Sunday, May 30, 2010

Holy Crap or One Step at a Time

Bar took his first steps last Wednesday.  He took said steps while at a friends house for a play date.  A mommy friend asked me, "Is he walking yet?"  I scoffed at her in response and began to weave my usual yarn about how my boy, a content little bump on a log if ever there was one, would still need me to babywear him at his high school graduation.  "It suits me just fine," I said to her.  "Oh," she replied somewhat perplexed by my atypical lack of interest in the milestone of walking, "I only ask because he's cruising so well." Indeed he was cruising like crazy, taking laps of the kitchen island.  "Well, in this case, the two are not related."  And wouldn't you know it, Bar arrived at the end of the island, reached out as far as he could, finally steadying himself by just his little finger, and easy as anything, threw both his arms straight up in the air and step, step, lurched towards me wearing a smile as big as he was long.  I marked his great accomplishment, this toddler right of passage by screaming out,"HOLY CRAP!"  This, of course, startled him terribly causing him to fall right on his bum and begin to whimper.  I scooped him up in my arms to comfort him and he was instantly soothed - my baby returned to me and I could deny for a few minutes longer the little boy shaped creature that had suddenly switched itself for the infant I knew and loved so well.

Of course, none of this was sudden, really.  Bar was certainly late to get on the mobility bandwagon never even attempting to crawl until four days before he turned 11 months old, but once he got going, he kept going.  His recent enthusiasm for climbing has chased everything but my sturdiest lamps off of the end tables.  I did manage to salvage my favorite set of coasters before he pitched them into the oubliette behind my couch.  Finding myself now in possession of a mobile mountain goat of a toddler has been a harder adjustment than I would have imagined.  Days are so full.  We eat, go for walks, pet the cat, climb and fall off the couch, build towers, hide my dishtowels, topple over the dog bowl, and take hourly breaks to use his little toilet.  We read books, eat more, listen to music and dance, clap hands, assault the cat some more, practice yoga, visit the neighbors, and nurse.  All before noon.  His energy is inspiring until about 4 PM, when I am ready to crawl into a cave and hibernate or at the very least slink into the bathroom with a glass of bourbon and my laptop to poop and check my email in peace.   I am so tired.  My bones are tired and I suppose every mother could write this same post.  Still, I wouldn't trade this time; I believe it an investment in his future.  This constant effort to match and meet his endless energy with love, enthusiasm, and patience will surely pay off.  Right?

And so I look to Bar, as I often do, for inspiration.  Baby steps, I tell myself.  He's got the right idea.  In the face of what seems too great a leap, too much change, I'll try to throw my arms up, smile, and bravely take the next step.  If I stumble, well, I reckon my boy spends just enough time crawling around the floor still that we can lay there for a while, read a book maybe, have a cuddle, and then pick up and keep walking, walking, walking.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ralph Rides Again.

Ralph.  The missing member of my family.  He's been gone from us since November and oh, I miss him.  We moved a few months before Bar was born and he never really settled in to the new place.  There were too many other cats around, including the white one that had come to live with us; Ralph never did play well with others.  He stuck it out for a spell after the baby was born though his mood and demeanor became increasingly un-Ralphlike.  I would sometimes bump into him on walks through the neighborhood and he'd warmly greet me, running up to rub my legs and accepting a squeeze.  We would stroll the streets and chat idly - that cat was a talker - about the days events, about which local restaurants had been feeding him and which houses on the block had the best scraps.  But, as soon as we would come close to the property line, he'd dissolve into a snarling hell beast and scamper away, returning only in the quiet of the night through the cat door and right up onto my bed for a snuggle.  I loved those peaceful moments with my face buried in his fur breathing in sweet smell, always of pine and sunshine, especially as contact with him became more and more infrequent and often strained.
Ralph left in stages, I realize now.  He'd go missing for a few days and I'd end up having to spring him from the various cat pokeys about town, Animal Control, a local vets office, neighbors he had convinced that he was starving to death.  I would walk about with signs and people would stop me on the street to tell me that they saw him daily at their home or office.  It turns out that Ralph had several pretty regular haunts.  The folks at the deli at end of the street used to give him ham.  He used to sit in the bodega across the parking lot and wait for people to buy him cat food, which I learned later from the owners happened several times a day.  They had never sold so much cat food.  And one afternoon, as I was outside walking with Ralph, a family - mom, dad, two kids, and a dog - on a walk of their own approached.  I nodded as they passed by.  Imagine my surprise when the whole bunch of them largely ignored me and, instead, shouted out choruses of, "Hi Ralph.  Hey Ralph.  See ya Ralph."  He trotted off for a pet from them.  More friends for Ralph.
And then, one day, he was gone.  I can't say which day because I did not know it was going to be the last day.  The folks at Animal Control came to know me by the sound of my voice.  Local business owners gave me sad looks as they asked if I'd found him yet.  Mostly I had given up hope after nearly two months.  And then, I had a voice mail on my phone one January night from my father-in-law.  He had spotted Ralph!  Where?  Crossing the street in front of our old house, some 10 miles away.  A flurry of phone calls to former neighbors followed, but nobody had seen him.  For a time, I was certain I'd find him and drove down our old street daily.  More time passes and no Ralph and he slips back into memory.  I still placed the occasional call to Animal Control, but didn't really expect there to be any result.
So I almost fell out of my chair when three mornings ago I got a call from our former neighbor. 
"Hi," I say, "What's up?" 
"Ralph is here."  
"What? Where? When?"
"Ralph is here.  Sitting on my fence, right now."
"Oh.  Oh.  OH!  Um, how does he look?"
I had no idea what to say.  Or, for that matter, what to do.  I agonized.  I cried.  I miss him.  I wanted to race out there and scoop him up and bring him home.  Only, Ralph has made it abundantly clear where he wants to be, risking life and limb to cross miles of road and train tracks and hostile territory to get back to his home.  What right do I have to go catnap him?  I thought about going out for closure, to pet him one last time and sniff his head.  But how would that go?  Would we sit on the stone bridge over the creek and look for fish as we used to do?  Would he even let me pet him?  And could I really get into my car and drive away leaving him there in the woods alone.  I think I could not.  It would hurt too much.  My last memory of Ralph here with me was a lingering morning in bed when he slept tangled up with me, head on my pillow.  It was a good, if unexpected, goodbye; tender, sweet, and full of the love and trust that filled our six years together.
And so, it is enough to know that he is healthy and well, that his coat is shiny and he is not too lean.  I expect that he has found a family out there who has taken him in and I fantasize I might meet them one day and say, "This is Ralph.  He likes sunshine.  And vanilla ice cream if he gets to lick it off your spoon.  Please love him so much.  He is a good cat."
To Ralph, if you ever pass this way again, the cat flap will always be open here.  Until then - Ride on, Ralph.