ACTUALLY, HELEN, I’M GLAD YOU’RE NINE MINUTES LATE. Little Penelope’s new stroller had a faulty wheel or the brakes won’t unlock or something, so I had Louisa futz with it awhile. But now I’m running late, so your lateness, for once, is a kind of convenient punctuality.
Look at her little face. Penelope loves going for walks, yes she does. A-yes she does! A-yes she DOES!
I went with the premium stroller because my little nugget has to have the freedom of a pleasant strolling experience. So hopefully, we’re good to go. Honestly, am I crazy to think that if you pay top dollar for something you should expect it to, you know, function? And no, I know you can’t specifically speak to the functionality of a baby stroller, dear, but about other things, I mean. Other premium things. You have your fair share of nice things down at your place. In fact, that reminds me, I should let you host an upcoming book club. The other gals in Read Read Wine could use a change of scenery, I’m sure. Maybe then you can show off whatever it is you spend your money on instead of malfunctioning baby strollers. Well, not malfunctioning, exactly. Louisa futzed with it.
Things. Tell you the truth, that’s been the only downside to having little Penelope. The stuff. And that’s the right word for it, stuff. Things. I find that it’s not enough to have any old stroller or any old organically grown vegetable paste mash or any old electronic phonics blocks, if good parents want to raise good kids, they have to have the best everything. And having everything is a hassle. If you had a kid, Helen – and I know you’ve been trying, you and Gregory, and I believe it’ll work out sooner rather than later– but for now, imagine you have a kid and tell me you’d buy just any old everything. You wouldn’t. You’d buy your little bundle all the best stuff you could afford and you’d do it because it’s your duty. Your only duty as a parent is to provide your babies the best that life has to offer and that includes stuff. So if you showed up one day with a new Patroller Stroller, for example, I’d go, “Okay. Helen has done her research and come up with the same conclusion about strollers as I have, namely that the Patroller Stroller is superior to all others” – the little wheel snafu notwithstanding. And if you showed up one day with some stroller other than mine, I’d go, “Huh. Okay. Perhaps Helen skimped on her research or maybe I’ve missed something in my own research,” although the latter option is unlikely. You have no idea how much effort I put into things like that.
I know you think that sounds bad, but is it, really? I disagree that it is. I know you didn’t say anything, but I can tell by your look. The look that says, there goes Madeline again, being competitive, basting in the succulent juices of her newfound motherhood. But I wouldn’t call it competitive. I’d call it devoted. The whole world knows Roger and I miscarried and the whole world also knows we tried again right away successfully. That was a big win for me. First it was a big loss though, don’t forget. My belief, and not everyone feels this way, but my belief is that it was Penelope and not some other baby that we lost the first time. Penelope just wasn’t ready yet. The second time, she was. And now here she is, ready to be raised and loved, and who am I to squander a second chance when some good people like you and Gregory haven’t even had a first?
I often think back. You said last spring that every month you try for a baby and every month you fail. You said it was like miscarrying an imagined son or daughter twelve times a year. And I actually found that to be such a poignant observation from you. It’s so true and I’ve literally miscarried, so I really know, you know? It’s not imaginary for me. And I get it. Two years is a long time to for you and Gregory to have gone empty-handed so to speak. I do get that. But think of it from my perspective. You’ve only ever had an empty hand. Imagine having your hand full and then having it emptied? Is that insensitive? Just because we live on the one house in the neighborhood that sits up there on that hill doesn’t mean I’m out of touch, which I’m sure Holly has said to the other gals in book club. Big houses still carry pain. Often times big houses carry the most pain. That’s why prisons are called “the big house.” So that kind of proves my point. It proves that I can know pain and I might say I know pain more than maybe you, though it’s hard to tell because getting you to share with me is like pulling teeth. But, yes, miscarrying Penelope was dreadful. Devastating. The three months between miscarrying and getting pregnant for real was difficult, but worth it because what did I learn? I learned that I had failed to protect Penelope the first time around. And that learning, Helen, I swear to God, it made me more determined to never let an opportunity slip away from me again. Delaying motherhood, I think, has helped me be a good mother. A great one, if I’m abandoning false modesty.
Life tried to bury me, but it didn’t know I was a seed. Have you heard that before? Louisa says it’s a proverb from Mexico. But do you see the point I’m making? That’s why the best stroller, or the most challenging educational tablet games, or the richest organic oatmeal diaper creams, that’s why all the stuff matters. Not because I care what other mothers are doing – and I just know you’ll be one of the other mothers soon – but because I care about what I am doing, right down to the last wheel on my little love nugg’s stroller.
Anyway, Louisa reprioritized scrubbing the off-suite bathroom in order to get the wheel on this thing working, which is wonderful for me because I purchased this online and hate returning things through the post office. So that’s a happy ending to that story.
Let’s walk down Briarwood so we can grab a coffee quick. I want to hear everything the doctor told you about this cycle.
About the author:
Adam’s a journalist by training and an advertiser by trade. His writing has appeared in numerous publications including Carve magazine’s 2013 Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and New Millennium Writing’s 2015 fiction contest. In 2014, he was honored with the Nancy D. Hargrove Prize for Fiction from The Jabberwock Review. He lives in Chicago with a woman and a dog.