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Things I Learned This Week From Baby

Bathing the Young Heir
Mary Cassatt – circa 1891

 

Well, here I am, sitting in my sun-splashed living room while my husband watches football, wondering what my baby girls are doing on a Saturday in Arkansas. My feet hurt. The last time I remember my feet hurting like this was when I was nine months pregnant with my firstborn more than twenty-one years ago, and this is by no small coincidence. Since both Lily and Clara are now away at college, I am watching a baby in my home. This week was my first week with Baby.

Baby is a nine month old baby girl who has a little fluff of blond hair on her head that glints red in the sunlight. She has very serious blue eyes and a perfect pout that, when she nods off to sleep, easily melts my heart. She is, however, used to being held and never put down. To be fair, I was warned by her parents. I was also warned that she did not nap. Ever. All of these things were good and well, though, because Baby had a secret.

Baby was tired.

She was so tired, in fact, that she took two naps her first day here and three naps every day thereafter. It’s true she likes to be held, and that is why my feet are suffering so, but we are learning that there are more interesting things to do than being held all of the time. I think we are going to get along just fine, if her smile when she sees me first thing in the morning is any indicator.

There are, however, a few lessons Baby taught me this week. She taught me how to gather and refold a damp cloud of baby wipes. She taught me that I should never, ever walk the “wrong” way around the block as there is a rather steep hill going in that direction. Funny how I never noticed it in all the time I trained for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. How much do you weigh, Baby? I learned that wearing my good running shoes instead of going barefoot on my hardwood floors is a good idea while Baby is adjusting to not being carried all of the time. And, most of all, I learned that forty-seven doesn’t feel a bit like twenty-seven.

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I’ll Fly Away

A Walk on the Beach
Edward Potthast

Will, the girls, and I are taking a little family vacation this week. I wish I could tell you about all the educational aspects of our little foray and include photos, but that will have to wait. We are first and foremost getting away to have some quiet time together as a family. Since the loss of my mother, I have been relentlessly pushing people away from me including my own husband and children. I haven’t really cried about things, but I wouldn’t even know what to cry about if I could.

My mother and I had a complicated relationship. I wish I could tell you what a wonderful mother she was because, in turns, she was. But then, it would feel like a half-lie. And a half-lie is almost always or usually very nearly a full lie. If I tell you of the other topsy-turvy, spinning turns of my life with my mother, I would feel like I was betraying the good in her. She was a woman living her life as best she could on this planet. How can I criticize that?

If I tell you how much I want my mommy right now, you would assume I meant my mother. I assumed I meant her. Now I am not so sure.

I feel so lost. I want someone to hold me, rock me back and forth and softly, through my great heaving sobs, tell me that everything is going to be okay. Someone who won’t care that I am getting her shirt all wet with my tears. And I want to stay there as long as I need to stay there. Not until she tires of it all and plops me back down on the hard wooden rocker all alone. I want to be able to cry myself to sleep and wake up still in my mother’s arms. But not really my mother.

My husband wants me to get on with my life. To buck up. To be the adult. I don’t want to be the adult right now. I want to have a great, screaming meltdown in the middle of the supermarket floor just as the cart is already half full of groceries and everyone is staring and muttering that someone really should do something about this child.

My children want me to help them with their math problems. To fix their dinner. To clean the tub. I want someone to do those things, too. Someone to make sure I have fresh sheets on my bed and a clean dress laid out for tomorrow. Someone who knows where my shoes are.

Where is she? Where is this person called Mother. Who is this person called Mother? Why is everyone looking at me?