April 7, 2018

I awoke to Fiona clawing her way aggressively, clumsily, up the headboard. When she’d made it to the top, she realized her mistake; she teetered unsteadily on a very narrow ledge and looked for a way down. I tried to grab her and bring her down before she had a chance to slip off and make a noisy landing or fall on Vale, and we engaged in a brief tug-of-war with me admonishing her and her meowing back at me in an unduly irritated manner. The commotion woke Vale up, and so at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday, I resigned to the beginning of the day with a big mug of coffee.

I fed and played with Vale, and drank my coffee so slowly it was cold by the time I got to the bottom. We went for some quick sprints down the street, and headed out afterwards to meet a dear friend at a seaside park. There, we sat in the grass, under the dissipating marine layer, and illegally consumed alcohol, and ate cheese, crackers, salami, and Kyle’s homemade coconut curry hummus. We let a couple of hours slip by while we watched the distant waves. I made sure Vale was covered in sunscreen, but was so delighted to catch up with an old friend that I lost track of the sun and let myself burn.

On the way home, we stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up a few household items and Sour Patch Kids (oh, the things I eat when Kyle is away) and Vale made a big stink in the bathroom (literally and figuratively), because she had a poopy diaper and became agitated when I tried to change it. She flipped, flailed, and cried, and I decided she was definitely going to need a bath when we got home. This was the second dramatic poopy incident on the Wal-Mart bathroom changing table.

When we came home, I showered while she sat in her little tub, then I put her down for a nap, and read some of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A Cultural History. Now it’s early evening, the sun is setting, and through our French doors, I can barely make out our palm tree fronds shuddering in the night breeze. I could use a nap myself, but I hate naps, and she’ll be up soon.

Strange Feelings While Checking Out At Wal-Mart

I went to Wal-Mart the other day to buy Valentine’s Day cards for Vale to take to daycare, even though she has no idea what’s going on and no teeth with which to eat candy (haha! all for me, then!) I was standing at the self check-out kiosk, scanning items, and debating between the hologram dinosaur Valentine cards versus Peppa the Pig (I have no idea who the hell Peppa is). As I scanned body wash and York Peppermint Patties I also wondered whether these days it is considered negligent to give candy to classmates on Valentine’s Day, as opposed to organic, non-GMO fruit or some shit. I pushed these concerns aside with some thoughts of back in my day! and Fuck it! Candy is awesome. Be a little festive for Christ’s sake! But my fears would later be confirmed when I saw a friend’s Instagram of the tangerines she had wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow a-la-Pinterest, for her son’s classmates.

As I internally railed against non-GMO, grass-fed, gluten-free, vegan fruits, I was only vaguely aware of an infant crying in a carrier a few kiosks away. The crying baby briefly triggered my recall of a time I was excited to make it all the way through a shopping trip with a happy Vale when she started fussing right as I pulled up to the check-out line; I sympathized with the poor mother.

Right when I decided on Peppa Pig, the woman in the kiosk next to me angrily muttered, “You know, that baby has been crying for two hours.” My first thought was, as to both the mother with the crying baby and the woman currently addressing me, who spends two hours at Wal-Mart? I responded generically, “Oh, that sucks,” assuming she was complaining about the noise, and also internally questioned, Wal-Mart is pretty damn spacious. Couldn’t you have like, moved three aisles away? Who stalks someone in Wal-Mart for two hours? But then she added, “Seriously, two hours. Screaming. Don’t you think the baby might be hungry or something? Ugh!”

Much to my surprise, the word, “hungry,” evoked in me a sudden, foreign, and involuntary feeling of deep sadness for the baby, and for a few seconds I felt quite horrible. I know of women who can pinpoint the exact moment they truly felt like a mother. I wouldn’t go as far to say this was my moment, because I don’t really ever have defining moments of that sort. Perhaps my emotions are so dulled, or my tendency to ruminate is so acute, that I let such moments pass for months before realizing their significance. In any event, for me, life is a series of small incidents melting together on a spectrum of experience; there are no “aha!” moments I can identify, in which I suddenly realize something profound. But still, I felt unexpectedly unsettled, as if an unfamiliar chamber of my heart had been revealed.