On a beautiful day in New York City, Julia and I rode the subway, the car packed cattle-car tight, looking good and smelling good. She in her ruby-red Mini Mouse dress with solid white dots,
a gift from her God Mummy Kim, which I accessorized with sheer white tights with white dots, and a little red riding hood coat, a gift from Grandma, which features a midnight black lining set with dense white polka dots. I wore an orange and gold Indian print skirt circled by black elephants set trunk to tail, and an orange, gold and turquoise patterned coat procured from a Barney’s Warehouse sale, ten years ago, that still pulls compliments.
As a single baby mama have a lot of rules, self-imposed rules. I keep standards , meet standards, standards that my married and partnered mom pals can ignore if they so choose. “Don’t go to the doctor looking slap dash.”
“Don’t take your kid into the doctor looking slap dash.”
“Don’t deliver your kid to the school with either of you looking, (yes you guessed it), slap dash.”
Looking like the crazy mom, running wild down hallways, hair flying, wearing mix matched socks, toilet paper stuck to my shoes, oatmeal caking my kid’s mouth, her Pull- Up pooching out from pee-pee, is one of my primal fears.
So, back to the subway. On September 19th, as folks stood all around me, men and women, sitting and standing, rained down a whirl of wordlessly mouthed compliments, “she so cute,” “what and adorable dress!” I felt a deep well of pride rise up and soak my maternal heart. I mouthed back my thanks, brimming with pride, my hand pressed to my chest near the throat, head lowered, eyes demur, in modesty. And as the speeding train slammed into the station, as I prepared to gather my child up from the seat, as Julia paused from chugging Cheerios, she looked around at the gaping faces of wonder, widen her eyes a bit, leaned to the left slightly, and launch a man-sized, machine gun fart, way beyond a toot-toot of the polite passing of gas.
The train fell into a gap of silence then launched into a roar of laughter, I chuckling the loudest. Yet, above the den I could still hear the voice of God: “Don’t get bogged down by the unimportant, by the things you cannot control,” God said. “Parenthood takes a sense of humor.”
“Why they laughing?” Julia asked as I led her from the subway car, my eyes so filled with tears, I could hardly see my steps that led us down the platform, up the flight of steps, to the landing and on to Broadway.
“Julia, you surprised everyone. You’re not supposed to pass gas in public. We’ve talked about it, right? That’s something you do in private, in the bathroom.”
“It’s not nice.”
“You just don’t Julia.”
She pooches out her lower lip, her standard, I’m mad or I’m thinking position. “Okay, Mommy…but why.”
Now that Julia has started school, (pre-K so don’t panic time isn’t passing quite that fast), it seems both of us learn something everyday. I’m learning that train conductors are kind people and will reopened the doors for a mom running with a toddler clutched to her hip. I’m learning that every parent has that wide-eyed look of crossing a major milestone just walking into the school, pressing out our chests like Mick Jagger strutting across stage. Never have I felt such a sense of accomplishment before I entered work or sat before my laptop. Getting a toddler out of the house by 8:15 am is like launching a Tet offensive in Vietnam. It may take a village to raise a kid, but it damn near takes Navy Seal Team Six to get one out of the house to school, looking good and smelling good, before 9am. Then get up and do it all again.
Today, I crossed a new Mommy mania divide. Grandma sent Julia a pair of snazzy jeans with set with a flurry of tiny, cool studs around the front pockets. The pants are a 4T. Julia is a 3T. With her long legs, I’d hoped they’d work. The length wasn’t the problem.
“Julia take those off please, they’re a little big in the bottom…”
“Noooooo I wannnna wear them!”
“C’mon take ‘em off.”
Cue Julia flinging herself on the floor and kicking her feet.
The clock read 8:17 am. The departure clock sounded two minutes ago.
“No, I don’t want to.”
Across the living room I spying a gold ribbon, broad width, wire edged.
And reader, I turned it into a belt.
I grabbed it, folded it in half, lassoed it through loops of her jeans, and bowed it in the front.
“Julia let’s gooooo!
Down the elevator, across the lobby, blowing past the doorman, and on the street I spotted a lost traveler. I didn’t have time to help her. I stopped anyway. She had a better grip on her native Dutch or German, with a limited access on English. Together we worked out her travel plan. My mind was about 65% in the conversation, thinking of the clock, seeing the door of Julia’s classroom closing, but I took the time any woo. I couldn’t say way. It just seemed the right thing to do.
Ten minutes later, as Julia and I crossed Amsterdam Avenue, I figured out why. For the first time in a weekend a half, I saw the M11 bus bounding up the street. The bus we needed.
“Sometimes God delays you to help you,” I’d heard Joel Osteen say on a recent broadcast.
This wasn’t a new thought. But it was a new event for Julia and Mommy and the morning rush.
After we climbed aboard, Julia looked around at the row of seats and asked “Why we taking the bus?”
“Because like Everest, it’s there.”
Julia started blankly. When she gets older Julia will appreciate having a writer for a mom.
By God’s grace we hung up to Julia’s backpack in her cubby at 8:55. Five minutes to spare.
And after I helped Julia settled in—hands washed, and painting smock on—I took the last minutes before class began to explain her bizarre belt to her teacher, a woman so sweet, she seems sent from central casting to perform the role of Pre-K teacher.
“Well, that’s a great solution,” Mrs. S said, in the sweetest softest voice.
“I just didn’t want you to see her wacky belt during a potty break and be puzzled.”
The rose-cheeked, round woman with a voice that could charm children from bowls of candy, a voice you can’t image uttering a curse world, or being welded in anger, said, “ Well, Miss Holmes they say, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’.”
And that’s when I remembered God has a fine talent for using the simplest acts to create our greatest lessons, that Julia and I were in our right place, with the right people, that they wouldn’t find our actions opportunities for ridicule or the fodder for gossip or an example why single mothers fall short, that Julia and I, in a very real sense, in a very way had found a new home in the world.