share a snack of applesauce and blow the white fluff of a dandelion into the hot summer air.

Today, the time goes where I want because I’m the boss.

I’m the mama.

A Simple Gift

bunnyThe trio left through the backdoor. The woman wore the infant strapped to her chest while the toddler had decided to live his life as a bunny and hopped along behind her.

“Hop, hop, hop,” he narrated.

They made it around the side of the house when the boy-rabbit stopped completely, and as though frozen, he stared at the sky.

“Come on, bunny. Hop this way,” his mother encouraged.

The sun was hot on her face and arms. She pulled the brim of the baby’s hat back, his chubby face was peacefully resting between her breasts. The heat only lulled him further into a deeper sleep.

“Its hot out here, let’s get to the shade.”

“Nah, nah, nah. Clough!”

Instead of following his mother where she stood under the protection of a grizzled old tree with pale, green lichens growing on the bark and long overhanging branches, he continued to stare up at the sky.

“Clough!” he exclaimed again and pointed.

Sensing that the boy would be rooted to the spot until she did what he wanted, she returned to his side and looked up, finally.

Clouds unrolled across the sky like waves of wind-blown sand on the beach, stretching as far as the eye could see, against a breathtakingly blue sky.

“Clouds in the sky,” she affirmed.

“Beautiful, thank you for showing me.”

Satisfied at last with his mother, the boy-bunny continued hopping through the yard.

His mother was left behind, humbled at the beauty of the day and that it took the fresh eyes of her son to appreciate it.

All it took was to simply look up.

Cannibals

The meeting started promptly at 1:00, right in the middle of a perfectly good Sunday afternoon. I wondered why I was participating with the bigger question of why I volunteered for anything else when my life was already bursting at the figurative seams with undone things, starting with a mound of laundry.

Yet, there I was, calling in to be counted for the rollcall and reviewing the agenda with my boys in the next room in the care of Daddy Longlegs and G-ma.

We were all accounted for except for one person who, unbeknownst to her, would be eaten later.

Shortly after the meeting was called to order, the leader brought up what she called, “the elephant in the room.”

She forgot we were only faces suspended in virtual reality, there was no room and there was no elephant.

“We have to address the recent chain of text messages. I think we all know what I am talking about.”

There was a quiet murmur of acknowledgement from the floating heads.

“Therefore, I am submitting a motion for the Texter to be removed from The Board.”

I gasped in silent horror, thankful for the mute option.

It seemed an extreme punishment for the offense. However, I was the newest person to join and unfamiliar with the group dynamics, processes, and procedures.

“I want to hear from everyone on this,” the leader requested.

One by one, all members present voiced their opinions with a unanimous agreement with the leader.

“She’s got to go and here’s why,” one member explained.

“I’ve been noticing her lack of enthusiasm for a while,” another shared.

“She’s always first to leave and last to arrive,” a third stated.

The elephant in the room was slowly torn apart, limb by limb, and picked clean until only the bones were left to dry. The decision was to be delivered via email with the offer of a phone call to work out any remaining details which the leader didn’t think would be necessary.

“Its what she wanted,” she reassured the cannibals who were still licking their lips.

They were temporarily satiated from their meal.

I wondered how long it would be before they felt the hunger pangs and turned their hungry mouths towards me. Somehow, I knew it would be a matter of time, especially now they had the taste of blood.

bones

The Grudgemaster

storkWhen I found out we were pregnant, I read as much as I could find about bringing home a second baby. I talked to all my mom friends for insider information. I questioned my own parents for their thirty-plus year recollections of having a baby and a toddler at the same time, which was hazy, at best.

Based on my research, I formed a plan for everything, starting with our return home from the hospital. His changing area had diapers and wipes set out with a stack of clean onsies. There was a bottle cleaning station by the sink and his bassinet was next to the bed. I thought we were totally ready. Yet, I was totally unprepared for the hardest part of the transition going from a family of three to four. The Grudge.

Thankfully, it wasn’t against the baby.

It was against me. By my beloved first son. The Grudgemaster.

Everyone said, “Make sure your arms are open for your toddler when he first meets the new baby. He needs to see that you still have room for him.”

So when we returned home from the hospital, my husband held onto the baby’s carrier and I walked in behind him, slightly hunched over from the lingering c-section pain, but nonetheless with open arms.

I held them out to my sweet boy and announced, “We’re home and we missed you so much.”

The three days and two nights at the hospital was the longest amount of time that we had ever been apart since Little Legs was born. I wasn’t sure if he would run away or run towards me for a hug. Quite naturally, he did neither.

First, he crept over to my husband to investigate what strange mewling creature we brought home. He peered into the carrier and reached in with his index finger to poke the poor, wrinkled little thing that we explained was his brother.

He stared up into our faces with a questioning look, unsure why we would bring home something so noisy into our otherwise peaceful existence. Then, he ran off to play with his grandma, who stood nearby secretly (not-so-secretly) hopeful that he would emancipate himself from us so that he could live with her forever.

From that point, Little Legs commenced to ignore me. He refused to sit in my lap or give me hugs, he didn’t want to tell me in his jibber-jabber language about his day or lean against me for story-time. He went to Daddy Longlegs when he needed help or to his G-ma, her cool self-appointed grandma name, when he wanted a snack.

As for me, I stopped existing for him. I was a sad ghost floating through the house, anchored by a crying baby, suddenly without the center of my world.

It was a more emotionally painful experience than anything I’d experienced, perhaps made worse by the post-partum hormones and sleep deprivation. I feared that I had forsaken the love of my first-born son in a sacrifice for the safe passage of his little brother. Apparently, this was the terrible price I had to pay and my train of irrational thinking as I tried to rationalize the situation.

I thought the grudge would never lift, until recently, he sat next to me with a book in his hands. Not too close, but close enough that I could see all was not lost. It felt like the dark sky parted and finally allowed the sun’s rays to break through, warming my heart and soul.

Things were going to be ok; they would get to a new normal.

As for the Grudgemaster, he would sit in my lap again.

Eventually.

Bird for a Day

bird

“Buh…buh…buh…” Little Legs announced and pointed out the window.

Lately, this could have meant anything from a banana to a bug. His grubby hands insistently slapped the glass and left a collage of fingerprints, demanding a parental peek out the window. Happy to comply with the tiny boss, I looked out onto the back porch where a small, brown bird lay, as the countless ones before, motionless.

“Another one?” I asked with disgust and disbelief.

My heart was hardened towards these feathered dunces after the same kind of bird cracked the window a few weeks earlier and had to be replaced. We lowered the shades and added butterfly stickers to detour these crash landings, assuming the birds didn’t see the glass when they made their kamikaze descents. Obviously, our efforts were not working as intended.

Daddy Long Legs, with his more forgiving nature, slipped through the door with a pair of heavy-duty leather gloves and picked up the bird. He held it up to the window for Little Legs to see. The bird moved its tailfeathers from left to right and peered at its captor through a squinted black eye.

It was still stunned and unable to fly, but it was alive, unlike its predecessors.

And about to be our new pet, I quickly decided with a change of heart.

“We need a box,” I declared and led Little Legs on a hunt for the latest empty Amazon box.

His feet padded after mine as we recovered what was to be the patient’s temporary home and hospital from the trash.

“Perfect,” I declared.

“Puh…” Little Legs confirmed with a nod.

The box really was perfect; the flaps provided shade and room enough for the bird to hop around as it regained strength. We added a handful of bird seed and a lid with water from an egg-drop soup take-out container.

Throughout the afternoon, Little Legs checked the box and lovingly tried to feed seeds to the shy beak, dropping them on its head when it refused. And then, while he was pushing his cement mixer truck around the yard, the bird hopped onto the edge of the box and took flight just as Little Legs looked up.

“Buh…buh…buh…” Little Legs waved.

Nothing lasts forever or more than a day, its all the same to a toddler.