He was supposed to be napping. That is, Kate and Mister both wanted to nap, and it was the proper time in the afternoon for Teddy's nap. Kate was lying down on the loveseat on the cooler middle floor, but Mister was upstairs, trying to nap in the room next door to the disagreeable, not-interested-in-napping beast. Eventually, the wild banshee screams (alternated with wide, blue-eyed flirtatious smiles) convinced Mister that he was serious about getting up and playing downstairs.
Fortunately, once he got his freedom, Teddy could write a book (or he could once he learned a few things about language) on how to be a low-maintenance baby. Mister brought him down and deposited him on the living room floor in front of Kate and then went back upstairs to continue his nap.
Kate turned her head and stretched out her legs into a more comfortable position on the couch and said, "Hi Teddy." He stood by the edge of the couch, gave her a toothy grin and babbled, "Gaga-baou-ba-GA-ga?" Gosh it was cute. But Kate was too tired to get up and play. She lay on the couch and watched him crawl back and forth, popping up on the couch like a little jack-in-the-box, and then sitting down just as abruptly to crawl somewhere else. Sometimes, he'd walk along the couch, but inevitably, the couch would not be going where he wanted to go, and in such cases, he'd stand for a moment, undecided. Then, when he didn't just crash over in his haste to move onward, he would carefully and thoughtfully lower himself down to an almost-sitting position and then pop forward on his knees to take off again. Occasionally, Teddy launched himself forward before his arms were ready, and Kate couldn't help but laugh at his over-enthusiastic and terribly awkward inchworm scramble.
But at one particular moment, Kate noticed Teddy's bright gaze on her. He was standing with one hand on the couch kitty-corner to her own, where he had been investigating a binder. He gently lowered himself a few inches, paused, and farted. Charming. Then he stood again and gave Kate a delighted giggle. Kate lifted herself slightly and motioned to him. "Come over here," she called, "you can do it. Come here, buddy!" And, as if it were just what he'd always done, Teddy lifted his hand off the one couch, and walked five steps forward to the other.
delighted to walk outside (about a month later)
Kate was stunned. He did it so naturally! (Of course, so many people do.) He wasn't instantly a proficient walker, but this was the breakthrough. Several consecutive steps--that's what he needed to get his confidence up to keep trying. And Teddy certainly was pleased with himself. He stood giggling by Kate's head and drooling onto her arms as she praised his success. Tired as he might be, there was now not the remotest possibility of a nap. Teddy was ready to practice walking all afternoon. Up, down, up, down, crash, and roll, he kept at it...and though sometimes he got a couple consecutive steps, he never had the same success as that first time.
As Teddy passed Kate again, on yet another round about the room, Kate scrunched her nose. "Whew! You're stinky," she accused. Hm...she thought, as she felt body pressing heavily into the couch, I hope it can wait until your Daddy gets up from his nap...
The morning of the Millers' departure arrived far too early for Kate. She awoke Sunday morning with a queer feeling in her stomach. Being too sleepy to discern what was wrong, she decided to give the bathroom a try--thus demonstrating her possession of a quick and intuitive brain since she subsequently retched for the next ten minutes. Usually throwing up makes one feel better. Unfortunately, "usually" is a far cry from "always." Kate felt horrible. She was too tired to get up, and too uncomfortable to go to sleep. She felt hungry, but the thought of eating was disgusting. At least Teddy was sleeping! She eventually decided on a change of scenery and went to the kitchen to make herself comfortable sitting on a living room couch with a cup of tea and watch the outline of Pike's Peak slowly emerge from the darkness.
Later in the morning, she and Mister watched The Philadelphia Story, and Kate even laughed at Tracy's outrageous impression of a high-handed and glib heiress. But they barely made it halfway through before Kate resigned and said she just wanted to lie down. Things were serious when not even Katherine Hepburn could keep Kate distracted from her physical ills. Mister scrapped their travel plans and heroically devoted himself to Kate's comfort and rest.
Monday morning, Kate felt somewhat repaired--enough, she claimed, to make a go of the journey to St. Louis. With the lovely weather, and the windows rolled down, the fresh air boosted Kate's spirits and she felt better and better by the hour. It had been one week shy of two months since they left Virginia, and though she wasn't exactly looking forward to being back, she had missed their home and their bed! They spent a brief and uneventful night at the cousins' house in St. Louis (who weren't even there!) and left the next morning for the journey home. Kate prepped for the day of air-conditionless driving by fixing her hair in what she called, "French Piggies." She was feeling almost all better, and hopped into the driver's seat for the first leg.
By sunset, Kate had returned once again to the wheel and zoomed through silhouetted hills of West Virginia. She irrationally loved West Virginia. All day, the noise of the open windows made conversation difficult, but now she didn't even mind. Kate was an idealist at heart, and had never been in a place more suited to its theme song (the one she assigned to it). She hummed as she drove, "Country roads / take me home / to the place / I belooooong / West Virginia / mountain Mama / take me home / country roads." Of course, if they ever stopped in West Virginia, she might not like it so much. But she loved driving in the evening, where there were hills and little traffic. And she had these beautiful open drives and pleasant times in the car with Mister has her sole West Virginian experience. She fondly remembered their first excursion through the state, getting lost on the lane-less back roads, alternately talking with Mister about philosophy and playing "Cow!"
"Cow!" was a simple game, but none the less amusing for it. One rolls down one's window when passing a field inhabited with the appropriate ungulate, and calls their vernacular name (experienced contestants use a variety of methods from belligerent yells to charming calls). For each cow that looks toward the passing vehicle, the contestant receives 1 point. For each cow that responds (generally with a "moo") the contestant receives 2 points. The game's one limitation is that it generally only supports two contestants--one for each side of the vehicle. But it does support the possibility of team play, as long as the contestants are in an optimal seating arrangement. Kate was by no means a "Cow!" prodigy, recording a grand total of zero points that day (and for no lack of opportunity!). But it was fun, and her view of West Virginia was even boosted by this first experience of enjoyable failure.
Kate and Mister arrived home in the wee sma's of Wednesday morning. And when they walked in the house, Kate reaped the full benefit of the hard work she put in the week before they left. The tile was beautiful, carpets were spotless, granite countertops in the kitchen sparkled. Everything smelled good. There were no leaks or mold or bugs. It was beautiful, even at 2AM, which is one of the ugliest times to be awake. Kate and Mister relished their own, familiar bed and pillows until noon (with some minor interruptions from Teddy.) And then...what, but Mister had to turn around and pack again!
Only just arrived home, the following afternoon would take him away again for the rest of the weekend to a teaching conference in Baltimore! Kate hardly knew what to think--she had known it was in the schedule, but something being written down is very different from it actually happening. But the weekend itself went by in a flash. Kate had plenty to do to fill her time. She had another baby shower to prepare for on Saturday (and another baby blanket to finish!) She pulled out her scrapbooks and finally finished their wedding album and started on Teddy's first year album. And of course, there was lots to unpack! And this time, they were staying put. With no pending flights and holidays at home, the suitcases could be relegated to the basement! For Kate, this brought both relief and some confusion. What will it be like? she wondered. I'm not sure that I've spent even two months together without either traveling or having a big group of guests! What if I go crazy? This possibility made her consider. Could living at home for more than two months at a time without travel make one slip off their proverbial rocker? Hmmm..., she amended, What if I'm already crazy?!
One of the delights of Kate's summer was that she got to spend lots of time with her dear college friend, Emma. She and her husband were now living in Denver, and they were also expecting a girl--and Emma was due a mere 4 weeks before Kate! When they got together, they did a little bit of hiking, a little bit of walking, and a whole lot of talking about everything ranging from college memories and theology to baby development and piano students. Now that they were back from the mountains, Kate only had a couple days to finish the baby blanket she was making for Emma's baby shower. She felt a compulsion about finishing it before they left--it was one more project to cross of her list! She had plenty of time to work on it, but she ran out of yarn in Wyoming and...well...it was sheer foolish procrastination, and now she felt stressed about it. And the stress was compounded by the fact that she had another blanket to make for a shower the following Saturday, back in Virginia. 'Tis the season...Kate thought, considering all the expectant couples she knew.
The shower was Saturday morning, the day before Kate and Mister were starting on the trek home. Kate was thrilled to be able to go and encourage her friend. But baby showers had the same emotional effect of graduation parties and weddings. It was the large crowd focused on one person, who wants to visit individually with everyone but sometimes doesn't get in more than a "thanks so much for coming." They weren't too awkward, but Kate generally left with feelings of vague dissatisfaction, wishing she had made more of the time by speaking encouraging and meaningful words....while at the same time wondering if she had spoken too much and sounded too solemn on such a joyous occasion. Kate tried to convince herself that it was meaningful just to go and she was glad she was able to. So for the next couple days, she knitted constantly and mentally prepared herself for too many new faces and not enough time with Emma.
When Kate pulled into the drive, she had a stunning wave of memories. Emma was living with this family when she had gotten married over five years before, and Kate had stayed here with her for the week beforehand. What a splendid time they had! They did everything together--packing, organizing, running last-minute errands, and belting favorite while driving with the windows down.
Kate walked in the house and said hello. She remembered only a few faces from the wedding, but she instantly recognized the house. Outside, she spied the trampoline where she had spent long, sweet phone conversations with Mister. (By that time, they were very serious even though they had only dated for a couple months. And there he was, spending spring break in Florida and missing out on her first meeting with his family! After Emma's wedding, Kate planned to join the Millers on their drive to St. Louis, and then hitch another ride back to Hillsdale.) Inside the house, she remembered eating breakfast at the kitchen counter...the letter blocks on the hutch...reading her Bible on the couch...the scented candles in the bathroom...the room where she stayed...the table where Emma's lavish bridal shower brunch had been hosted. Kate nodded her head and smiled. Oh yes, she remembered, These people do know how to do parties! The food, decorations, games...they take the standards and put on the ritz!
And so it was. Kate followed Emma outside to a gorgeous, sumptuous brunch buffet and felt like she had just walked onto a movie set. The sun was shining, the clouds were perfect, the tablecloths were white, the grass was green, and Emma fit the picture perfectly, looking model-like with her curled blonde hair, stunning smile, and bright pink maternity dress. Kate sighed. She felt frumpy and enormous. She was due a month later than Emma, but felt obviously bigger than the guest of honor. It doesn't matter, She scolded herself. Nobody cares about how big I am. I'm here to celebrate Emma's little girl. Kate watched
Emma, trying to forget about herself for a moment and concentrate on Emma's motherhood. She quickly got into the mood, thinking, She'll be such a fun, creative mother! Kate remembered Emma enthusiastically exclaiming over a wide variety of new discoveries--from plants and flowers to books on ancient history! Kate thought of her own current experience with Teddy, With a baby, she'll get to discover things all over again. And of course, an extra month feels SO LONG right now, but our girls will be so close in age! I hope they'll be great friends...
Kate held her friends' children close to her heart, hoping they would be good comrades for her own kids. But she couldn't help but feel that this would be unlikely unless Mister was able to find a job relatively close by, which wasn't necessarily unlikely, just unknown. She hardly knew what to expect from this coming school year--a new baby, a new degree (for Mister), a new job, a new home. All exciting, life changing events; all at the same time!
The baby shower was fun in its own way. But Kate left (as she expected) feeling vaguely sad. She said goodbye to Emma with a big baby bump hug and hopes that she would return again soon. And the sadness was greatly mitigated by the confident knowledge that she and Emma had used their time well. We've had almost two months together! Kate reminded herself. We've had lots of special conversations and funadventures.The last time we were at this house together, it was the night before her wedding. Now, over five years later, I get to celebrate her baby! And we have shared so much in between. Kate finally realized that she didn't need to say anything more meaningful than what she had already lived. This time didn't need to be, and couldn't have been, anything more than it was--a shared celebration of life.