I attended sixth grade and college with a woman who recently had a baby. By my calculations, she's 29, pushing 30. Her father and mine are friends and though I haven't spoken to her in years, they regularly keep in touch. I was glad to hear her good news from my Dad the first time and second time he said it. Around the third time he said, "Shelly had a baby!! Her father (Shelly's) is soooo happy!" I thought his repeated mentionings might be less about Shelly and more about me.
"Daddy knows he's not getting any grandkids from me... At least not anytime soon, right?" I ask/tell my Mom a couple Saturdays back on our afternoon trek to Annapolis Mall.
She pauses to calculate his age. "Hmmm. He's not getting any younger. I guess it's about that time for him."
I look at her crazy-like out the side of my eye. She sounds like she's co-signing his quest. I expected her to share my outrage. "You might want to talk your husband out of that dream, you know?"
She acts like she doesn't hear me.
Isn't He lovely?
I loved him immediately just for being him. He didn't say anything profound. In fact, he couldn't. But he tried. And when he did, a bunch of slobber that those 2 incoming teeth didn't hold back got all over my new beige shirt. I was making smushy faces all up in his grill when he yelled hot baby breath right in my eyes. I yelled back at him. We were two yelling fools until his grandmother called down the steps for me to stop yelling at the baby.
It was his first birthday and others wanted to play with him too so I reluctantly passed him on, but I couldn't stop staring. Those cheeks! Those tiny fingers! That plump belly!! It was the first time I thought I might want a kid someday.
Many months and many teeth later, I was visiting him and his mother (best friend, not Ace) again. She'd given him a bowl of popcorn to munch on while he played with his toys in the sitting room. We talked grown-enough folks talk, spelling and mouthing adult words the baby should never repeat.
Hours later, she took him upstairs to put him down for the night, leaving me alone. The room was a mess. At some point My Love had toppled his toy basket, spilling stuff everywhere. At another, he was trying to share his almost empty bowl of popcorn with his Mom, lost his balance and spilled that too. Bless his sweet heart. There were toys and kernels everywhere.
I looked at the clock. It was ten past ten. She had to clean all this up tonight?! I felt so bad for her that I got down on my hands and knees and started throwing toys in the storage bin.
"Oh my God, Belle, what are you doing?!"
I didn't hear her come down. I was halfway through and still crawling around her floor. I look up. "Hey, I’m cleaning up,” I said as if me on hands and knees was the most natural thing in the world.
"For what? You don't have to do that."
I insist until she insists I get up from her floor and that she has to clean every night so it’s not that big a deal. I left shortly thereafter. The room was still a mess. It seemed not to bother her.
On the less than ten minute drive it took me to get back to my parents’ house, I think about leaving her there alone with all that mess. Every night?! What?! Mommyhood is supposed to be the greatest, most rewarding job ever, but I’d rather be unemployed than do that (and the pay's the same).
My Big Brother
I've avoided calling my brother back for a month. He's not really my brother, but he is. We've been friends since I was 12 and he refers to my parents and Mommy and Dad. See? My brother.
He's married with 2 beautiful, very smart kids. He is consumed with gas prices, investments, owning more property, stretching a dollar, outdoor grilling and making repairs to the house. I suppose these are the things that should primarily occupy the mind of a married father of two. I'd be a little concerned if he was talking about clubbing and women and liquor.
Here's the problem. It's not that these conversations bore me. He's a really funny guy, so even a story about BBQing (in the winter) is highly entertaining. I could listen to him talk all day. The problem is he wants my life to be like his. I respect what he does and how he lives, but his life is my version of hell.
Our conversations start with him recapping the kids and married life, then immediately go to me. "You ain't got no man yet?"
Fuck. "Nah, dude. I'm trying to avoid being locked down. Having too much fun out here."
"You don't want kids?"
Fuck. "We've had this conversation. I'm not nearly responsible enough and have no desire to become that responsible."
Every now and again, I get the pangs of wanting a relationship. That's usually when it's cold. The day it hits 70, I sit on a park bench watching the men go by and thanking God I avoided the winter cinch. It's not that I have anything against relationships, they just take a whole lot of work. I suppose when I find someone worth the effort and who is consistently not a fuck up, I'll settle down and take on the responsibility of a boyfriend (this is where my personal-life responsibility maxes out.) Until then, I'll keep my options open.
This is the problem: My brother knows all this. And every conversation still begins the same way. He's intent on making me feel like I am making the wrong choices in life although I am living the life I always dreamed. In high school, we used to sit on my parents back porch and smoke and talk about what we'd be when we grew up. I wanted to be an author who lived in New York and wrote for magazines. I wanted to live in Brooklyn brownstone like the women on Living Single. (The brownstone dream's the only thing that changed.)
I won't say what he wanted, but it's not what he ended up. And that's fine. Dreams change. Priorities do too. And sometimes they don't. I just wish he understood that. Maybe I'd pick up the phone when he calls.