I wake up with a strain in my left arm that is so painful I cry out when I try to pull up my pants. This means I will not only have difficulty lifting S, I will also not be able to do my early-morning workout. I cry in my husband’s arms. The scale reads 148. Still.
Luckily, S wakes up smiling and joking around. I have noticed that if he wakes up cranky and crying, this is a pretty good indicator that I will have a challenging day/morning. But he tries to make me laugh with his monster voice, and then he runs to his easel, where we have made Thanksgiving turkey placemats for my family by tracing his hand. He wants to put his hand on a turkey right away.
I decide that we should go into the city to Trader Joe’s for the weekly shop, but I can’t find a moment to create a grocery list. It is that Midwestern steely gray out and, even though I went to bed at 9:30 PM, I am dragging and forgetful. It seems to take me hours to get our stuff together, and I don’t finish my makeup or even look at my hair. When we get in the car I notice that there is a stain on the chest of my t-shirt.
I write an unnecessarily terse text to DH about an issue and then feel bad about it. We go to Giant Eagle for SB coffee and, even though I promised myself that I would be better about monitoring S’s sugar intake, I get him a vanilla milk because that is all they have, and we’d run out of milk at home. I put it in a ba-ba because it was in the car, and I forgot his travel cup at home, and I just don’t want to deal with vanilla milk spouting out of the carton all over him. “I’m ready for a sippy cup, Mommy,” a total stranger says to us as I lug S past her table, pain shooting through my arm. Part of me wants to tell her that he has been drinking out of regular open-top cups for many months now, and another part of me just wants to flip her the bird.
Once on the highway, I somehow miss our exit and end up in a strange area that the GPS has a hard time deciphering, sending me around in circles. When I finally get things straight, I miss my exit again. I look at the clock and realize that there is no way I will be able to get the shopping done in time for us to get home for lunch and nap. I will have to give him a Happy Tots pouch that he will or maybe will not consume during the drive home from TJ’s—the car-ride pouch lunch another thing I told myself I would stop doing—and then perhaps nap slouched over in the car seat.
I should just go home, I think. It’s healthier for both of us. Then I think, No, go to the store, you’re already out. Just get it over with. I struggle like this until I realize I need to pull over and decide what to do.
The next exit I see is for the Strip District.
As I turn onto that pretty blue-and-yellow bridge, it occurs to me that I could scrap both ideas and take my baby to The Strip, and see what happens.
We park and get out and the wind is brisk. “Wow!” S says, all smiles on my hip. We talk about the cars, trucks, buildings, and clouds. My spirits are lifting. We stop in an adult-looking coffee shop because I have suddenly decided that it will be really good for me to spend just a few minutes in an adult-looking coffee shop. Get my urban cafe fix.
We go in the bathroom first, and when I go to wash my hands, I see that my hair, which I air-dry, is plastered to my skull as if it has been soaked in oil. I feel it and realize that I had been in such a rush early that morning in the shower that I’d forgotten to rinse the conditioner out of my hair. And this is the first time I have looked in the mirror since my hair has dried…
And I look a little bit crazy.
Not only is my t-shirt stained on the chest, it is very wrinkled. My favorite black corduroy jacket is far too small on me, and much shorter than the t-shirt. Why had I thought I could still pull of that jacket? My hair looks insanely greasy and my glasses are slipping down to the tip of my nose. I have no eyeliner on and my eyes are quite pouchy. I have no hair tie to pull my crazy-looking hair out of my face…
Just then, I hear a sound. Splashes and giggles.
S has his arm in the toilet bowl up to the elbow and is splashing it around. Beside him is a mound of toilet paper on the floor. He is in heaven.
Finally make it out of that bathroom for my hipster coffee. Sans high chair, of course. S wants to stand on the bench, do downward dog, use the ramp-like walkway extending from the front door into the cafe as a place to race. “Mark-go! Mark-go!” (Confession: I hope he never starts saying “set.”) We leave after about three minutes, leave the sea of computers and lunch meetings, my coffee half-drunk.
Once back out on the street, things turn good again. The sun comes out. The clouds are almost silver with autumn sunshine. So many cars and trucks to exclaim over, and the scent of Peace, Love & Donuts doughnuts wafting down the avenue. Things are so fun out on the street that I go back to the car for our Ergo carrier and really get into it. We explore each street, soaking up the sites and scents, waving to people and vehicles.
We see: One cement truck, spinning; several pick-ups; TWO fire trucks; one skidsteer; police vans; FedEx and UPS trucks; buses; and the topper—A TROLLEY!!!
We went to the Trolley Museum in Washington, PA yesterday with Dada, so this is particularly exciting. The trolley driver sees us pointing and dings his bell as he goes by.
The firemen get out of the firetruck and walk right by us on the sidewalk. “You are his heroes!” I tell them, and they are so tickled. S jiggles his legs and bellows: “BAH-BYEEEEEE!” waving.
Then he swivels his sweet little face toward the sky, sees a phalanx of birds way, way up there. “Aw!” he says in his high-pitched wonder voice. “Bye-bye, caw-caw, bye-bye!”
I am trying to figure out where we can comfortably have lunch when S darts his finger across the street at an Italian eatery. “I this! I this!” he says.
“You’re the boss,” I say, laughing, and we cross the street. I duck in and say, “There isn’t any chance you have gluten-free pizza…?” I ask at the counter. Miracle of miracles: they do.
I tell them that we want to eat at a table on the sidewalk, and though they look at me with funny eyes and barely veiled judgment, a man takes us outside into the chilly wind. I think of Prague, where I once lived, and the children eating outside, playing outside, for hours, in winter. I think of his preschool, where he gets two hours of outdoor time every day, rain, snow, or shine. I think of how I romped around in a huge, icy, leafy puddle with him yesterday afternoon. People think kids are fragile, but they are so tough, so invigorated by the outdoors.
I do keep checking in with him, because it was quite chilly, but he says, “Ou-side!” He is having a ball, pointing to the motorcycles, cars, vans, trucks going by, making vehicle noises, waving. I do the same. He is eating ice cubes, puckering his lips, giggling: “Oooo! Col!!!” He is doing the starman handshake with me (he is the one who always remembers) but instead of saying “yay” he says “puh-tuh!” Pizza!
Across the street, a t-shirt vendor is playing wonderful Frank Sinatra music. It is all so romantic. Fall leaves raining down from somewhere. My baby so, so happy.
“Mama!” he says every once in a while, looking at me, like, Hey, I’m with my mama, and I’m having so much fun.
The pizza is delicious. I remember how I was going to start trying to feed him less things like pizza this week. As we grin and chew, I am glad I “forgot.”
“Abeeyah, abeeyoh,” he sings, shaking his head back and forth. I hope he never stops saying “abeeyah-abeeyoh.”
When we’re finished and back at the car, when I put him in the car seat, he decides it will be high comedy if he slides all the way down, so that his head is in the bottom of the seat and his legs are up. Then he takes his rain-jacket hood and presses it over his face, puckering his lips. I kiss his lips through his hood, and he cackles.
“Mama, dada, baby, bay-beeee,” he is saying in the back seat as I pull into traffic. In the rearview mirror, I see him pointing to himself with both fingers as he says “baby.”
Two minutes down the road, he has fallen happily asleep.
Now he is in his crib and I am typing. His diaper is a balloon and he still has pizza sauce on his cheeks. I need to get into the shower and finish showering this time. But I wanted to capture all of this first, and am so glad I did. These are the days I will miss so much when he is older, and I am working, and he is at school and extracurriculars or with his friends. My baby and me, in the chilly autumn air, eating pizza to Frank Sinatra music, in love with each other and with life.
You never know where, exactly, the day will lead. Feeling grateful for surprises.