There were times when I was working that I would come home late after Wood had done all the work of putting her to bed and I would just stand there and watch Juniper sleep, my fingers gently gripping the edge of her crib with her face in a stream of mystical light leaking through a crack in the blinds. Those were times when she would later wake up crying and I would rush to hold her, to calm her and sing to her and bounce her on the yoga ball, getting swept up in the rhythm myself, holding her long after she had returned to sleep just to feel her warm breath on my chest.
Those nights are a distant memory. Now I am the enforcer of naptime.
Juniper has not yet figured out that I am serious. It's like she thinks we're on some weird vacation together, and that at any moment her mom is going to shift back into place to make sure she's properly fed and attended to, for surely no one would ever place such important tasks in the hands of the likes of me. I am, in her eyes, solely for goofing off. At no time is this more clear than when it comes time for that afternoon nap. She laughs at me when I tell her it's time to sleep, she smiles when I sing to her, and then she watches me leave the room, giggling, and then sits up and chatters to herself until I return, when she smiles at me again and throws herself face first into the mattress, knowing that my next words will be, "Juniper, go to sleep."
In the last few weeks she has learned to shut her eyes on command, but doesn't just shut them: she squeezes her eyelids tight and smiles, like an older kid waiting for a surprise birthday present, trying to push out all the light of the world. Her eyes wrinkle up in their corners and the lids twitch with this histrionic shuttering until a few seconds later she peeks up at me and laughs some more. It is miserably cute, and so frustrating when I just want her to sleep. So I inevitably return to her side, sing her songs and pat her back until she closes her eyes on her own and falls asleep for real.
And then, silent as a thief I head for the door, but inevitably turn back to make sure she isn't watching me with a sly smile on her lips. If I've patted her for long enough she'll already be deep in sleep, and despite whatever pile of work has accumulated for me to accomplish in my limited window, I find myself pausing there to behold her sleeping, thinking for the five hundredth time of those words of Don Delillo's narrator in White Noise, who says: "Watching children sleep makes me feel devout, part of a spiritual system. It is the closest I can come to God. If there is a secular equivalent of standing in a great spired cathedral with marble pillars and streams of mystical light slanting through two-tier Gothic windows, it would be watching children in their little bedrooms fast asleep. Girls especially."
So I stole the showerhead from our apartment in San Francisco. I had to. It was magnificent. Yesterday I found it in one of our moving boxes, and after wrenching off the piece of shit watering-can spigot that came with our house, I installed our old showerhead and took a long shower.
I had a lot of complaints about our little apartment in San Francisco, but the shower wasn't one of them. When you turned on the water and stepped into its cascading warmth, it was like walking into an Irish Spring commercial, with all the redheaded nymphs massaging you with kelly-green washcloths and the sweaty, soot-faced leprechauns stoking the flames that kept the waterfall gushing over your body at a perfect 119 degrees.
See, our stolen showerhead is old: handcrafted by skilled Chinese factory workers before 1992, when California law and federal regulations required that all showerheads imported, sold, or installed here had to release 2.5 gallons per minute or less. As most people who have had the pleasure of standing under our shower in San Francisco will attest, in comparison, 2.5 gallons per minute is like getting pissed on by a squirrel with prostate cancer.
Now, I know that all of you environmentalists who have somehow retained the enthusiasm of a college sophomore will scream and shout about the waste of our freshwater resources. And I'd almost feel guilty, if I weren't in the city of Detroit. One of my friends here lived across the street from a broken fire hydrant that gushed water two feet into the air for more than four months. When he finally got through to the city's water department, he was told it would cost more to repair the broken hydrant than it would to just let the water run. He was considering adding some cement lawn statuary and fallen architectural elements from the nearest abandoned mansion and calling the broken hydrant a public fountain. Besides, our water is paid as a part of our Association Fee, just like cable television. I have been watching the History Channel almost nonstop lately, and the other day I watched a show about plumbing in Ancient Rome. Holy crap, do you know how much water the Romans used per day? They were the cleanest people in human history. Then came the dark ages, when people were more environmentally friendly and only showered once or twice a year. Tell me, environmentalists, who would you rather hang out with? The fucking Visigoths?
All of this is to say that yes, I do occasionally take showers. After Melissa linked to that scrubby-ass picture of me on Suburban Bliss last week, I have to say that I understand if there is concern out there about my hygiene. I received an e-mail last week from a Detroit-area blogger I still need to meet who said the following:
". . .it is almost eerie how you have completely embodied the essence of Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom. Dude, you are Michael Keaton, and that would make Wood very "Teri Garr" which rules to say the least."
Mentioning Mr. Mom to a stay-at-home dad is really throwing down the gauntlet. It's like mentioning the film Baby Boom to a career-minded Manhattan mother (luckily, both movies are available in a double-sided disc on Amazon, so now I know what to get Wood for her birthday; if only they could have packaged it with the third film in the 1980s, fish-out-of-water screwball parenting comedy triumverate: Three Men and a Baby. That would almost be as great as the time Wood bought me the single-disc version of Revenge of the Nerds and Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise for my birthday). But to accuse me of embodying the essence of Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom (presumably after he has sunk to his lowest low and started watching his "stories" and slipping male strippers dollar bills between his teeth, not after his clean-shaven and victorious comeback on the corporate obstacle course), well that was just a slap in the face. But after looking at that picture again and examining my scrubby-ass beard in the mirror, I have to say she got it all wrong. I haven't come to embody the essence of Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom. I have come to embody the essence of Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice. Holy crap I'm dirty!
I hope all this is just a phase, some kind of reaction to those four years spent in business casual hell. I would have rather worn suits every day than dress "business casual." Hell, I would rather dress like a fucking matador every day than wear khaki pants. Just the word khaki grosses me out. I hate looking at it. Pleated khakis. Khaki Dockers. Fuck. Now I'm going to have to wash all this stomach bile off my keyboard. But I won't let a little spilled puke prevent me from wearing the same holey jeans I've been wearing every day for the last two weeks. No sir. Ain't no one the boss of me now.
Wood wrote last Thursday about taking baths, and I'm writing about taking showers today. I'm not above recycling the old trope about the difficulty of showering when there's a demanding little 20-month-old wombat running around. It's so hard I only manage to do it once every three days.
But at least now when I do it, I'll be using enough water to wash away three days' worth of dirt.
One of my goals as a stay-at-home dad is to have a major activity planned for either the morning or the afternoon of every week day. I'm sure I'll slack off, but right now I'm serious about making sure we do something every day, partly because I want to acquaint myself with this city and its surroundings as quickly as possible, and partly because I want to get all the outdoor activities in before the winter weather makes me regret having moved here. Oh, and partly because I figure the more we're out of the house, the less opportunity we'll have to mess it up, which means the less I'll have to do to clean it. That does mean, however, that the back seat of our car is starting to look like the ball pit at Chuck-E-Cheese's, if you can imagine the ball pit filled with moist, stale Pirate's Booty. Stale Pirate's Booty has the same consistency as packing peanuts, so I figure that having the kid sit strapped in her car seat with stale pirate's booty up to her neck is just an added safety feature.
Today I decided to check out Windsor. I wanted to get some good Indian food. I also saw a great looking playground on the Canadian side of the river and I thought there would be some great photo ops over there with the Detroit skyline in the background. Besides, I love Canada. Did I really need a reason to go there?
Apparently I did. The Canadians wouldn't let me in. I was detained for 45 minutes in a Canadian Immigration office today trying to explain to four immigration officials that I was not trying to kidnap my own daughter. I had forgotten her birth certificate, it was true. I totally understood why they wouldn't let me into their country, but was frustrated that they wouldn't let me back into my own. I was detained on suspicion of kidnapping and was told by one of the officers, "You should probably have a letter from the child's mother explicitly stating you have permission to take her across the border."
"Probably?" I asked. "Does that mean that I, in particular, just look like a kidnapper, and therefore I probably should have such a letter? Or do I probably need such a letter just because I'm a man, and my neighbor who takes her daughter to violin lessons over here every week doesn't need permission from her husband because she's got a vagina?"
"You should probably have a letter sir."
"Is it my scraggly-ass beard? I know I look like the kid in your eighth-grade class whose voice changed before everyone else's and who grew a sort-of beard just because he could, but this is the first time in four years I haven't had to wear business casual clothing M-F and I have no grooming requirements whatsoever. So I haven't shaved in a month. I'm not trying to hide my identity. Could this pathetic excuse for a beard really hide anything?"
"It's not your beard that's the problem, sir. It's the lack of a birth certificate for the minor child."
"Can I just go back to the USA now?"
"Why don't you just have a seat there, eh? We've got to fill out some forms."
It turns out Indian food and cool-looking playgrounds are not viewed as legitimate reasons for visiting Canada by some local immigration officials. They grilled me for nearly half an hour about who I was and where I was going and who the kid's mother was and why I was in Detroit and where Wood worked and they made me try calling her five times so they could speak to her. After every question they asked me I asked them whether they ask women who forget a baby's birth certificate the same questions and they insisted that they do. "Aren't there some poor middle-eastern guys you schlubs should be harassing?" I wanted to yell. Finally they let me go.
I tried to walk away with dignity, with all of the officers watching me carry the kid to the car to make sure we didn't make a mad dash to the nearby Tim Hortons and FREEDOM! BLESSED FREEDOM! But you can only maintain so much dignity when you open the back door of your car and three pounds of cheesy white corn puffs spill out into puddles on the wet cement, dissolving into a gelatinous white sludge that will rinse into their Canadian sewers and pollute their clean Canadian drinking water. Take that you unusually friendly universal-health-care-having subsidized-softwood-lumber-producing Canadian jerks! Sure I'd be glad you're so vigilant if someone was actually trying to kidnap my daughter, but holy cripes I'm an American! I have rights, goddamn it!
The booty had shifted like sand dunes while we were being interrogated, so I scooped out a spot for her on the car seat, held my head high and returned to the greatest nation on earth, where it's my god-given right to drive a gas-guzzling car filled with salty pirate-themed cheese snacks through pot-holed streets filled with abandoned buildings and hookers turning tricks in the backs of burned-out 1976 Chevy Impalas.
It is a late night for a baby, almost 9:30 p.m. and she's still up in the next room, listening to her mother read her Blueberries for Sal, a book I bought her yesterday because the young protagonist had meant something to me as a kid and now reminded me a bit of Juniper. I sat down to write this having just returned from a bar looking at beautiful photographs taken by women who are part of the local flickr group Exposure Detroit, and Juniper spent time with her new favorite family, plopping down on Maddie's lap to listen to Max read her Are You My Mother (a book her mother and I hate) which Max read to her so sweetly I later had to peel the dried crust of my heart from the wooden planks of the deck of the bar where I stood around drinking Bell's Two Hearted Ale and talking to Melissa and Logan and wondering why it took me so long to move back to Michigan.
First of all it was that kind of night I've missed for what seems like forever, the kind of summer night I used to think about on August business trips to Manhattan while walking around the city at twilight, remembering that in places that aren't San Francisco the nights are warm and people sit drinking on stoops or porches and kids play ball in the streets or the fields until the deepening dusk alone ends their games and they are forced to retire behind screen windows that block out the hollow mourning of mosquitoes but not the sounds of cicadas' songs. I missed this, I realized tonight, being out there in the night without a coat, not fighting the fog or the brisk chill of the Pacific and its single season of mild, humid cold. I will have to wait almost a year before showing Juniper lightning bugs, but knowing that they are out there somewhere, overwintering, I am still glad that I am close to their slippery silent bodies in the night.
Some people have been so fearful or skeptical about our blogging, suggesting the elaborate danger of throwing all this information about ourselves out into the void, imagining scenarios of all the possible ugliness that might pass because of it. Where does this fucked-up perception come from that half the people with an internet connection are extremely patient child molesters interested only in incorporating our bloated depictions of devotion to our daughter and photos of her standing in silly costumes in front of graffiti into their twisted and elaborate masturbation fantasies? It turns out Wood and I learned after a full year of blogging that the grizzled old white guy who lived across the street from us in San Francisco, whose windows looked directly into ours and who would smile at Juniper on our way to the coffee shop, had been convicted of raping a child under the age of 12 a few years earlier. And here I had spent a whole year reconciling all kinds of irrational fears about the blog.
Watching Juniper play with Max and Maddie, the sweetness of it, it made me feel so good, even if sometimes it seemed like she was ready to pack her bags and go live with them. I have worried and will continue to worry that by staying home with her and taking her for photo shoots down by the docks and in cemeteries I will be selfishly denying her the socializiation she needs and craves. Seeing her with other kids, especially older kids she worships likes Max and Maddie, did make me feel so much better. She's met so many babies and kids whose parents we met through blogs, both on the road and in California, and there are so many more I know we'll meet, with train rides to Chicago and trips to Portland and other places that will come, and all of this just makes me feel that this has been such a good thing. If we haven't met you yet, or even if we never do, I get such a comfort knowing you are out there, silent in the night.
These feelings swelled in me as we made the very short drive back from the bar near the banks of the Detroit River, and a little drunk I looked back on our daughter who I've spent such a wonderful week with. She was chattering away, in the back seat, demanding to be driven "back" to Max and Maddie, who by then were already in their car on the way back up to Royal Oak, a place not far away but far enough that we probably never would have met any of them had it not been for blogs. She then stopped her demands and tried a different tact, perhaps her new strategy of manipulation:
Juniper said in the clearest voice, "Mama pretty," and as she did Wood clutched her chest with her hand that wasn't on the steering wheel and she looked at me with a face that said, "Christ Dutch how did we ever live without that little thing snapped tight in the back seat?" and then Juniper looked at me and said, "Dada pretty," and those words meant more to me than even all the decency everyone has shown me in the last few weeks as I have tried and failed to grow a full beard. And I knew right then, driving through Detroit with the windows down on a warm September night that I would blog about it.
I would have driven her anywhere she wanted to go after that. But with Wood's promises of milk and books and her bed, she realized she only wanted to go home. With us.
For the last month, I was so overwhelmed with loading all of our crap into boxes, driving across the country and filling our car with crumbs and discarded toys, and then unpacking all of our now smooshed crap, that I had avoided devoting a single thought to what it would be like to start my new job and leave Juniper for the first time in 8 months.
On Saturday, my dad and stepmom drove in from Pittsburgh, and once again, I was too busy enjoying their visit to spend much time mentally preparing to go back to work. Luckily, I managed to remember that I needed to buy a new suit, and so all five of us made a pilgrimage to the suburbs to the mega mall in Troy. I raced around the mall in search of a conservative, affordable suit, and when I finally found one, my dad pulled out his camera and snapped a picture of me. In it I look horrified because I was: as if it wasn't enough to bring a toddler into the dressing room, now my dad was taking flash pictures in the middle of the store. I quickly purchased the suit and fled for the door.
By Sunday evening at 11:00 p.m., when I finally got around to frantically searching for a shirt to wear under my new suit that was both unwrinkled and high-necked enough to cover my tattoo, all of the stress that I hadn't had time to deal with came crashing down on my head, and suddenly I couldn't understand why, at that precise moment, Dutch wasn't standing right next to me, holding me and telling me that it was going to be okay, because, after all these years, shouldn't he just know when I need him? In one deft maneuver, I transferred all of my anxiety into anger and directed it at Dutch, exploding at him when he finally came upstairs to see how I was doing. Dutch responded by telling me that it was time to go to sleep already, and that everything would be fine. I went to bed vaguely angry and nervous and woke up during the night at least once an hour.
The next morning I was so busy making coffee, getting dressed, and saying goodbye to my parents that it wasn't until I arrived at work that I realized that leaving Juniper had been no big deal. Over a year ago, when I left Juniper at daycare for the first time after my maternity leave, I had to sprint down the hallway out of her building so that her daycare provider wouldn't hear how loudly I was sobbing. I called my mom as I drove to work that day, and she insisted that I pull my car over until I could stop crying because she was sure I couldn't see the road through my tears. But yesterday was nothing like this. Yesterday, my eyes didn't even well up.
As I settled into my new desk and basked in the glow of an internet connection, I felt guilty. Shouldn't it have been harder to leave her? What happened to my tears? I was back at work and it felt wonderful, not bad at all. And then I realized why I hadn't felt the slightest lump in my throat: she was with her father, duh. He never cried when he ran off to catch his bus in San Francisco, because then she was with me. Now she's with him, and it feels great. I can check flickr during lunch to see what they've been up to. Yesterday I found this:
Dutch remembered to bring the sippy cup with him, so clearly he's doing a great job.
We still don't have internet access yet (damn you, AT&T!), and all the posts I want to write are piling up inside my head, bottlenecked with the many hours I need to spend catching up on the last month or so in the lives of all the bloggers whose blogs I just haven't been able to read since we left California. I would kill for dialup. That's just how hard up I am.
But the lack of internet access has meant Juniper and I have just been walking all over the city of Detroit. Juniper's at that stage where she really wants to run everywhere when I set her down, but she trips all the time. Even when her shoes are actually tied. A few days ago she tripped flat on her face on the sidewalk in front of our house, with ribbons of blood unfurling from her lip and onto the shoulder of my shirt, onto our hardwood floors and throughout our kitchen. It was her worst owie yet in a season of owies. She makes this face every time she falls or scrapes anything, however mildly:
It's almost funny now, but when I first moved to San Francisco in 2001, a group of teenagers attacked me on the corner of Buchanan and Haight, punching me in the mouth, and kicking me in the chest and head while I sat on the ground. The only injury that remained after I washed off all the blood was a cut on my lip not much bigger than this:
At that time, I tried to wait until Wood got home from work to wash off the blood, because I thought it would make me look totally punk rock. Unfortunately Wood went out to grab a drink with some of her colleagues and I ended up washing off the blood before she could see it, and all I had left to show from my big mugging was a cut about the size of Juniper's there. I ended up getting the sympathy I was looking for, as did Juniper, when her mother finally looked into those eyes and saw the injury to her lip and she held her close, long and long.
My wife spent her teen years in a place called Holland, Michigan, home of the annual "Tulip Time" Festival, a mysterious place called "Windmill Island," the original Russ' Restaurant, and reputably more churches per capita than any other place on earth. The local high school's mascot is the "Dutchmen." When Wood was a cheerleader she wore red underwear under her skirt that said "Dutch" in white letters across her ass. Wood's mother grew up in Holland, one of eight children in one of the few Catholic families in town. Wood and her mother both frequently dealt with blonde, blue-eyed Dutch Christian Reformed people telling them that they were "Catholic, not Christian." This drove them both nuts. When I first started dating Wood, her mom and stepdad would constantly make remarks about the "goddamn Dutch people" in Holland. It brought a secret thrill to me knowing that my mother in law's good little Irish girl was dating one of them. Wood's parents would have been so much happier if she would have just brought home a black guy. But finally I was the bad boy. A genetically-ingrained frugality and loads and loads of fundamentalist guilt may not be quite the same as a leather jacket and a motorcycle, but I worked with them best I could to appear a mildly dangerous Dutchman.
And now my mother in law's granddaughter is part them. Moo-hoo-ha-ha-ha.
In some ways though, I feel my mother in law's annoyance with my people is completely justified. I find repugnant so much of my forebears' fundamentalist Calvinism and intolerance. As I've written before, the Dutch people in western Michigan "left the Netherlands because the government was granting rights to Jews and Catholics and their church had grown too liberal. They are perhaps the only immigrant community in North America who left their native land because the government there had grown too tolerant for them." Sure there are tons of cool people in the Netherlands today, and I can't help but wonder if the country is so awesome because they shipped all their assholes off to Michigan in the last couple centuries.
But the Dutch in southwestern Michigan are not without their redeeming cultural institutions, such as the aforementioned tulip festival and, well, the restaurant with telephones on every table so you can call the kitchen yourself and avoid having to tip the waitress. But above all else, the mecca of Dutchdom in Holland is Dutch Village, a theme park designed to resemble a late-eighteenth-century Dutch town. At Dutch Village you can have a pair of "klompen" (wooden shoes) made for you, you can shop for Delft pottery, or dine at the Hungry Dutchman cafe. I have tried some traditional Dutch breakfast dish called balkenbrij, which turned out to be cow and sheep and pig's livers ground into a hash and fried on the griddle, and the waitress told me everyone she'd seen order it had eaten it with maple syrup. I'm sure it warmed the cockles of my grandfather's ghost's heart to see me eating that. That dude just could never get enough liver.
It does cost $10.00 to get into Dutch Village, but the website has convenient answers to the following frequently asked questions:
What are your admission rates? Do you offer any discounts on admission? What if it rains? Do I have to pay admission if I just want to shop? What is included in the admission price? Am I allowed to bring a picnic lunch?
Apparently these are the type of questions that Dutch people ask. Over and over again.
A little more than a week ago, we visited Holland (Wood's mom still lives there). I ignored the little Dutch boy on my shoulder and forked over that $10.00 without even trying for the AARP discount, so Juniper and I were able to spend an hour or so in Dutch village. Wood went wandering around the nearby outlet mall, but later she snuck into Dutch Village without paying. And I'm the cheap one? Well yes, because when she did it I was so freaking proud of her. I haven't uploaded photos in a week, so I'm just getting to these now:
I like the little Dutch boy on this bathroom sign because he's clearly got to go himself. Either that or he already has, and he has just filled his pants. Remember back when people "Dutch rolled" their pants? That's what's keeping it all in.
It's just like Amsterdam, without the hookers and pot. If Amsterdam was built on ten acres in the middle of a vacant outlet mall's parking lot next to a state highway downwind of a Wal-Mart.
My mom has an identical picture of me as a baby sitting in this same stork's bundle. As far as my parents were concerned, this experience was all I needed to know about how babies were made. It's the most we ever talked about sex.
The best thing about the southwestern Michigan is that there is mid-century Herman Miller molded fiberglass everywhere you look and nobody knows that it's cool. consider this wheelchair. I would practically chew off my own leg to get to ride around in one of those. It's an Eames shell chair on bicycle wheels with a footrest. It's like a Duchamp sculpture you can get pushed around in and you never have to worry about your next door neighbor ordering it from Design Within Reach. When I'm old I am totally moving to Dutch Village.
Since this moment, in all of Juniper's dreams, wherever she goes, she is pulled around in a little cart by a friendly dog. I have no doubt about that.
One of the attractions is the Frisian Farmhouse, which is a historically accurate farmhouse filled with old Dutch crap, like the nineteenth-century Bugaboo above and this Stokke Kinderzeat prototype:
It's like a little baby prison, with a pisspot you can change every four hours or so. Modern Dutch design could learn a thing or two from the past. It's really too bad that only the good folks at Graco are still in touch with the important concept of baby imprisonment.
In the background of this picture, you can see some old ladies dressed up in traditional Dutch costumes. Dutch Village is swarming with these old ladies. There are some younger ones too, and they all have real Dutch accents. In the farmhouse I encountered a young college student from the Netherlands who tried to tell me all about the traditional Dutch wares around him. Judging by his stoic performance, they clearly don't encounter a lot of visitors to Dutch Village who are there solely for the kitsch value. He was so serious with me, staying in character, that I started asking all these questions like, "Did you do something bad in the Netherlands? Is that why you're here?" and "Do the bosses make you sleep here?" That finally cracked his shit up. Then he had to go do this klompen dancing thing that totally made me lose respect for him. You just can't take a guy seriously when he's wearing giant wooden shoes.
This old pipe organ provides the music for the klompen dancing. Juniper stood there long after the dancing was over, tapping her palm and demanding "more, more more." I almost bought her some size 4 wooden shoes right then, I tell ya.
Here is a sculpture commemorating Pieter, the little boy who stuck his finger in the dike to save the Wal Mart, the Steak'n'Shake, and the Pier One Imports.
Dutch and I have often tossed around the idea that someday, maybe 10 years from now, we'll start our own business and spend our working time together. We have grand ideas for potential restaurants ("sexy dutch food"), or hanging out a shingle to form our own law firm (Wood & Dutch LLP), or doing something other than punching a clock for someone else. Together, we imagine our brunch menu, or the impeccable furniture we'd put in our law firm's reception area. We envision mornings spent strategizing, leisurely lunch hours, and we picture Juniper doing her homework in the back room before we all go home in time for an early dinner. If even one of the three of us could sing or play an instrument, I'm sure we would have dreamed up plans for going on the road as a traveling family band. That's just how annoying we are.
I think visiting Heather and Jon a couple weeks ago further inspired such fantasies. How awesome is it that they get to spend all their time together with Leta? I think Dutch was totally inspired by the midweek midafternoon manclog lifestyle. Before we were even out of Utah, he was offering ways that I could stay home and help pay the mortgage. I vetoed everything that didn't involve selling the junk he finds at thrift stores on eBay. In the end, we were left with nothing.
Notably, that was at the beginning of our trip home. After spending the last three weeks boxed in together and bound up by packing tape, sneezing up clouds of goldfish cracker dust, I can't believe that I ever thought spending all of our days together was a goal worthy of our imagination. The little fights we experienced during the beginning of the move seem almost cute to me right now, compared to this cabin fever and blinding irritation that comes from spending over 24 consecutive hours inside our new home surrounded by boxes full of crap we can't figure out why we didn't throw away, simultaneously tripping over those boxes and slamming our heads into unfamiliar cabinet corners all while trying to entertain a toddler who doesn't understand that no, she can't play with the knives in that box or the wine glasses in that box or the picture frames in that box. It seems like we opened every box looking for her toys before we found them, but when we did Juniper just sat there in the golden glow of all the toys she hadn't seen for three weeks. That kept her occupied for a good fifteen minutes.
Last night, as I was trying to get Juniper to sleep for the first time in her new twin bed in her own bedroom, Dutch called to me from downstairs in a tone of voice that I've become familiar with over the last few days. It's a tone almost always accompanied by profanity, and it usually means that something has been broken, ruined, or peed on, and that whatever it is it requires that I come immediately. As I grabbed Juniper from her bed and sprinted downstairs, I was already pissed at Dutch and preemptively figuring out how to blame him for whatever crisis had befallen us. But when I got downstairs, he was standing at the window breathlessly watching a mother opossum waddling past our living room window with at least ten babies clinging to her back. She walked slowly, pausing as one of her babies inevitably slipped off and she waited for it to scramble up again. I know they're basically giant rats, but at that moment, I was overcome with how beautiful it was to see her. Dutch apologized for yelling so harshly, saying that he just didn't want me to miss a second of the mama opossum's journey across our backyard. Juniper pointed at the opossum and said, "Mama," and all three of stood there enthralled. For a moment there I thought the plans for a sexy Dutch restaurant might be back on.
Dutch's last day of work was August 9, so the three of us have been together almost constantly for a month. Juniper is so spoiled by this that she gets upset when one of us walks away from our little trio, even if she's being held in the other's arms. Despite how stir crazy we've been with moving and the traveling, it is clear that she's happiest when she's with both of us at the same time.
Monday morning I'll leave Dutch and Juniper at home to go to my first day of work. Soon I'm sure all of our internecine squabbles will fade and the amazing things that happened during our month will take hold in my memory. A time where the three of us can spend all day with each other will once again be confined to our imagination.
Just last night I stood at the entrance of Home Depot, taking in the acres of big-box rafters up above and the swarming orange-smocked associates hawking everything from circular saws to laminate floors down below, and I said to myself, "holy shit I am so fucked."
My friend and his girlfriend were over here the other night and he told me he "doesn't really get" this blog. I told him that was okay, that it was mostly about babies and parenting, and that when I was in his position (i.e pre-kid), nothing bored me more than having to encounter others talking about their kids' sleeping habits. That was pretty much true, but my feelings were still hurt. But last night, when I stood looking at all those aisles of drywall and window treatments and power tools I realized that with the purchase of our new home this week we had joined another unique species of American known as the homo domiciles onerous. All through those blissful days of renting I looked forward to the day we'd own our own home, not knowing that owning a home would involve things like outdoor lighting and being responsible for your own toilet when it breaks. At Home Depot we quickly discovered that there was a whole new dialect we needed to learn, words like spackle and primer and subfloors and moldings. "Do it yourself" took on whole new dimensions. It even has a television network, apparently. The cable channels (yes: we have cable now, but no internet yet) are clotted with shows about renovating your high school math teacher's bedroom or tattooed homosexuals discussing how to arrange your furniture. Over the years I have listened stonefaced to dozens of friends talk about what a pain in the ass it was to paint their walls ("how bad could it be? You had rollers, damn it," I thought), but Wood and I have just spent the last two days painting half our walls and goddamn now I understand, people. Jesus, I understand now why I have had to listen to and read your tales of rolling down two layers of radish paint in your rumpus rooms and bosphorous pink in your nurseries. You needed to talk about that shit, just like you need to talk about what a pain in the ass it is to have a kid who won't sleep. I understand now.
Wood's stepdad works for Sherwin-Williams, so he and her mother gave us a wonderful housewarming present of four gallons of top-quality paint, all the necessary supplies, and a toolbox full of tools. My parents visited our new house yesterday for the first time and showed up with a housewarming present I could have done without: my dad filled his truck with everything I'd accumulated in 18 years of living under their roof, including six giant tubs filled with worthless late 80s baseball cards, and he dumped them off on our stoop. It was as though he'd said, "well, he's got his own house now, so let him store all this crap." I wanted to scream at him, "Dad we moved back to this state so you could be closer to your granddaughter, and you thank me by clearing out my old room so you can store more of your hood ornament collection in there?" Doesn't he realize parents are supposed to throw away baseball card collections so that kids have one more thing to talk to their therapists about? The only silver lining here is that I found my old Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammel Starting Lineup figures. Juniper will soon be using them to imagine some spectacular double plays. As soon as she stops calling them babies and making them kiss each other.
None of our actual furniture is here yet, but we do have sixteen tubs full of crap like my eighth grade Iowa test scores and loose condoms that expired in 1998. We also won't have a high-speed internet connection or a phone line until the eleventh, so I am going crazy not being able to keep up with blogs. But Detroit is awesome, and things should be back to normal around here fairly soon.
Juniper still needs a bed, so today we are tackling the third and most daunting member of the big box triumverate. Having survived Wal Mart and Home Depot, today we take on the great blue and yellow menace from the north: IKEA.
Who needs pinsetting machines at the bowling alley when you an pay urchins 2 cents an hour to set the pins for you?
We are in Detroit, we have keys to our new home, and Wood and I are just overwhelmed with how beautiful the area is where we are living, and how cool it is to have an entire house to ourselves. There have been these two monarch butterflies floating around outside our front door since we moved in. We have to wait a few days for a real internet connection though, so I am writing this not from our home but from the middle of a vacant lot, the only place I could pick up an unsecured wireless connection. Picture that: a white guy standing in the middle of a vacant lot in downtown Detroit typing on a laptop. Consider that image a symbolic middle finger to all the people who said we were crazy to move here.
We don't have any furniture yet, but we still somehow managed to entertainment two old friends last night until after midnight, opening three of our best bottles of wine to celebrate the occasion. Then they rode home on their bikes. We spent part of the afternoon visiting other friends in Dearborn, and we stopped at the Target there for dishwasher soap and laundry detergent to celebrate our ownership of such appliances for the first time in our lives. I have been running the garbage disposal just for fun. I have never had one of those either.
Oh, and we live less than 50 feet from a playground. The only bad part of living less than 50 feet from a playground is that Juniper won't shut up about going to the "wees." And when seven o'clock in the morning rolls around and you've got a bitch of a hangover, and she knows there's a playground less than 50 feet away, do you think she's going to let us sleep in on our first morning in our new house?
We are setting bad precedent. She had already been to the playground at least 15 times. I guess all I need to do is set up a wireless connection that reaches the playground.