Her daughter squeals at the attention.
Me, I’m sitting there sickened by them. I was already in a bad mood, totally exhausted from months of disrupted sleep; but still, this is just too much this time.
“Weeeeeee! Weeeeee! UP goes my gorgeous girl!! The most GORGEOUS baby in the world!”
I smile politely, fighting the urge to grab one of her pistoning arms and hiss, “HEY – I kiss my baby too, you know. LOTS. Just not right NOW.”
Said baby, Fin, is on the rug beside me. He looks on as Sandra and Kelly, in their coordinated outfits, commence with some gleeful wrestling.
I don’t know what to say. It’s like they’re having a moment, but the moment goes on and on. I look down at my six-month-old son and wonder if I’ve depressed him by not cooing enough; by not wrestling him enough; by not generating enough hyperbole around him.
Sandra and Kelly finally rest, panting like – dare I say it – spent lovers. And I kind of feel like I’ve been trapped in a honeymoon suite watching friends make out. To break the tension, I groan loudly and stretch.
“Oh MAN, I am t-i-r-e-d.”
“You look a bit run-down,” Sandra says. “You okay?”
“Yeah, yeah . . . Just the usual stuff, you know . . . motherhood. . .”
“Phew. . . motherhood, right?”
“Mm,” she says, distracted.
I get the distinct feeling Sandra hasn’t been struggling much with motherhood lately. I’m ashamed to admit I have a pang of nostalgia for when she used to complain, and didn’t slather her daughter with all this manic adoration.
When she visited me at about the six-week mark, Sandra begged me to hold Kelly so she could go outside for a quick cigarette. Kelly had a cold and Sandra had to continuously squirt saline up her nose. This made the baby wail and then her face break out in blotches. The baby also spat-up a lot. I hadn’t had a baby myself yet, but I really felt for both of them.
“I gotta tell you,” Sandra said when she returned, reaking of smoke, “it’s not all fancy prams and moonbeams.”
But now, here she is, evangelically describing the cake she’s designing for Kelly’s first birthday . . . which is still five months away.
“. . . and it’s a Russian theme, you know, so I found an authentic pattern for the frosting on this Ukrainian folklore site . . .”
“Cool,” I say, at appropriate intervals. But what I’m thinking is: my GOD, where do you get this insane maternal VERVE? Where are your jaundiced eyes and crumpled clothes and unbrushed teeth? Why aren’t you still flailing and desperate like me?
“. . . the dress Mom’s making will match, of course. I just have to find some velvet What I’m thinking is: my GOD, where do you get this insane maternal VERVE? bric-a-brac in a colour that compliments her peachy skin. . .”
When Sandra finally exhausts this topic, an awkward silence emerges. Our eyes just seem to naturally land on Fin, quietly babbling away on his lambskin.
“How’s Fin’s sleep going?” Sandra asks.
“Not so good,” I concede, but quickly add: “He’s eating really well though. He eats everything I put in front of him.”
“Oh really, that’s great,” she says, nodding.
“Yeah, I know – he’s great like that.” Then I can’t think of anything else normal to say. It’s like Sandra’s enthusiasm over Kelly has completely usurped my ability to laud my own child.
She sighs and turns her attention back to Kelly, and they resume with some low-key nuzzling. It occurs to me, as I turn away, that I am some kind of prude when it comes to parental public displays of affection: that I actually disapprove of this type of thing. A kiss and cuddle here and there is actually a really nice thing to witness, but this exaggerated slathering in such close proximity makes me ill.
The whole prudishness thing is totally new to me. I’ve never been a prude about anything before, but here I am judging, feeling repulsed, developing a complex. This is kind of how I’d feel, I think, if Sandra were making out with her husband on my coffee table. When she and Kelly are cuddling, I even think, “get a room.”
I resolve to get it together. This is kind of how I’d feel, I think, if Sandra were making out with her husband on my coffee table. I ask Sandra if I can hold Kelly. As I heft her onto my lap, I’m surprised by her cherubic girth. She’s only a bit older than Fin, but feels twice as big. Maybe she’s thriving more, due to her steady diet of ber-love.
“Hello, sweet girl,” I say, smoothing her clothes. “Look at your pretty skirt. Gosh, what a . . . pretty girl.” I sound and feel ridiculous, so I set her down and hand her a toy. Then I contemplate raising Fin up and proclaiming him the Galactic Emperor of Cuteness, and letting loose a projectile of acclaim so swift, powerful and awesome, as to render my guests silent with awe.
But I don’t. Too tired.