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.

Lessons Learned

birdThe man held the large, plastic saucer in his hands and twisted the edges in opposite directions.

“See, it’s not going to break like your traditional ceramic bird bath.”

The woman took the saucer from the man to test his claim of durability for herself, twisting the edges and trying to bend it in half, without success.  Although gullible in all of her other relationships, she was not one to take the word of a salesperson at face value.  Not anymore, at least.   

Unable to break or bend it, she nodded in satisfaction and flipped the saucer over, “No price tag?”   

The man held his delicate hands in front of his chest like a squirrel with an acorn, he was determined not to lose this sale.  Surprisingly, things weren’t as lucrative in the bird supply business as one might imagine. 

“Well, that’s actually our last one.”

The woman raised her eyebrows in question.  

“Last one?” she asked incredulously. 

The last time she heard that line, she ended up with a slick ceramic, cushion-less couch that was impossible to sit on without sliding off of it.   

Mustering his most pathetic expression, he explained, “These are made in China and with the tariffs, we can’t get anymore.  Don’t know when, or if, we will ever get more.”

She pretended to take a minute to think, not to appear hasty in her decision.

“Well, I suppose I’ll take it.  And throw in some of those crushed peanuts and…”

Suddenly, her attention was redirected towards something unusual and glorious.  It was a crane standing in a bucket of rocks, fashioned out of wire no thicker than that of a coat hanger.  Perfect in every way.  Her daughter would have added, perfectly tacky, and reminded her of the other garden art that had accumulated in her backyard.

“Mmm….” She mentally silenced her offspring’s voice.

“And that beautiful bird.  Add that in with the peanuts and the indestructible bird bath.”

She knew a good deal when she saw one.

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?    

Pacification

paci

The woman yanked the pacifier out of the baby’s mouth and stomped to the back door in her orthopedic, soft-soled shoes.  She unlocked the door’s double lock with two clicks; the door flew open, pushed by an invisible gust of wind that threatened to tousle the woman’s tightly permed hair.  Touching the top of her curls with a hand, she confirmed that not a hair had moved.  It was sprayed into an inflexible helmet of grey that matched her flinty personality.  

She pulled her arm back like a quarterback and let it fly, sending the pacifier into the cool, dark air of the night.  Spinning around on her heels, she turned back to her daughter and infant granddaughter.

“Don’t ever let me catch me you with something so foul and indecent in this house again.”

The door slammed shut with a bang.  Stunned by the sudden loss of her pacifier, the baby sucked in at the air as though it was still in her mouth and finding nothing there, she screamed and began to cry.  She turned red in the face as she continued to scream and big, wet tears streamed down her face, cutting a shining trail down each chubby cheek. 

“Mother,” her daughter said in disbelief raising her voice over the screaming infant.  “We just bought that for the baby.”

Dottie picked up her baby and rocked her back and forth, bringing the cries down to a whimper.  Every cell in her body longed for rest and yet there was suddenly a new surge of energy driven out of anger towards her mother.     

The front door opened and Bobby walked in with the suitcases.

“I parked the car on the side of the road…” he started and stopped.  His mother-in-law stood in front of the back door with flashing eyes and flared nostrils.  He was convinced that she was a dragon in a past life.

“What’s wrong with the baby?” he asked his wife, suspicious that his mother-in-law was somehow behind the tears of his new daughter.   

“Ahem,” his mother-in-law cleared her throat.  “Your daughter is starving and your wife is trying to trick her with that obscene rubber nipple that I took the liberty of disposing of while you were parking the car.”

Bouncing the baby in her arms, Dottie felt a swell of emotion, like an earthquake triggering a tsunami.  She was fierce in her love of her daughter and growing in her confidence as a mother.  Finally, it was her time. 

She drew herself up to her full height of five feet and two inches, took a deep breath and turned to her husband, “Bobby, please help me with the baby carrier and bag.  We aren’t staying here tonight.”   

Or at least, that’s what she wished she could have said, if they had any other place to go.

Trembling Whiskers

cats

On the day we brought Baby home, the cats met us at the door.  They were partially curious about the screaming creature who could be heard from outside, but mostly hungry from eating every last crunchy nugget left out by the cat-sitter and anxious to have their bowls refilled.

While the cats tried to understand what it was that we brought into their previously harmonious sanctuary, Baby continued to wail.  It was no wonder as to the reason for his displeasure, he had just encountered the coldest and most blustery day of winter and was only three days old.  It was a cruel change from his most recent very warm and cozy living situation of the last nine months.

His tiny, still wrinkled face was red as he continued to express his disappointment with the world as a whole.  I felt mostly responsible being the one who grew him, only to evict him in the middle of an Indiana winter.  Sorry baby Hoosier, it won’t get much better for a few months, I thought.

Meanwhile, the older cat quickly figured out what was happening, she was being replaced, yet again.  She hissed at us with yellow teeth before making her retreat into a secret, not-so-secret, hiding place under an overstuffed chair.  This left the younger cat, a fat tiger girl, alone to fight or flee from the new foe.

She incorrectly opted to fight and stand her ground.  This was her first go around with Replacement and it was as painful and confusing as anything else experienced up that point of her four years.  Hissing and baring her strong white teeth, she tensed her 14-pound body, ready to attack.  She was not about to welcome the mostly hairless and screaming creature into her home, let alone allow it to stay.

Unfortunately, this caused Baby to wail even louder.  His screams reached a new level that was surely audible throughout the hood, which also happened to be at the perfect pitch to level the cat’s ears back flat before sending her into hiding, next to the older cat under the chair.  The two were unified at last with trembling whiskers and broken hearts.

40 Weeks or the Time Spiral

timeMy ride pulls up in front of my place of work.  It’s a busy place with a constant flow of people, ideas, goods and germs in and out of the doors.  I peel myself from the cold, cement wall that is holding me upright and waddle towards the car. 

“Hey babe, and baby.”

My husband is in the driver’s seat.  He nods at me and then at my watermelon sized belly.  I have stopped driving, no longer trusting myself to navigate even the short distance between home and work in this final week of pregnancy.

“I’ve got some bad news for you,” he says with a straight face. 

I appreciate the warning, the easing into whatever he is about to share.

“Do you want to hear it now or later?”

His fingers are wrapped around the steering wheel, positioned at 10 and 2. 

“Go ahead, I can handle it.”    

I rest my hands on top of the bump that is our unborn son who squirms under the pressure.  I am only partially listening as my mental capacity has diminished, like a reservoir with all of the water drained out with just the trickle of a creek cutting across the otherwise dry bed.     

“I did some recalculations and I think we got the due date wrong.”

He now has my full attention.  I turn to him in disbelief and horror.

“What?”

This is not what a woman who has been pregnant for close to 40 weeks wants to hear.

“Yeah, I think we still have three weeks to go.”

He flicks on the turn signal and changes lanes with a quick glance over his shoulder.

“Three weeks? Three weeks?”   

The light at the end of the gestation tunnel has suddenly grown dim; I thought we just had three more days to go of constant trips to the bathroom, swollen ankles, and an award-winning waddle.  However, with three days or three weeks as a hostage to our tiny terrorist, it’s all the same when it comes to delivering the mega-baby.  

Pain, joy and a scheduled induction if this goes a day past 40 weeks (and that’s the 40 weeks by my calculations.)

39 Weeks

spring flowerI re-checked the carelessly jotted down room number on the sticky note with no small amount of frustration.  Was that supposed to be a 5 or a 3 or maybe an 8?  Apparently, there was something to the old saying that haste makes waste and I only had myself to blame which made me doubly frustrated.  I was going to have to walk down a flight of stairs, through a long hallway and then around the corner to get back to my desk; all the while travelling on the two marshmallows previously known as my feet, in order to get the right room number, unless I could figure it out based on the information available.

Think, I encouraged myself. What would a really clever and mentally clear-headed person do right now? 

I was carrying around an extra 30 pounds (dare I admit to the full amount?) between the baby and the protective layers and fluids keeping him suspended in a utopian womb world.  Over the past few days, I had started reviewing every potential destination and the required steps as a want or a need.  Life was getting pretty challenging in terms of doing normal human things like walking, sleeping and even eating.  Unfortunately, the way things looked, a trip back to the office was going to be a necessity as I had some paperwork that needed a signature and randomly popping into rooms didn’t seem like a productive option.

I glanced around for last minute inspiration, desperate not to make a second trip, and realized what I needed was right in front of me.  The meal order slips were clipped outside of each door with room numbers and names.  A quick peek at the slip closest to me revealed that I found the right room and a trip back to the office was not needed.  Hitting the hand sanitizer, I gave a sigh of relief and rubbed my hands together, dispersing the cold foam between my fingers and palms.   

Was I perhaps on the verge of returning to the world of the clear-thinkers? A leg kicked at my ribs and an elbow stuck out just above my belly button, reminders that this dream was clearly not to be for some time.    

A large trashcan on wheels rolled past me, directed by an old, wizened Indian woman with long black hair, pulled back into a low knot.  She wore scrubs and non-slip, black leather shoes.  Yellow gold earrings hung from either side of her tiny head.  She looked into my face with deep brown and knowing eyes.

“Baby come soon.”

It wasn’t a question, but rather a statement that only unclear in the soothsayer’s definition of time.  I felt overjoyed, like seeing a delicate spring flower break through the winter snow, there was hope.  I leaned against the wall, allowing her to pass and to rest my weight on something more stable than the before mentioned marshmallows. 

“I hope you’re right…”

She rolled her trash can past me and yelled over her shoulder, “It is a blessed thing,” and disappeared around the corner.   

But when?  When will it happen? I wondered silently, already knowing the answer.

Soon.

Not you, Peg.

cookies

Class starts early for a Saturday, but it’s usually worth wrangling with the alarm clock.  There is a different topic and speaker each month, a sense of community, and a variety of homemade snacks.  Blueberry muffins, granola, fresh strawberries, cookies, crackers and a veggie tray are crammed together to cover the snack table on a regular morning.  I even gave up bringing my own stash of nuts and fruit because of the confidence that I felt in the generosity of the class to provide a spread of tasty treats.

We arrived late last week and shimmied behind the chairs of punctual members of class, carefully stepping over purses and bags to the last open seats on the far side of the room. The instructor finished with the announcements and upcoming volunteer opportunities as I began to strategize my trip to the back of the room to visit the snack table.  

How to do it without disrupting the rest of the people in the row again or drawing the notice of the instructor?  I was excited about what new surprising options awaited me and devised a complicated route to shimmy around a few more people at the end of the row, only to double back along the edge of the room where the treasure beckoned me.

“Excuse me, I have something to share,” a voice shouted from the front of the class.

It was Peg, short for peg-leg, but I think her real name was Brenda or Donna.  She was a below the knee amputee who always had something to say.  She pushed a pair of black framed glasses onto the top of her head and into a nest of light brown, tightly permed curls. 

“I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies and snicker doodles.”

She took a sip from a can of Dr. Pepper that was next to the unnecessary stack of papers, notebooks and books that she brought to each class.  I felt a mild irritation that she had to stop to take a drink to deliver what was sure to be a ridiculous message, but also a softness in my heart from the mention of the snacks that she brought for the day.  She spent time and energy to gather the supplies and to mix the ingredients in the perfect ratios, to stand in front of the hot oven and pull the cookie trays out after carefully watching the dough turn brown and the chocolate chips to melt through the oven window.

“But I left them on the kitchen counter this morning, right next to the plate of Rice Krispy treats.” 

A gasp escaped from my mouth before I realized that my jaw was hanging open; it was like the mailman forgot to close the lid to the mailbox and all of the letters and advertisements ended up scattered across the yard.  

“That’s why there isn’t anything sweet over on the table.”

She shrugged, not in an apologetic type of way, but rather in a matter-of-fact-sucks-to-be-all-of-you-who-don’t-get-to-eat-the-cookies-that-were-allegedly-left-on-the-counter way and pulled her glasses back onto her pasty face.  Her announcement was over.  She was over as far as I was concerned and had no idea of the impact from her negligence on her hungry and partially-insane-from-pregnancy and hormonally-imbalanced classmates or one classmate, in particular.  I withheld the snarl that started in the back of my throat and rummaged in my bag for an old mint muttering angry words about Peg. 

After a few days of self-reflection, I came to the following conclusions about the snack situation. Perhaps this wasn’t the unforgivable trespass that I originally thought, perhaps I should have been contributing to the snack table instead of relying on the generosity of others, and just maybe I wasn’t dealing with the normal disappointments of life very well.

Sharp Edges

gummiesEveryone’s voices are too loud and the lights are too bright.  Two women laugh by the copy machine. The sound saturates the air and is broken by the code being keyed into the door. Beep, beep, beep, beep.  A third woman joins in at the copy machine, their heads lean in and their voices fall to whispers.  They share the kinds of secrets that sink ships.

Just around the corner, sits the subject of their conversation.  A powerful sitting duck.

“He needs to get up off his rusty dusty and do something about…” a voice rises from the cluster of three and falls back to an inaudible whisper.

I am unable to cope with the drama and leave the office.  While wandering the long hallways, people pass with purses and bags on their shoulders with appointments and parking validation on their minds.  Conversation is light or heavy depending on the room from which they left or to where they are heading.

Finally, I reach the safety of the coffee shop.  Dim lighting makes it a cozy nook, plus it’s harder to see stains and spills in the dark.

“A small coffee and…”

Feeling impulsive, I look around.  I need something to make me feel better about life and work and getting through the next 8 hours.  There are energy drinks in the cooler, a tray of rock-hard rice crispy treats, and barrels of healthy snacks like nuts and apples.  And then I see it, the barrel that I need.

It is filled with baggies of brightly colored, freshly packed gummy bears.

“…and this.”

I casually throw a bag on the counter like it’s no big deal.  Like I am not going to open it immediately after purchase, rip it open with my teeth if necessary, and begin to annihilate the cute little red, green, yellow, blue and orange bears.  The clear ones are garbage and will be spared, while the rest are about to be put on the once endangered and now extinct species list.

Soon I will be intoxicated with a combination of gummy-bear power and caffeine, and once again ready to take on the world.

When nothing is simple.

mouse

The couple sat next to each other, inches apart, but separated by a thousand emotional miles.

“There she goes again. Won’t let me talk,” the man started cutting at his wife with a tone as sharp as razor.  He wore a baseball hat and dark glasses, sweatpants and a t-shirt that showcased a blurry tattoo on his bicep.

His wife stared down at her planner.  The cover had a pretty floral pattern of pinks and purples, outlined in gold and protected by a clear plastic coating.  She flipped it open.  The pages were mostly blank aside from an outline of the same floral pattern from the front, traced onto the background of the calendar days, in black and white.

Her hair was dyed a honey blond and carefully curled and sprayed into place. Still, dark roots showed through, a brown base from which a fountain of fake gold flowed.  The truth always makes itself known, eventually.

“Would you please listen to the woman?  She has a job to do and you are slowing her down.”

“She said she wanted to understand where we are coming from and that is just what I was trying to do when you interrupted me.”

“Sir, I asked that question so I could get you directions to the clinic where your next appointment is scheduled,” a woman on the other side of the desk explained.  She had long, black eyelashes like spider legs and equally long, red nails.

A line formed behind the couple, the woman looked out from under her lashes and sighed.  She glanced down at a tiny Mickey Mouse clock on her desk with a sigh.  The little gloved mouse hands were both straight up.

Five long hours to go, she thought.

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