we sure do love us some Big City visitin’. really. it’s just the eight hour drive that kills us. the frequency* of the back and forth, the agony of strapped.in.seated.Sit!Still! carseats and seatbelts, the lack of space itself exhausts us. leaves us bleary eyed and twitchy, yelling “OUT!” passionately, at random intervals while straining against our respective belts. and such a process, it is. such a process. there is the requisite early rising – a quiet and stealthy mama, squinting into a low hanging sun, ferrying backpacks and canvas grocery bags of snacks and toys and books and clothes and dipes and wipes and other necessary sundries to the waiting car. there is the sleeping baby, so sweet, so impossibly still, burrito’d in his blankie, arm slung haphazard over his best stuffed bear, mouth in a small silent O (O for open. and opulent. and oh-so-precious).
i wake him with the gentlest mama love i know.
and he is all slow sleepiness, all rub-eyed.warm.and.snug. there is the diaper change and gentle application of clothes, the sluggish but certain rise from grogg to chatter, the strapping of buckles and revving of engines, the last minute, non-negotiable mama coffee/baby juice-and-pastry-bribe stop, and finally,
we are off.
and the baby, he munches, and the mama, she sips, and trucks and digs and airplanes and red/yellow/green lights are pointed out with great gusto and much wide-mouthed joy and the road, it just whiz.whiz.whizzes by. ABC’s are sung, as are Old McDonald’s and Bingo Was His Name-O’s. finger games are played, dance parties are commenced and toys and books are doled out with great ceremony and care. colors are shouted, numbers are counted, existential conundrums are explored. and then, 30 minutes in,
all Raging Hell breaks loose.
maybe it starts out undetectable and benign, something masquerading as a simple request. “no wind, mama! no moozik, mama! peeeze!” but there is just something about the ratio of whine to words, something in the glint of the toddler eye, that’s Not.Quite.Right. and when my mama radar is up (which is rarely, at such an hour), i can tell it’s coming. and i can tell it’s going to be big.
to be fair, the child sharing arrangement with me and the baby’s dada has been, until recently, bi-monthly – me down here, him up there and 8 long hours in between. this is a lot of back and forth and that child of ours? a Total Trooper. but let me tell you – hell *hath* no fury like a two year old restrained against said two year old’s will.
permit the skull piercing shrieking to begin.
this poor, pinned down bear, with his insistent (incessant?) cries of “ouuuut! no, not, mama! ouuuuut, baby no mama done!” – there is simply no comfort to be found. proffered snacks are shrunk away from, as though dangerous and possibly bearing teeth; enthusiastic attempts to start family sing-alongs are met with “no song, mama! noooo! bad!”; toys become projectiles and even a dump-truck-drive-by cannot quell the sorrow. and this mama, with her glassy eyes and over-caffeinated hands, is gripping the steering wheel and trying to remember to breathe while this pissed off child in the backseat uses all of his two year old lung capacity to let her know Just How Pissed he truly is, which is to say –
but, oh, eventually (5 minutes? 10? who knows. funny how relentless, high decibel sound can cause a rip in the time/space continuum), that baby will take his mama’s hand (that is attached, unfortunately, to her arm, that is twisted at an angle that guarantees loss of feeling within 20 seconds, tops),
and as suddenly as it began…
there is quiet.
and that baby, that sweet little bear, will stare and stare out at the world flying by; he will pluck on his mama’s sweaty, shaky fingers and his sweet little bear eyes will glaze over with, what his mama imagines to be, scream induced exhaustion. and if this mama is a lucky mama in that particular moment, there will be sleep. blessed blessed sleep. an hour (or three!) of tire hum and mama thought, of windows cracked and mindless driving. an hour (or three!) of no demands.
and it is so lovely.
and i am so thankful. and then – there is the waking and whaddayaknow! it’s a whole new baby! a whole new mama! it works out so nicely! snacks are accepted, songs are sung, trucks pointed out, hands held, music grooved to, and once again all things are right and good in the carworld. soon after the waking up (“baby wake up, mama!), there is the required stop. mama needs to pee, baby needs to move and everyone needs a break. really, anywhere will do for a stop, as long as it’s not the car. there are endless gas stations (some better than others), truck stops and chain restaurants we can terrorize. there are gorgeous rest stops with fresh air and green spaces.
there is our favorite bright yellow building (with a bright yellow covered porch) that houses this gorgeous, yummy brilliance, and even the dreaded golden arches (nothing purchased/eaten + playplace thoroughly enjoyed = smug counterculture-feelin’ mama). sometimes, we’ll even stop at the top of a pass and feel the cool mountain air on our cheeks. and then?
back into the car (until our destination is reached),
for more toys, games, songs, snacks and screaming. and if we’re lucky?
*due to surprising (and awesome) circumstances, we now have our very own dada back in town! just a coupla blocks away, even! no more monthly drives to the Big City! no more month-long bear missin’!
life is good.