I was looking for one of those
stroller sleeping bag things for wintertime in Buy Buy Baby – you know, that
store with the no ceilings and four hundred thousand different models of strollers
– and as soon as I walked in, I remembered this time a few months before I was
pregnant when I was buying a gift for a friend’s future kid, and I got this gut
punch of nostalgia.
Three years ago (just like now) Buy
Buy Baby was jammed with so much stuff, mountains of baby things, but those
things weren’t actually my responsibility – all I had to do was sift through them to
find some useful shit to give to someone else. She was going to birth the baby,
this friend, carry that baby with her places, plop a breast out for that baby, photograph
that baby and post those photographs on Instagram above witty captions, make
the entire surreal, poignant, infuriating and unending thing look not just
manageable but breathtaking, or, at the very least, REAL CUTE.
She was going to do that and I was
going to watch, take notes, back float in possibility (until after midnight,
far from my home, as one can, BEFORE).
[Click on the date below to keep reading…]
I left the store with nothing more
than a big plastic wrapped play mat. I left, in my unassuming wake,
hundreds of tiny shirts with crotch snaps, yellow and white boxes with images
of oddly shaped plastic parts, the word breast
featured prominently, and pouches protecting tiny nail scissors, green
packages of wipes stacked on wipes and wipes and wipes. I left a million things
behind, as every customer must. I left
behind also that invisible orange cone in my brain protecting me from believing
a baby was a good idea RIGHT NOW. If it
was as easy as getting the right stuff, Buy Buy Baby said to me – in its
seductive, intellectually challenged language – we could do it. We could do
this thing. I could acquire another plastic wrapped play mat. For my future
Of course there was more to it than
that! Of course there was. But something did come unfastened in me at that gross
and intoxicating big box store. You could say having a baby is a magical thing
and you’d be right, but you’d also be right if you said it could be something
you just do, if you think you might want to, because the magic ebbs and flows,
like with anything, like it does even in actual magic shows.
I knew, before I walked into the
store, that we wanted at some point to have a baby. That is all I knew, that I
wanted to have one. I did not know if I wanted to raise one, check one for
fevers every few months, negotiate – my legs in a deep squat – everyday
obviousness, like the value of coat-wearing or of not hitting my face while
being denied certain snacks.
And now I have been doing that more
or less for two years. Last night, Sly got out of a moving car (his Kryptonite), sat down on the stairs to our apartment, coughed twice, and
puked on his boots. He wiped his mouth, pointed in front of him and said,
“There’s the chicken!” (as if we’d been looking for it all night) and then
turned around to go upstairs.
Two years ago, around the exact same
time, I swayed into the lobby of St. Luke’s Roosevelt, sat down in a chair and
threw up on my shoes. I wiped my mouth, chucked my Toms in a garbage can, and
headed up to triage.
I don’t know what this parallel means.
Maybe every two years to the day and
hour, someone in my home will barf directly in front of themselves without
fanfare, a banal familial ritual, a marker of time, a reminder that there is no
such thing as time, a reminder that having a baby and raising a child are
similarly extraordinary and ordinary.
It is an adjustment, living without
anticipation fueling you every second of the day, as it used to for me, well
before I was anticipating a kid. When I was trying to act a lot, like as a
career, I felt like things were constantly on the verge of happening, even when
things were actually happening. And
of course, things are always actually happening. I’ve only grudgingly come to
understand that since I had Sly. And since I got older.
But with Sly around (and with my
thirties growing like vines up my body), I am finding that we do get excited
about future things, but we cannot dwell in them AT ALL, there is too much to
attend to, we have to be here, now, say, cleaning up the puke, chasing the puker
up the stairs, containing the puker in order to – hooray – resume puke
And that’s, like, five minutes. Oh
But then: think of him making you
pancakes in his kitchen! Think of him pretending the rug was the ocean and
looking for eagles (NOT SEAGULLS) on the ceiling of our apartment! Think of the
look on his face when he tells you he has just farted! THINK OF THAT.
It is nice to know that, by going
alone to that baby behemoth, and other places that remind me of times when I
was actively waiting for the future, I can get a hit of that old feeling.
It is also nice to know that when
you accidentally forget you are waiting (like because, say, you had a child or
are changing your career or are getting older or are tired of peering past the
life sitting across from you, looking to see who else is in the room), there is
a whole world to greet you. There is so much. Look. Look! There is so much.