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.

The Best of Me

He’s on the floor, staring into the plastic eyes of a stuffed dog. 

Using his uncoordinated hands like mitts,

he pulls the dog towards his open mouth while squealing in delight. 

He abandons the dog, throwing it off to the side,

and is suddenly on his back, a boy-turtle with chubby thighs.  

My heart is full as he makes his way through our tiny daytime world of two.

turtle

Shots all around

bear sleepingThe nervous parents waited with their infant son.  He was wrapped in a blanket, dressed only in a dry diaper, per the nurse’s order.  His chubby feet stuck out from the bottom of the blanket with ten perfect, little piggies ready to go to market.   

He laughed and blew spit bubbles, unaware of the purpose of their visit, vaccinations.  He was content with the attention of his parents and the ability to grab his toes.  It was a gift of inexperience and limited short term memory.  Otherwise, he might have been screaming and fighting to make his way out of the office and away from his next round of shots.      

After a few minutes, the doctor breezed into the room wearing a pair of shiny, black boots.  He stopped to shake everyone’s hand, including the smallest, drool covered one.  

“Welcome to town.  I understand y’ all just moved here.” 

Thoroughly baby-slimed, he washed his hands in the sink without missing a beat.  Bodily fluids came with the territory of pediatric care.

“That’s right, we’ve been here about four weeks.”

“Well, I hope you like it so far.  Let’s back up and go over your boy’s medical history.”

After a few questions, they were caught up.  It didn’t take long to cover four months.   

“Now where is he sleeping?”

Sensing a moment of hesitation, the doctor turned away from the screen of his laptop and faced the parents.  He caught a quickly exchanged grimace between the two.  Their sleeping arrangements had been a point of contention over the past month.

Just the night before, they restarted the same ongoing conversation.

“I don’t like him in our room, I’m afraid you will fall asleep with him in our bed.”  

“And then what?” his wife asked with flashing eyes.

“I don’t want to say, but I would feel better if he was in his own room and in his crib, not in the pack-n-play in our room.”

A conclusion was not reached that night.

“Well, he’s in our room, next to the bed,” the baby’s mother started.

Before she could finish, the good doctor cut her off.

“He’s outta there,” he said motioning his thumb backwards over his shoulder, like an umpire making a call.  

 “We don’t want him to think that he needs his mommy to go to sleep, right?”

Obviously, this was a leading question, but the boy’s mother wasn’t quite ready to answer.     

A Day of Sorry’s

erBy the time we pulled into the parking lot, we were already ten minutes late and mildly frazzled from three epic diaper blow outs that morning.  To be accurate, I was the only frazzled one from the series of mustard yellow-up-the-back-need-a-new-onsie diaper situations, while the baby was left pleased with his work.

“We made it, at last,” I said over my shoulder towards the backseat where the little prince patiently waited in his car seat with bright eyes and a rattle.

It was our first attempt at making new friends since moving from the Heartland. 

One might ask how an introvert with a baby makes friends in this day and age?  Considering that most of my friends were from school or old jobs, I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it without having formal employment or classes in common.  And I wasn’t keen on sitting in a Starbucks trying to strike up a conversation with an equally lonely, caffeinated stranger.  So, I turned to the internet for help.

Surprisingly, within a few keystrokes I found a group on Facebook for this very demographic, introduced myself and hit confirm for the next group date.  It was all too easy, I suppose, because when we arrived, no one else from the group was there.

I clicked the baby into the stroller and walked the perimeter of the park, certain that the members of our new crew were just out of sight.  We walked past the swings and the sandbox where the older kids played with their caregivers watching from the sides.  Spotting a breastfeeding woman and then a pod of women with babies under a shady grove of trees, I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Our new friends are up there.  We have not been forsaken,” I said already feeling a connection to the woman nursing her infant and grateful for the power of technology and the internet.

How else would we have found our new tribe so quickly, I wondered? 

The group was up a hill, not easily accessed via stroller, but I was determined to connect and pushed with all of my might upwards over bumps and ruts.

“Sorry, baby,” I whispered jostling his head from side to side as we bumped along.  “I’ll get you out in a minute and you can play in the grass with the other babies.”

A little out of breath and nervous, I yelled out as we approached, “Hi everyone, I’m sorry we’re late.”

Two blonde women chased a wild-haired toddler who ran towards us recklessly laughing.  They looked up with barely veiled disdain. 

One said, “Sorry, we’re a part of the Tinkerbells and we aren’t expecting anyone else to join.”

“Ok, sorry, I guess we’ll head back down the hill.”  

And down we went, back over the bumps, at a much faster speed thanks to gravity and embarrassment, back towards the play area where we waited on a bench for nobody, like Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie.  

All the lonely people, where do they all belong?