Yesterday Annikah arrived home after being out in the city virtually all day covered in grit and grime. The kind that you can feel in your teeth, your hair, like you have been “lightly dusted” with DIRT (due mostly to the crazy wind yesterday combined with lots of city nastiness).
We were out enjoying the wonderfully hot day with our good friends Beck (hot Mama, fabulous fashionista, friend & sista, and designer of baby couture extraordinaire) and Aislin (her adorable daughter that is a few months older than Anni). We met at a park in the morning and then decided to have lunch and hang out. Beck also had to show me one of her awesome city finds: threadless. As a plug it is a way swanky T-shirt place that is mostly on-line (although they did mention to us that they are opening a store soon). Artists submit designs and then people vote on what designs they want printed on T-shirts. I got my two favorites: yeah for cute T-shirts!
After lunch at her place we put the babies down for naps which did not work out quite as planned. Anni went down after much talking in the pack and play in Ais’s room. Then Ais needed to go down and Anni was not up yet so we (being the stealthy Mamas we are) decided to try to get Anni in her pack and play moved successfully without waking her up while simultaneously keeping Ais from crying (as she was overtired) until we could put her down to sleep. I’m telling you if finding Osama is anywhere remotely as difficult I now understand why we cannot get the dude. It was really comical to watch. We were so close to announcing V-Day! I almost had the pack and play out of the room, only about an inch left (with some minor scrapes to the door- sorry Beck!) when Anni sprang awake and started crying. She joined Ais and they wept together mocking our silly plans to actually sit and talk without chasing babies.
After admitting defeat we packed up and took the girls out on the town. We explored various stores in Lincoln Square and walked to get some cool caffeine refreshment. As we were walking and chatting (in between overtired Ais crying and us giving the babies peace offerings of cheerios and sippy cups). Another random thought, since Anni has recently started really loving to feed herself when she is fussy for no apparent reason (her car seat protests or the usual “it’s 4 pm and I am just plain irritable”) I now can usually go with the safe standby: a cheerio. She loves picking them up and it buys me a few minutes. This of course will not always work and I am sure is creating bad habits but let’s face it: Survival is key! What will I do when her problems cannot be cured by Cheerios? Too much to think about, let’s move on.
Beck and I discussed how surprising it can be to see people’s reactions to babies and mothers. I shared that I was shocked the first time I rode the El with Annikah at who was helpful and nice and who was nasty to us. Now, Anni was not crying at all simply babbling and being her cute self.
As an aside, not that if she was crying I could really control it (unless of course it was Cheerios fixable). It really gets to me when people stare down parents who have a crying baby, like they are pinching the baby and WANT the baby to cry, cut them some slack (unless of course they are at the movies then proceed to boo and throw popcorn at them)!
Of course, I did have my mounds of baby gear with me (stroller, diaper bag, purse, etc) which even annoys me so point taken. But we were riding in the middle of the day not at rush hour so no crowding issue. A woman about 50 years old gave us the death stare as we boarded and then proceeded to be annoyed and make sure I sensed her annoyance the whole ride by breathing and huffing out loud when Anni was babbling. I felt like saying “Hey lady, if you want a quiet ride the El is not for you, at least no drunk dude is puking on you (a story for another time) get over it.” Two young people (maybe high school age guy and a girl) behind us were playing with Anni and blowing raspberries back at her. It was endearing that these two “kids” in their puffy coats and blinged out apparel were actually babbling with Anni. Anni so enjoyed it that when they ignored her to go back to their previous conversation she started grunting and insisting they pay attention to her again.
Beck brought up the difference between downtown and the neighborhoods in the city. That downtown people just blow doze past you and get in the way when you are trying to push the stroller. But in the neighborhoods people can be really nice and open doors, help you up/down stairs, etc. Memo to self: avoid downtown with stroller!
Our discussion got me thinking about other experiences we have had in the city that stood out….
Since Anni’s new habit of waking earlier (around 6am) we have a lot more time to pass before her first nap in the morning so I have been taking her jogging with me everyday. She enjoys the jogging stroller and even laughs when it hits bumps (so precious). The other morning we were running along and saw two women on the sidewalk in front of us. They were clearly wearing their PJ’s (I mean 2 pieces matching print and house shoes so not assumptions here). As we approached I could see they were have a heated discussion about (I am assuming some not so wonderful man) as they were cursing up and down. As soon as we got within a few feet they stopped me and bent down to talk in high pitched voices to Anni. She reciprocated by staring and then kicking her legs to which they said “what a cute baby” to which I of course responded “thank you.” Babies really soften people (if only for a moment). As they continued on we heard “Yeah girl, that *^#@*!! (use your imagination here)
Another afternoon we were walking home from the produce market in our neighborhood when a sweet older woman (who looked like she was straight out of Fiddler on the Roof, head scarf and all) held out her hand in front of the stroller (picture “Stop in the name of love” here). She bent down and began squeezing Anni’s cheeks and saying (I am sure sweet things) in another language to her. She smiled at me and then went about her walk.
Since Anni’s recent obsession with swinging we have been taking lots of walks to the park. Last night after we picked Jason up at the train station the 3 of us went to the park 2 blocks from our house. We met twins girls that were about 8 years old. They loved Annikah and began to entertain her and push her on the swing so we struck up a conversation with their Aunt that accompanied them. She has a daughter who is in Africa (Kenya) right now but they actually lives in New York and are just here visiting. We chatted, asked questions, and compared the two cities. I love listening to people’s stories, how they exist and what brought them to now. All the while we talked to the background noise of Annikah laughing at the girls running around and smiling at her. As we walked home we were grateful for this shared space. If we had our own yard with no park nearby we would not have the opportunity to share communal space and connect, in small but meaningful ways, to others.
So, all this to say I was thinking last night that if we did not jog in the morning, explore the city with friends, play at neighborhood parks, walk to run errands instead of driving we would miss vibrant, alive and altogether sublime pieces of our city.