Snow in June

As the woman stared blankly into the refrigerator, she stood with a slight hunch, a droop like a bouquet of old flowers. The cold air did not revive her, it merely preserved her current wilted state from progressing any further. She was nine months pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen.

“How did this happen?” she wondered, already knowing the obvious answer.

A Tupperware container with a mass of green stared back at the woman; three-day old broccoli, she remembered from earlier in the week. Not wanting to play the food poisoning pros vs. cons game, she continued to consider other dinner combinations.

Frozen pizza and bagged salad would be easy but problematic for the lack of a bagged salad, pasta was always a hit but not very nutritious unless she added a can of peas. She mentally checked through the usual meal options and their level of popularity as the remaining cold air flowed out and around the woman.

Meanwhile, the original source of her exhaustion rode a train around the kitchen island, propelling himself forward with kicks and a realistic choo-choo sound. Every few rounds, he redirected the train at his mother’s legs which got him the attention that he needed to continue with his well-worn route.

She suddenly realized with an instant dread that the kitchen was strangely silent. The train noises stopped. No choo-choo, no plastic wheels against the ground or the sound of the train ramming into the cabinets or her inconveniently located appendages.

“Little Legs?” the woman asked as she turned around fearing what she may see.

The tall, wooden cabinet doors were open behind her and the ground was coated with a fine white powder. In the air, the powder floated down and around Little Legs as he shook an open box of baking soda to a beat only heard by his ears. For a second, he appeared as an other-worldly creature in the midst of a freakish, summertime snowstorm. His long eyelashes were tipped in the same white that covered his arms and hair, the kitchen floor and lower cabinet shelves.

He smiled and laughed, showing a pink mouth and tongue breaking from the white, as he continued to make it snow, bigger and bigger, over his head and out to the sides. As his mother approached, he frantically shook the box harder and higher, aware that his special snowstorm was about to be involuntarily terminated.

His mother kneeled and wrapped her arms around the little space creature to not only prevent his escape but also to limit the spread of the baking soda dusting. She laughed in disbelief at the mess as she removed the box from his hand, prying it from his clamped fingers.

Through a flood of fat protest tears, the boy took in the beauty of the kitchen. It was covered in white, clean and crisp aside from the footprints of his meddling mother.

With a final yowl, he turned off the tears and seemed to take a babbled vow to make it snow again.

The summer was far from over.

snowglobe

When the Cookie Monster visits

cookie monsterOver the past few weeks while remaining safer at home, we have all been brought quite literally closer with Daddy Longlegs working from home.  However, this temporary/ongoing arrangement has also meant that our places of work and play are currently one-in-the-same and naturally there is bound to be some conflict. 

Who knew it would come to a head over a peanut butter cookie?

Last week, Daddy Longlegs decided to make lunch for Little Legs and me.  He thoughtfully made each of our sandwiches according to our preferences, ham and cheese for me, peanut butter and jelly for Little Legs, with a handful of chips and strawberries to share between us.  I brought cookies and milk for dessert and boosted Little Legs into his special seat.  His seat clamps to the table where he likes to play with his food, swing his legs back and forth, and drop things for the cat to scarf down; sometimes he manages to eat, too.  

On this fateful day, I made the mistake of handing a cookie to Daddy Longlegs over Little Legs’ head and saying, “We can all have cookies after you finish your sandwich.”  

Little Legs watched the hand-off with a pair of eagle eyes that miss nothing and decided there would be no sandwich eating.  Only cookie eating.  Also, he wanted all of the cookies.  Now.

It started with a quiet whining and pointing at the distributed cookies with a grubby finger, first at his daddy’s and then at mine.  He turned his head away from his sandwich and knocked Daddy Longlegs’ hand away as he offered him a chip.  Then he threw a strawberry to the ground in anger, barely missing the cat that sat waiting and hoping for a meatier offering.

I moved to break off a cookie bit as a compromise when Daddy Longlegs’ intervened with a raised hand like a crossing guard to stop.  He was about to do some emotional mealtime redirecting.

“You can’t negotiate with a terrorist.” 

He turned to the boy who was red in the face and on the verge of screaming. 

He explained, “You have to eat your sandwich before you get a cookie.”   

And then back to me while still talking to the boy, “And mommy isn’t going to give in.  Right, Mommy?”

“He needs to eat something,” I said, driven by an irrational fear that he would starve starting at that instant unless he got a cookie.  Mother knows best, I thought, and assumed that he would naturally agree to eat his sandwich if he got a little bite of early dessert.  In short, I assumed we were dealing with a rational person instead of a toddler.

“You can’t just feed him cookies.  If you give in now, what’s going to happen tomorrow and the day after that?” Daddy Longlegs asked.

I took a minute to think, to allay my fear and push my maternal arrogance aside, and to consider things as an unbiased and rational adult.  Of course, I can’t just feed the boy cookies, he’s not going to starve, and I can’t give him everything he wants.  

He needs boundaries and vegetables. 

After all, we all know what happens if you give a cat a cupcake, he’s going to want some sprinkles.     

Sugar

A pair of dark eyes surrounded by a face full of white fur peered into the window and gave a friendly bark, not too deep, not too loud, but a bark that was just right to get the attention of a little boy playing on the other side of the room.

“Uh, babe, what is that?”

It was shocking to see this large creature looking in at us like a spectator at a zoo, curious and anxious for interaction.  In fact, so suddenly did it appear that my husband was unable to register the nature of the drooling visitor.  However, I knew exactly where the fluffy voyeur was from, further confirmed as it continued to peer into our living room, waiting to be acknowledged by someone who was still making his way to the window. 

The animal’s name was Sugar, she lived across the street, and was most often found covered in mud, racing around the perimeter of the yard barking at birds.  We learned her name just a few days ago, but had visited her through the winter and spring.  She was a living landmark on our walks, a touch-point during our travels that indicated a successful road crossing.

It appeared that she was simply returning the favor in her first moments of freedom.  We were her touch-point from a successful road crossing in the opposite direction.  

“She came to find Little Legs.”

At last, Little Legs made it to the window and shrieked in delight.  He dropped his Tonka truck which landed on my foot with a crash and a cry of pain, from me, as it was an old hand-me-down toy that was on the verge of being unsafe with metal and hard, moveable plastic bits.  Little Legs grabbed onto the window ledge with a grin that was made of the same combination of drool, teeth, and a hanging tongue as his visitor and pointed at the door.

He was ready to go out and see his friend without a window or gate between the two.  Sadly, it was a desire that was not meant to be for these two besties.  An invisible breeze blew the scent of something too juicy to ignore past the dog’s wet nose.  Sugar sniffed the air, gave another bark and took off at a full gallop, determined to spend the rest of its freedom doing dog-things from its to-do list, now one item shorter.

It is nice to have friends, isn’t it Little Legs?

Little Legs

 

His little legs wade through the tall grass,

like bright green waves,

each step threatens to pull him down.

He fights through it and reaches up for my hand with his sticky fingers. 

It is a rare moment that he will allow me to help him. 

 

Social Distance

We are still in what-appears-to-be the beginning of the quarantine.

The neighbor emerges from her house, across the street.  We exchange waves and mouth pleasantries, but it is too far for the words to travel.  She takes a step and I take a few steps until we are just divided by the road, both held back from crossing by the social distancing directive and general fear of the virus.  Everyone is a potential carrier.  Its our new paranoid reality that keeps conversations separated by six feet. 

“Y’all holdin’ up ok over there,” the neighbor asks and shoves one hand into the pocket of her jeans. She leans her weight on one leg and waves at Little Legs with her free hand.  The people of the South are sweetly cautious like this, always under the influence of their sugary tea.    

“Oh yes, we’re doing fine.  And with plenty of toilet paper to last this thing out.”

Little Legs doesn’t understand the distance, he doesn’t care about the virus, and he doesn’t appreciate being held back from darting across the road to the big, friendly blond woman who is waving at him with an equally big, fluffy white dog barking from the fence next to the house. 

He gives a squeal of displeasure and tries to escape towards the dog.  I scoop him up with one arm, glad to have secured my offspring, I am reminded to inquire about the rest of her family.

“How are your son and husband?”

As I yell across the road, it occurs to me that I have not seen her spouse in at least a few weeks.

If only I could suck the words back into my mouth and swallow them down into my growing belly to be destroyed by stomach acid and save her from whatever she is about to relate.  The grimace on her face tells the truth before she says a word.

“My son is fine, doing well in school, but my husband died in January,” she explains with a shrug meant to be careless but looks pained, a defense mechanism to roll off and away from emotion.  

“I had no clue.  I am so sorry…” I trail off and mean to say sorry for not knowing and for not being a better neighbor, but instead say nothing.

She shrugs again and says simply, “He was in a lot of pain and now he’s not.” 

“Well, don’t be a stranger,” she says.  “I’ve got to be on my way to a doctor’s appointment.”

She leaves and as we shuffle through the grass back towards the house with the promise of a snack for Little Legs and a pledge to be a better neighbor. 

As it stands, the distance between us is far greater than six feet.

 

 

Mr. Independent

The knee-high boy toddles down the quiet road, pulled forward by his own stumbling momentum.  He is a splash of color against a grey day, like a cardinal, in his bright red sweatshirt.  It drapes from his little body and hangs beyond his finger-tips; a hand-me-down still two sizes too big and too nice not to wear.

I capture the Red Flash and roll up his sleeves, one by one, while he loudly protests, obviously aware of the social distancing imperative.  He wriggles free and stops a few steps ahead of me to bend down and pat the asphalt road with both hands.  Finding it hard, unmoving and unmovable, he pops back up, pushing off of the ground from the tripod position.  

We walk side by side for a few steps.

“Do you want to hold Mama’s hand?” I ask in third person and offer my hand.

He shakes his head back and forth fast enough to give flight to the shaggy mop of his hair, it takes on a life of its own, a light brown feathered being, with spread wings.  The creature settles back into place and the boy zooms ahead a few tiny steps and looks back with a laugh and stumbles. 

Of course, I am behind him where I will always be ready if he falls to scoop him up and dust off his bottom and set him right back up to do it all over again.  

COVID-19 is not slowing us down today.

When Daddy Comes Home

The rumble of the garage door opening distracts Mr. Baby from his important work stacking plastic rings on a post.  His little ears and eyes perk up like daffodils after a Spring rain. 

“Dada, dada, dada,” he begins to chant, increasing in volume and force as he bounces up and down.

He toddles over and throws his body into my lap with a demand to be carried to the garage door.  Obviously, the mommy taxi can take him where he wants to go faster than his chubby legs can travel.

At this point, I am chopped liver and accept my new designation.  It has been a long few days on our own.  I carry the tiny tyrant to wait by the garage door and set him down on the rug. 

Unfortunately, the entire process takes too long for Mr. Baby and his patience is wearing thin.  He flexes into a tripod position and pushes off of the ground and up to stand.  He bangs his fists against the door.  He hears the movement of a suitcase, the shuffling of feet and the slam of a car door.

At last, the door knob turns and Mr. Baby’s father appears, travelworn and weary, but glad to be home.

“Hey guys, I missed you.” 

He brings his bags inside, pushes his suitcase out of the way and kneels to hug Mr. Baby.

Mr. Baby holds his arms out and then pivots to chase the rolling suitcase.  He laughs as he makes off with it down the hallway and leaves his father, open armed and crestfallen.

Suddenly, Mr. Baby is back without the suitcase and running into daddy’s arms.

Somedays, we have to laugh to keep from crying as parenthood continues to surprise, delight, crush and challenge us.  Today is one of these days that we can just laugh.

But what about a little brother?

For two days straight, rain fell without stopping from a dark, grey sky.  We couldn’t even get out to splash in puddles or go for a walk through the neighborhood because of the constant rain.  By the third day, we had to get out.  The saying, come hell or high water, finally made sense.  We. Had. To. Get. Out.

An obvious destination was the grocery store as we were getting low on milk and puffs, but running through the pouring rain with Mr. Baby on one hip just to get through the parking lot did not appeal to any part of me.  I had to find a location with covered parking or a spot close enough to the door to run through the raindrops and limit the drenching.

We ended up at the Humane Society with front row parking and a few seconds long jog to the door.

I told Mr. Baby, “Its just like the zoo, but we can take these animals home.” 

He was more interested in the way our umbrella turned the wet, grey sky into a beautiful, dry red with the push of a button as we left the car for the shelter’s door.

We cautiously strolled past cages of barking, snarling, cowering, shivering and apathetic dogs that were sausage shaped, bony, three legged, one eyed, and scruffy.  All of the animals shared one trait in common, they were ready for their furever homes.  Unfortunately, with no creature catching our attention to melt our hearts and to start the adoption application, we headed back towards the door. 

Rain pounded the parking lot, hitting so hard that the water bounced up from the ground as though it was falling upside down.  That’s a definite no, I thought, and redirected our tour towards a stack of cages behind a glass wall filled with scroungy cats.  

And there in the bottom corner of the stack was the heart-melter, the animal just waiting to join our family, the pet we never knew we needed, a huge, white guinea pig.

“Excuse me,” I asked an older woman with a volunteer tag around her neck.  “Could you help us with this guinea pig?”

“We have guinea pigs?” she drawled in the typical, slow Tennessee accent.

Much to her surprise, she followed where Mr. Baby’s finger pointed and peered through the glass.

“Well, look there, it is a guinea pig.  Go sit in one of the viewing rooms and I’ll bring him into see you.”

What a serendipitous day this was shaping up to be, we were going to be guinea pig owners.  My mind leapt to the supplies that the animal would need and where it would sleep, followed by a concern with how my husband would feel about our new roommate. 

“We have to be gentle with the guinea pig, ok?” I coached Mr. Baby while we waited for the volunteer.

He didn’t agree or disagree, rather, he just looked inside of my purse and started pawing through it in search of snacks.

Mr. Baby was thrilled when the guinea pig was delivered.  He squealed in the animal’s face and poked its nose, then he raised both hands in a maneuver that he usually reserved to smash oranges.  I scooped the terrified creature up into my hands, and in that instant, I knew he wasn’t ready for a guinea pig.

 

Mom Guilt

hair“Shouldn’t the baby eat first?” the woman asked as she poured a cup of coffee.

Although it was early, her hair was neatly combed and she appeared well-rested and ready for the day.  Perhaps as a safety measure, she spoke without looking directly at the wild woman who sat at the counter, still in the same clothes from the previous day with Medusa-like hair that was large and threatening. 

The smell of fresh coffee mixed with the sounds of a plastic toy ramming the legs of a stool and the slurping of cereal and milk.  A little boy in a fuzzy shirt and a pair of tiny, grey sweatpants played at their feet, pushing a toy truck back and forth with his own spluttered sound effects.  He was content, happy to be at his mother’s feet, free to crawl and roam.   

Refusing to acknowledge the question, the wild woman continued to shovel spoonful after spoonful of cereal into her mouth.  The baby had already eaten and she had been up for hours and found herself suddenly shaking from low blood sugar.

Of course, the baby should eat first, she thought.

And I should just shrivel up and blow away, another hairball in the wind.

Not exactly

tidesThe women sat side by side in the car, as driver and passenger.  It was a role reversal, and a shifting of the generational tides that not everyone was comfortable with accepting. 

Although it was useless to resist, it was still there.  The tension.  The involuntary give and take, like stomping the break pedal after speeding along the highway to take a sudden turn, it did come with a mild form of whiplash.  

The situation was not impossible.  Just difficult.

“I think you want me to have a hard life,” the daughter spewed, unable to control the animal that was her tongue.  Her knuckles gripped the steering wheel and she exhaled.  A slow and measured breath.

The animal was contained once more while its owner ground her back teeth together and focused on the road ahead.

“Why do you think I am here? I want you to have everything.  Why do you think I spoil you?  I don’t want you to have to suffer.  If I could take away all the things that are hard, I would, to make your life easier, not harder.”

The driver stared forward, still grinding her teeth, as fields of green whizzed past and a baby slept in the back.