I hear his high cry from down below. Why me? Why meeeeeee?
We are in the parking lot of uncle Chris’ apartment in Chattanooga. We have arrived a minute or two early and the boys are ready to conquer the playground. Almost before I can soak in the amenities that this modest complex has (pool, playground, large picnic lawn) Oliver is wounded. A shin bump, a toe turn, oh wait…the double hand scrape.
He is so pitiful. His thin wavering wail, the snot and tears mingled. His exhaustion from starting the day at 4:30 am is lowering his functional age to about three. He manages to get his broken self down the playground stairs to meet me in the parking lot and bury his snotty face in my last clean pants. I don’t mind, this sort of sadness is so uncharacteristic that it is like a visit from our past and I pat his blond head and talk right over him.
Chris has the baby.
On my way here I wrote a fellow blogger about my deep dislike of babies. I told her they were useless until they are 18 months at least. I realize that this might just be a story I tell myself for humor or self protection after the miscarriages. I have spent time with both of the boy’s cousins recently and I REALLY like these babies.
When we started with our pediatrician I remembering asking her what age was her favorite. She was not yet a mother, and pretty much any answer she gave would have set herself a future trap, but she told me “four months.” I looked down at Oliver’s wrinkly red premature face and realized that was a long long time away. Until it wasn’t and I held a 6 month old in her office and felt like he had already peaked. I knew then I shouldn’t have asked that trap question nor should she have answered, but I did and she did and I took my overaged baby to another doctor the next checkup and didn’t go back. I tell myself it had something to do with doctor gender, but I think it was that shred of an idea that my baby was already too old for her. I’d rather someone who at least pretended to maximally enjoy all of his patients and that led us to the great hugger. Dr Brad. Who loves you.
In any case this particular baby is 4 months and I get what the pediatrician meant. He is wide eyed. WIDE EYED and with us. He is a great kind of selfish. He has a self. But it doesn’t demand anything more than looking at our big beautiful world. He is self-ish. Not selfish. Did I pound that point home?
So I do those baby things, trail my finger in his powder soft skin fold, kiss kiss kiss kiss his downy head. Sniff him on his head to avoid his sour milky smell. Show him the baby in the mirror. Have you EVER seen ANYTHING as incredible as that baby in the mirror? EVER? NEVER!
Then in a minute the world has turned upside down and nothing is right. That bottom lip is out so far. The cry, his own version of Oliver’s why meeeee? echos through the apartment. I laugh at him. He is just so utterly sad. The saddest baby on earth. The saddest baby in the entire universe and beyond. Something has injured his psyche. It is his parents game to play, the new mom’s version of hot and cold. But he doesn’t even give the clues. Not hungry, not tired, not wet, perhaps hot or cold.
I think it is none of those things. Whatever it is it will pass and he will be wide eyed again, screeching out at the mirror baby or the cousin Leo.
My boys like to recount their bruises. More count actually than recount. It is not the story, just the suffering that they want to revisit. How can these sturdy bodies host all of these scrapes, scabs and discolorations?
We leave the three cousins with Grandma, who is true to her boys’ insistence that she would rather be feeding, burping, swaddling, and murmuring ascent to whatever word pile of stories my boys are spilling out than pretty much anything. Chris and Kim give swaddle demonstrations, bottle instructions, and show off the video monitor.
I prepare to mock them for that particular technology which displays the baby who is literally on the other side of the wall, but Grandma gets there first. “In my day we would just open the door.” And sets the monitor aside, presumably to be used by my kids as some sort of imaginary cockpit device. Steve and I call out a “have fun” and not even Leo insists on a kiss.
So we set off.
As much as I love Chattanooga I cant move here. I would weigh 600 lbs. They fry everything. My internal monologue about ordering a salad for dinner is totally set aside at Brewhaus where Chris’ beer is bigger than his head and even the pretzel is bigger than the plate. For some reason we are talking about basset hounds at dinner and I remember the website about basset hounds running.
Look at those dogs run. Even their toes are funny. Eye folds, long ears, jowls. I think we have bred them for our own amusement.
We talk about Howard Zinn and the liberal view of Christopher Columbus. I am so steeped in this liberalism that I have absolutely no rebuttal to why this is just emerging into public consciousness now. Do any of you know? I fall back on the Oatmeal comic. Always an excellent source for political discourse, and Steve tells Chris and Kim about how I explained lethal injections and the electric chair to the kids in the car earlier today. The boys would have gone on for quite a long time asking questions, but my mother in law was riding shot gun. I am already a liberal, rich, jew, and now I am spouting out the steps of the death penalty? So Steve tries to stop me, and I let him because I had run through my information and google was offline. Oliver helps out by playing the “guess what color I am thinking of game?” and Leo once again shows me how he is my son when no one guesses :” the color of poison that kills people under penalty of death.”
I am being killed by something other than lethal injection this trip…but it is the most lovely death:
- Aretha Frankenstein’s biscuits, gravy, eggs, sausage (it was supposed to come with fried potatoes but they had run out)
- Pepperoni pizza
- Fried chicken, french fries, beer
- Key lime pie
- Bacon donut
- Fried chicken, pulled pork, ribs, brisket, slaw, potato salad (this is lunch folks)
- Pretzel, schnitzel, spaetzle, vodka
After the Brewhaus, which in quite a diverse city is populated entirely of white people making me naturally question Naziism. (btw- snopes says the Coors family is right wing but not actually KKK-y)
We walk across the pedestrian bridge, or almost do. But I get foot pain. I have completed day 5 of the couch to 5 k program, and as I hobble along I remember the warning that I had to check at the beginning of the app. “You are a fat ass, you will follow our program exactly. If you feel like you can run further, don’t. If you feel like you can run more frequently you won’t. You have spent the last 20 years on the couch. Any step more than we recommend will leave you hobbling on the bridge. So sit your ass down until your next run.” Or something like that. The fit people laugh at me as I explain this.
So after some pool we head back to relieve grandma. As I try to buckle my seat belt I scream in pain. Even though I have already received foot sympathy Chris and Kim ask after my pain. When I talk about my strange isolated right ring finger knuckle problem, bruise? Arthritis? and Steve looks back at me quizzically I want to cry out Why meeeee? But instead shoot him this gem: “You KNOW, my teacup injury, I have been telling you about it for SIX MONTHS.” The laughs fill the car. Tea cup injury. It doesn’t conjure the right image. The cup is a mug, and quite solidly built. Instead they help me come up with another story.
I am a basset hound dog walker. I manage 10 dogs at a time. The right ring finger basset is quite a runner. Its amazing I am still alive.
In case you worry Chattanooga is all about eating we also hit the carousal, the aquarium, the discovery museum, played football and went swimming. Shockingly no one was injured so those stories can’t make this post. If you are not worried about your weight I HIGHLY recommend visiting or relocating to Chattanooga. Warning though- Griffin may have already peaked.
Prompts for you:
Chris Columbus, deified in 1930, or an actual mad explorer?
Would you ever own a basset hound?
Fried chicken or BBQ for eva?
Have you been to Chattanooga?