Looking back… a fellow blogger’s post made me think of this…

08/07/07

 

Our new Sundays, a baby story

 

On weekends they let themselves eat pancakes.  Great fluffy pancakes with a bit of ricotta cheese stirred into the mix were drowned in maple syrup and eaten at the dining room table.  It was always a joy, a decadence, to fill their bodies up with sugar first thing in the morning.  Before the baby they used to lounge around, watch “Meet the Press”, read the Sunday Times, stroll in the park holding hands, go to an afternoon movie, make love, shop, nap, dream.

 

But now, everything was on a schedule, a never-ending schedule of feeding, burping, rocking, and wrestling the baby to sleep.  Life was lived in small increments that didn’t let up just because it was Sunday. The schedule didn’t loosen on the weekend they way their diets did, but stayed the same.  Just because it was Sunday didn’t mean the baby would sleep in as they longed for her to do.  Or that the baby would suddenly be able to skip the morning nap in order to stroll to the nearby coffee-house to sip lattes and lazily check out the open houses in the paper.

 

No, Sunday like everyday now was lived in increments.

 

Increment One:  wake-up time (too early but too bad)

 

Increment Two:  playtime for an hour on the floor with toys being turned over and over in her tiny hands or pushed aside suddenly as she squeals, discovering the cat enjoying her Sunday sleep-in in a patch of sunlight, (lucky cat) and quick as a wink the baby hustles over to give the cat a giant unwanted hug, (unlucky cat).

 

Increment Three:  the inevitable wrestling of the cat away from the baby’s longing, her hands still grasping clumps of  cat hair, and then wiping of tiny tears of longing of more kitty.

 

Increment Four:  the feeding.  Otherwise known as ‘the mess’.  The little baby is inserted into her highchair, with or without her permission to be offered multiple choices of fruits, in baby bite sized pieces or oatmeal with fruit puree on the side, or smashed fruit in a small mesh self-feeding bag – all items the baby finds more desirable for smearing in her hair.

 

Increment Five:  clean up of baby hair, baby body, and all areas within firing range of baby’s feeding followed by…

 

Increment Six:  the wrestling to morning nap-time complete with coercion through bottle, music, books, hugs, kisses, tickles, giggles and rocking.

 

Increment Seven:  the awe, the moment of pure bliss, gazing down at sleeping baby, her small chest rising and falling with each rhythmic breath, her pale blue eyelids shining, her perfect round flushed checks and, our love for her making it almost impossible to breath.

 

Increment Eight:  the collapse.  Mommy shuffles back to the couch where Daddy is slumped. 

 

“You want pancakes?” he asks.

“Sure” she says. “You wanna make ‘em?”

“I was hoping you would” he says.

“Remember when we used to go out for them? We’d stroll to Clinton Street Bakery, put our names on the list, sit and read the papare and wait over an hour to be seated?”

 

“Yeah” he says. And the futile topic dies.  He lurches forward, shoves his head into his hands and rakes his fingers through his unruly hair.  He smiles at her, remembering the way they were and brushes his hand on her leg.

She smiles back and wipes a fresh tear from her eye.

“We could always go back to bed” she suggests, gazing off into space.

“No” he says getting up with a smile, “Let’s make pancakes”.

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Bushwacking NY Style

Sailing south on Allen my cab driver pierces the bubble which divides hipster East Village and Chinatown. Until the moment of entry he’s been unselfconsciously singing along at full volume to “Dust in the Wind”.  I know we’ve made it into the country of Chinatown that I live deep within in New York City because his singing stops short.  “Dust in the… Mother Fucker! ”  My neighbors, the throngs of Chinese inhabitants, have a very bad habit of crossing against the light in the most mid boggling of circumstances. Walking between two cars mid block with not a glance in either direction, only a steady gate and a purpose, it’s almost as if they are daring to die. Not being familiar with the traffic patterns of the neighborhood can be dangerous to oneself and others. But I have lots of experience and  I am never surprised but still often agitated at the Chinese patterns of traffic in my hood. I know when to be ready to swerve my bike as a pedestrian closes in on the street.  I expect the old smoking man to step off the curb right into my path with nary a glance. More surprising is the infrequent visits by Occidental Tourists clad in khaki capri pants, white ‘walking’ shoes and lime green shirts, who stop short to gaze and wonder at some of our commonplace sights.  Two Chinese men in white coats following each other down the street, each with a dead pig slung over their shoulder.  An ancient woman with a swaying crossbow over her shoulders each end tied to giant blue bags filled with deposit recyclables as she ambles down the middle of the busy street .  A sign maker who has taken his welding out of the shop to the sidewalk and is now spreading sparks and smoke across the footpath oblivious to any passersby. As a resident, I am hardly ever fazed by the spectacle anymore. There are certain cultural differences that I will never adjust to, like bringing a rake to the sandbox and the local park. Before my son can settle in to play, I rake the garbage out of the empty sandbox and haul it to the trash bin. I tolerate the stares of the other parents but by the time I’m done he’s happily driving his truck across clean sand alongside a half dozen local kids who are not surprisingly now interested in playing there. The park in our neighborhood take such a beating that the parks we go to play in Tribeca my daughter calls ‘fancy’ parks. Strangely now when I leave my bubble of Asia and enter the rest of New York where English is the first language, that I am often startled when I am understood on the first try.  But when I re-enter my satellite neighborhood, pierce the bubble, smell the fish buckets from the fishmongers,  the incense from the storefront temples, and have to adjust my step to avoid bumping my neighbors, that is when I feel safe and home. There is a luxury to being so anonymous in the small town world of Manhattan.

My Job as Life Guard.

In my urban lifestyle I am constantly seeking safety for myself, my kids and my fellow New Yorkers.  I remember all the safety keepers in my own life. Life Guards were legendary in my childhood. Perched above on crow’s nest chairs, looking down from behind their mirrored sunglasses, (it was the 70’s after all), in hand a shrill whistle that could strike fear in even the boldest of children.   As we swam at Sunset Pool till our eyes glowed neon red from chlorine and our backs were dark and caramel colored, we felt safe, we were watched over.

Now when I sit on the edge of the playground, reading snippets from the New York Times, trying to stay current to news so much of it mattering so little to me, to us, to our lives. I imagine I am a Life Guard.  Whistling, “get down from there!”, “take that out of your mouth!”, and “back away from the sand!” I am aware at how tiny and precious and fragile they are while being simultaneously incredibly resilient. I watched a kid  (not mine) fall down on his arm and bend all his fingers back he runs screaming to his mother sitting not far away on a bench.  My sense memory recalls the same injury as a child, and I shudder remembering.  By the time I walk over to see if he is okay, he is gone, back to wrestling some more, recovered in a matter of minutes.

We have changed the way we surf.  We have replaced the Zigo with an Extra Cycle. All the kids ride in back on the same bike now with me. Sailing along behind on my back heavy bike, threatening to tip me over if I don’t hold steady.  We did tip after the first ride and had to be brought back upright by six Chinese passers-by from the neighborhood.  These strangers waiting to make sure we were stable before they disassembled one by one.  A few days later, nursing a gigantic bruise from the near fall…  I read an article in the New York Times about Chinese indifference to a toddler hit by a car, left to lie terribly injured in the street until hit by another car… http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/19/world/asia/toddlers-accident-sets-off-soul-searching-in-china.html?ref=asia and I thought of the faces of my Life Guards here in New York City and their kindness.  They jumped in and pulled me and the babies up without a moment’s hesitation. We are all New Yorkers after all, here we sink or swim together.  And I feel a warm sense of relief in those moments I realize that I am not alone on my perch.

Finally, I surf.

Finally.  I created this blog month ago to share what it is like to surf this Urban Scrawl.

Urban Surfing is the image I get in my mind when I am out in this mosh pit called New York City.  Body Surfing across the masses strapped to my 2 children by a variety of methods, usually a Zigo bike, behaving like every other ill tempered biker (which I swore to never do, scaring the children), swerving my way in the treachorous bike lanes to their variety of classes, or sweating behind a double MacLaren invisible behind the children to passers-by.

I love my invisibility. I become purpose only, the motor to the engine of their lives. There is an emptiness I fill in the tasks it takes to mother these beloveds, their breath smelling of sweet hay fills my lungs and the cavity in my chest with warmth. Their clear eyes make me see better, give me clarity to shout to the Chinese drivers on East Broadway, “Get out of the way! We are here!” Their small voices make mine more firm.  Riding the Zigo in Chinatown we are greeted like a small parade of 3, people smile, point and laugh.  I imagine our get-up reminds them of the old country, or perhaps we just look silly in our florescent green stroller on wheels.  On it and in it, we are of one purpose, surfing our way across the concrete swell, riding the tide to our next adventure.a Zigo on the streets

This is me peeking out from behind all the strollers and schedules and dinners and lunches and wake-ups and schedules and marching the streets with my 2 children, me trying to look back to my wake and see what we live here this little family in NYC.