Thursday, August 10, 2006

Chicken and Rib Roots

It is shameful how long it has been since my last post. Aside from myspace sucking balls lately and preventing me from even posting a brief excuse for why I was not posting, I took on a project for one of the attorneys I used to work for and it has swallowed all of my free time. I was guaranteed a pretty hefty portion of what I billed and we are so much in need of the money I have had to commit to this project whole heartedly. Tonight, at 12 a.m. on the dime, I am finished with the billing. Cohen is asleep on the couch, my kitchen is clean, and I am drinking a beer that I hope I have the weight watchers points to cover.

Last night Dan and I decided it was worth going for broke and ordering a pizza and a six pack of Newcastle in order to avoid cooking. As the one that runs the books around here, my money maker looked to me, and I said no sweat, I'll cash in some of the change from our change jar tomorrow at the bank. It was worth it then. Today was a different story. It is a strange feeling counting out change so I can buy groceries while my daughter fusses in her vibrating chair and I cannot put her binky back in her mouth because my fingers are filthy from old dirty coins. It was funny to me that I was ever embarrassed to count change for cigarettes. This is way worse. And then again, it's not. The money thing seems to frustrate Dan more than me, and I am always trying to remind him that these experiences will keep us humble.

When we tell Cohen the stories of how we struggled to get what we have, she will learn to value a dollar. She will know her parents were self made and she will never fear poverty, or view it as a weakness, rather a hurdle to be avoided or (worst case scenario) overcome. As frustrating as it is for me to count coins, that is nothing in comparison to the fear that she will one day be taking credit for owning a BMW that her father and I have paid for.

I pride myself in being poor with style. We grew up poor, only my little brother, 5 years my junior, got to dress cool and have a new car. My father had taken new job after job until finally, when my little brother arrived at his high school years, he did so in a new truck and a pair of hundred dollar shoes. Back in my freshman year, I had to beg for a pair of twenty dollar Keds, only to settle for the five dollar knock offs.

I learned about second hand stores, shopping for sales with my mother, clearance racks, garage sales, and the flea market. I made my own clothes, cut the blue KEDS tag off of an old pair given to me by a friend who had many, and super glued the tags onto the back of my five dollar shoes. Then, as the glue faded and the tag peeled away, I would casually pull it off in front of my friends, saying something like, "Who cares about labels anyway, right guys?"

Almost 15 years later and I'm pulling the same stunt. I wait for the Wednesday supermarket ads to come in the mail, seeking out the cheapest meat for the upcoming two week pay period. Some weeks it is awesome - great cuts of pork chops for 99 cents a lb. This week, and last week, have been chicken legs and thighs - a cut of meat that has pushed me to never eat chicken from the bone again. Still I take great pride in making Dan guess how much I saved at the grocery store.

I went to Albertson's for their chicken and rib specials (12 drumsticks for $1.88, full size ribs for under $3.00). With Cohen in tow, I decided this would be a great day to try out the new shopping cart play seat my mother in law bought for the baby. The Infantino Delux Safari Activity Cart Cover (IDSACC). Here is someone else's baby modeling the IDSACC.

Now, looking at this picture it seems obvious that in order for a child to use this accessory she must be able to sit up on her own. There is no picture of this kid on the box.

So I spend 10 minutes in the parking lot, in 105 degree weather, trying to velcro this fucker onto the shopping cart while Cohen is sleeping soundly in her car seat in the air condition car. The amount of straps that must be slipped through the bars of the cart, twisted and adhered to one another are ridiculous. Still, I persevere. I hook it up, turn the car off, and wake Cohen, excited to share with her a new toy and a new shopping experience. I carry her into the store thinking I will fasten her in once we are safe within the air conditioned grocery store. Near the cantaloupes that, with their 18 cents a lb. goodness, helped lure me to this Albertson's in the first place, I begin trying to get Coco into this contraption.

Is there a belt, some sort of a strap? I had to strap the cover to the cart, but there is no strap to hold my kid into the cover? Fine. I drop her in, we share a smile of excitement, and them BAM! She falls over to the side and cracks her head on the side rail of the shopping cart leaving a red welt and a look of bewilderment on her sweet little face. I choose two cantaloupes, the largest I can find, and pin one on each side of her, so that she cannot fall to either side and begin making my way through produce. She alternates slumping over melons, chewing on the handle of the cart, as if my presumptuous use of this toy that is too mature for her has reverted her back to when she could not even hold up her head.
In the meat section I remove her from the IDSACC, remove the cantaloupes, and turn her on her side so that while laying dwon from left to right one arm is sticking out of the leg hole and her feet are hanging over the side of the cart while her head is wedged into the seat. She is grinning at me as if to say, "So, you're a mother huh? Do you even know what you're doing? Do you have any training whatsoever" I stack the cart full of chicken legs and ribs. I cannot leave her in the cart this way, people are laughing at me. I resign to carrying her and push my cart down the cereal aisle. Not until then do I notice the bum wheel on my cart. I will not be defeated. I take the cantaloupes and put them on the shelf with the Cheerios. I stack my meat on the cracker display at the end of the aisle. With baby in hand, I undo the Velcro safety latches and lay the IDSACC in the bottom half of the shopping cart, all flap unfolded. I lay Cohen in the cart, divide my meat and melons between the seat an the bottom wrack and proceed to the Mexican food section feeling like an accomplished mother. I will not be embarrassed. I will make anything function. I am mother... hear me roar!

But it wasn't me roaring through the refried beans and taco shells, it was the kid in the shopping cart behind me. I didn't know why he was crying and I couldn't have cared less. My breasts, on the other hand, knew just what that kid needed and my let down let me down in public for the first time. My milk came in to my left breast and I immediately leaked all the way through my shirt. At this point I figure, I gave it a good run, but I am just going to have to carry Cohen all the way to the register so that no one sees I have leaked.

I am comfortable with many parts of motherhood. I will breastfeed in public. I will wear clothing covered in spit up and drool. I will notice baby poop from a diaper I changed 2 hours ago on my finger while driving and wipe it on my jeans. I have conceded this much, but I have yet to make peace with leaking fluids from my body in public.

I find a baby blanket in the diaper bag, throw it over my shoulder and head to the check out. Everything else in Albertson's is too expensive for me anyway, I was only here for the meat sale, I remind myself. At the check out, I ask the cashier if she has any paper towels. She hands me the box, I remove one and thank her. She asks if I need anymore and as I stuff the paper towel into my shirt I tell her that one will do it. She asks if Cohen, who is now fed up and screaming, is crying because she is hungry. I tell her that it wasn't Cohen, evidently any kid can make my milk come in. She asks, "Is this your first?" To which I reply, "Yes." She says, "I can tell." Part of me wanted to find this offensive, but at this point everyone could tell. I realized there is no shame in this being my first. In doing the best that I can. In not being prepared for someone else's screeching four year old's magical ability to call my milk to arms. These years will pass so quickly, and while I may be naive about the inner working of many an evenflo and infantino product, I know for a fact that once this time goes, I will not get it back.

I am so proud of Dan, for getting up and getting out everyday. I cannot imagine how hard it is for him to walk away from the two of us in bed every morning. He makes what I do possible. I am proud of myself, for embracing what I fear, for staying home, for breastfeeding no matter how tired I get, for putting it to words and giving a voice to the part of motherhood that had no voice before I got here. I won't go so long without writing again. To make up for it...

Baby Mullet.

1 comment:

Ashlee said...

10/06/06 Very cute. Lawton, I just wanted to let you know that you might have started a trend. On the homepage for MSN today there was a headline for baby wigs. It made me laugh, because Cohen is the only baby I've ever seen with a wig. :)

Miss and love you.