The back-and-forth of getting a toddler up in the mornings is starting to wear on me. I thought we’d have more time before I could buy clothing without Maggie’s input, but here we are; the only clothes that can be worn are ones selected by Maggie and the rest are forcibly rejected. Like most mothers of my age and education and social class, I feel weak and ineffectual. I vacillate between wondering if I should encourage her independence in picking an outfit that pleases her, if it’s building her confidence to do so, and is it wrong to just say “For the love of God, the shirt you want isn’t clean. Wear this.”
I don’t know. Today I don’t care. I just want to get everyone in the car and on the way to the craft store so Moira will sleep through most of the outing and I won’t have to nurse her in the front seat of the car.
Why don’t I know where I’m going? Why is it so hard for me to follow the damn street signs? It’s a clear day, no clouds, minimal traffic, and it’s a straight shot on A61 to the store in Leeds. I’ve been there before; why can’t I remember if this is familiar or not? It’s something that used to drive me crazy about my high school boyfriend. “We’ve gone down this road a hundred times! Why do I have to remind you when to turn?” “I’m sorry! I don’t remember directions! I’m just not wired that way.”
I didn’t used to be that way. Now I am. Whether it’s sleeplessness of having a newborn or simple distraction, I can’t remember how to get to where I want to go. It’s 5am on the East Coast but wish I could call him up. I’m sorry, I’d say. I understand now. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Of course I can’t call, but I hope he’ll feel a little prickle on the back of his neck and know that someone on the other side of the world is wishing him well.
The sun splinters the road before me as I make another u-turn. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
It’s been an hour longer than it should have been. I still can’t find the store. A wrong turn brought me onto a motorway, which I managed to exit but not before I saw a fork that would have rerouted me in the direction of London. We circle Leeds again and again and I expect Chevy Chase’s voice to pop out of my stereo, except instead of “Big Ben. Parliament!” it would be “Royal Armouries! That porn store!” I decide the supplies I had wanted to get–a few things for homeschool crafting and activities–aren’t worth it, but I don’t want my trip to be a waste. The kid room at the Royal Armouries is fun, and free, so we’ll go there.
The kid room is being renovated. Nothing is easy today. I find a sunny corner to feed Moira, who has been more patient than I’d expect, and try to decide how I’m going to salvage the day. I decide on pizza at the little sit-down place around the corner; they have balloons for kids and if nothing else I know Maggie will eat their signature pizza dough balls dipped in butter. Maggie blows me away at lunch. She sits politely and silently, doodling on the kid’s menu and enthusiastically sharing half of my caprese salad before digging into Roman-crust pomodoro pizza. She drinks from an adult glass–the actual shatter-prone kind–with no issues. There’s hardly a mess, save for an errant smudge of sauce. All in all, she is delightful company and it was wonderful dining out with them. On the way out of the parking garage I look to my right to check traffic and see the craft store. If I had looked around a little, if I hadn’t been so focused on trying to follow the path I had picked I would have seen it.
The universe needs to get better writers; a metaphor that heavy-handed would get laughed out of a Writing 101 workshop.
Somehow I manage to settle Maggie for a quick nap at home before heading out to a haircut. I need something sassy and fun; failing that, I’ll get something manageable and short. In the great tradition of postpartum hormone recalibration it’s begun to fall out in huge clogs so the shorter the better. Moira sits on my lap and gazes into the mirror, oblivious to the snips of hair that have begun to coat her back. Maggie hangs back by the cash register. I offer to make an appointment for her but I know better and the look she fixes me with confirms it–there will be no haircuts for this one. She was asked to be a flower girl in a wedding this summer and my first question was “How important to you is it that her hair look nice?” The suggestion that she might like to see everyone else get their hair done and do likewise filled me with hysterical laughter. Literal hysteria, in fact; I’ve given up on even brushing it into a simple ponytail. The idea of an actual stylist is like inviting an unpinned grenade into your home. She doesn’t give a damn if you like her, which is admirable…in its way. For better and for worse, Maggie has her own agenda and to hell with yours. Maybe we can get her a straw hat.
But the moments when her agenda meshes with mine? Divinity with a side of pizza dough balls.
It ends on my side, this long day of errands and busywork. Reading but not processing; thinking idly and drifting. But I’m still working–the hunger of an infant is primal and doesn’t recognize “Wait just a second.” We settle into a rhythm and her eyes bulge as Moira grabs my skin to pull me deeper into her; the fear that the milk might vanish fuels her first few gulps and then she settles. Her body arches into mine and we both doze off, her hot breath on my skin and her warm, sleepy weight grows more solid next to me on the bed. I think she dreams of milk; certainly, with the tiny twitches in her legs and the occasional sighs and shudders, I can be sure she is dreaming of something.
But not me. Tonight, I won’t dream at all.