Today at the gym: back and chest. Broad jumps. Burpees. Rowing. Knees. Core. Little pieces of myself, coming together again.
At home, I returned emails and lined up the projects for the day. At noon, I had an appointment to get my dog, Neruda, groomed up north at Pocket Puppies. Should be a pretty benign task – one for which I am completely capable (this was pre-baby, of course). For those of you who don’t own a five pound dog, they can be tricky. Tricky in the sense that they are the fastest creatures alive and if they escape into the hallway, they can run sprints up and down the stairs for an eternity. And, if they are indoor, like our dog, they do not know how to properly walk with a leash. Case in point: Neruda.
As I struggled to hoist the car seat, the diaper bag, sunglasses, keys, and Neruda into my arms, we made it carefully down the two flights of stairs, Neruda being dragged on her leash the entire way. Outside, she ran circles around my ankles and the car seat, tying us in a knot. Throwing Neruda in the car, I managed to fit Sophie into her car base before pulling out.
Like most dogs, Neruda likes to ride in my lap. With slightly soft brakes, a baby, the heat, midday traffice and a dog, to say I was on the verge of sensory overload is an understatement. Luckily I found parking and paid. Hoisting Neruda in one arm, I removed the massive stroller base from the trunk, fit Sophie’s car seat on it, then paid for the ticket and slipped it in the car, one hand on the stroller at all times.
At Pocket Puppies, the door wouldn’t open all the way, and the base of the stroller barely fit through. I felt the sweat gathering under my arms, my natural deodorant failing me as always. They took Neruda and I struggled to get back out onto the street. Now, where to go. I took a left down a side street and was instantly met with my dream neighborhood. Here is the block I will one day live on. There is my brownstone with the sprawling porch. Alex and I will have coffee and pancakes on Sundays and hold Sophie snugly in our arms. There is the cafe we will frequent. These are the trees we will plant. This is the way we will walk to head to the small area of water, in the middle of a winding path.
I began walking a new way, discovering artists tucked beneath leaves, painting on small, expensive canvases. It reminded me of Paris… I looked at my sleeping daughter, removing her socks from the sudden rise in heat. We walked entirely around the water, my flip flops rubbing blisters against my skin. After 40 minutes and still no phone call from the groomers, I decided to head to Starbucks for an ice water.
Another mother with a newer stroller came in and looked at my baby – that instant, unspoken invitation to begin a conversation wrapped up in ten pounds of flesh. “How old is she?”
Turns out our babies were the same age. Sophie and Samuel. “Sounds like they should be friends,” she said, with the ease of a mother who’d just had her second child.
I almost asked her if she wanted to be friends, since the mothers I know here are few and far between, and the ones who can hang out in the middle of the day are even rarer. And those friends who don’t have babies have seemingly backed off as I adjust to life with an infant. And when we do talk, it’s about this other world that I have just stepped into. Will I forever be identified by my baby? Will this be the starter for most of my adult conversations?
I left and went back to Pocket Puppies. “It should be about another 30 minutes,” the girl said.
“What?” I asked. I looked at my phone. “It’s been an hour. You mean she’s not even started yet? She’s just been sitting down there for an hour?” I immediately conjured a dark dungeon with cages, my little fluff ball crying without me. I wanted my dog back.
“What am I supposed to do for 30 more minutes?” I asked, knowing that Sophie would wake up soon, and if she started crying, I’d never be able to get her back into her car seat. I walked around and around and finally came back half an hour later.
“Ten more minutes,” the girl trilled.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said.
One pound dogs circled my toes and dipped under the stroller wheels. A flurry of white surrounded every inch of the tile. Shrill barks invaded my ears, small paws banging against the clear cages. And then a huge blast: Sophie shitting her pants.
“You didn’t,” I said. I looked at the worker, who had an appalled look on her face. “Can I use your bathroom?”
“We don’t have one,” she said.
I looked at the two red couches, reserved for those who wanted to coddle overpriced puppies. “Can I change her over there? I have a changing pad. I won’t get anything anywhere.”
I let myself into the gated area, puppies nipping at my ankles. Sophie started crying and dogs attacked my feet like pirrhanas. I struggled to keep Sophie on the couch while changing her and ignoring the searing pain from the little miniscule pups who thought my toes were little pink bones. They dove into my diaper bag. One started chewing on a diaper.
I finished and Neruda was brought upstairs, a stupid red, white, and blue bow in her hair. A bandanna was tied around her neck. “Like it?” the girl asked.
No, no I don’t, I wanted to say. I struggled to get Sophie in the seat, fish around for my check card, grab my dog and get outside. Once in the car, Sophie had a meltdown, crying so hard she could barely breathe. I removed her from the car seat and offered her my sweaty breast, there in the broad daylight of Lincoln Park. Fifteen minutes later, she was still crying.
Finally, I strapped her in, steeling myself against her cries and began driving. She fell instantly to sleep.
What should have taken an hour took three.
Welcome to motherhood.
I need a cocktail.