Wherever I am there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
"Where are you going today?" says Pooh:
"Well that's very odd 'cos I was too.
"Let's go together," says Pooh, says he.
"Let's go together," says Pooh.
Apropos of absolutely nothing, we were at some social gathering recently and the subject of potty training came up. "Bella was easy," shrugged Mr. ABF. Which elicited one of those "Who are you and what have you done with my husband?" stares from me.
"HA!" I snorted. And I took a swig of whatever was in my hand and got my lips all ready to humorously and graphically detail what an extracted affair it was getting Bella to use the toilet when I suddenly realized . . .
I forget. I forget it all. I have absolutely no idea. I have this vague sense that it was horrible and miserable, and I really do remember hitting the wall at some point and deciding: you know what? Just buy new undies and throw those out. I recall an accident at the zoo where I dutifully pulled out the lysol wipes and sanitized the seat she had been on and then hustled her to the car where from she rode home naked. I have a vague recollection of awarding stickers, but not prizes. I think the stickers were the prizes. I know by the time she ran into preschool (at age 3 years and one month) ahead of me without nary a backward glance she was in underwear.
I don't know what I did, I don't know how I started, I don't know why I started when I did. Was it quick? Slow? Usual?
Is forgetting a hellish childhood period (filled with excrement nonetheless) a typical parental quirk?
Bella potty trained while I was in my fog of grief. I remember so much pain, and yet I remember very little about her. There's about a year there where I'm also without the help of photographic evidence (thank god for the blog or Christmas would be a blur as well).
I missed a year of short six year life. Almost a whole year, because I was distracted by another child. A child who isn't even earthbound and lives only in photos and in my imagination and heart. I'm not big on regrets, but I am sorry -- truly sorry -- that I missed a year of Bella's life. It's probably why I'm overcompensating this year, with another child at my breast, by hosting a tie-dye party. What in god's name was I thinking, not outsourcing a party when I'm barely alert and feel a bit like a bobblehead most days? I thought enough in advance to hire her baby sitter to join us and help us out. And ordered a barbie cake where the cake is her skirt -- tie dye, of course. I'm more excited about it than she is. I'm not missing anything this time around, and am going to photograph and remember every technicolor detail.
Bella, self portrait.
The baby is bringing Bella into relief. Bella is LOUD. Bella is not subtle. At all. Bella isn't horribly gentle with fragile things (this trait is backed up by watching her with neighbor's kittens). She is ready to roughhouse, now.
Bella is big. She has a toothless, slightly crooked grin now that makes her look like a Norman Rockwell. I noticed on Memorial Day that her tummy was pooching out in her swim suit and thought, "here it comes, a growth spurt." Three weeks later she seemed three inches taller. The pooch was gone, and her legs shot out spindly like from her now too-short shorts. Her hair is long (and unwashed and uncombed. Thus starts a post for September which hopefully ends with me taking her screaming and kicking to the salon for a crop).
And I look at the baby and it all floods back -- her crooked smile, her brilliant blue eyes, her intense silence. Geez, remember that? (And for the record, I'll take a screamer who sleeps over a silent non-sleeper any day of the week.)
A few moments with the baby can set off my internal photo album. I can remember things Bella wore when she was an infant -- in fact, when she asked me a bit about our neighbors in our old 'hood, I could not remember her babysitter's name but I could remember in staggering grotesque detail the pink outfit that the babysitter's mother gave her when she was born. It helps that her little brother is wearing a fair amount of hand-me downs (though not the pepto-bismol outfit), but there are other glimpses of past seeping through. The Christmas we all got violently ill and it was warm as heck out. The adorable velvet handme-down dress. The first week in December '04 when she didn't even cat nap for five straight days. Actually going to one of those pre-Christmas sales at 5 a.m. because we were up.
And then the album stops. And it picks up again and here we are, dissing the Hanna Anderssen catalog as "boring," and capturing her mother's heart by reading mystery chapter books. Her interest in sewing puts me to shame, and she can mix a batch of cookies while I hold a baby and give instructions. She can roll her eyes and huff like the best thirteen-year old (causing me to sternly use all three of her names), and linger in a pre-off-to-camp hug. She wants a(nother) dog, she wants a stuffed animal marketed to a two-year old. She wants a DS, an iPhone and a laptop. (Spoiler: She is not getting any of those.) She can bat a ball better than I ever could at any age, and just got her deep water badge at the pool. She whines way, way too much.
I'm half-wondering what happens when the baby turns two; do I get to experience that year in all it's glory, sans mind-altering prescription drugs? (Will I decide I liked it better the other way?) Will I remember anything about Bella that was previously lost?
'What's twice eleven?' I said to Pooh,
('Twice what?' said Pooh to Me)
' I think it ought to be twenty-two.'
'Just what I think my self,' said Pooh.
'It wasn't an easy sum to do,
But that's what it is,' said Pooh, said he.
'That's what it is,' said Pooh.
Mr. ABF and I lengthened our extremely brief wedding ceremony (which we purposefully wrote so as not to say anything more than "I do") in order to add a couple of readings, one of which was "Us Two" by A. A. Milne. There was something so primal, so fundamental about that feeling of finding another that goes with you everywhere, including dragged down the stairs feet first. The other whose mere existence helps you solve problems, and reaffirms your very being.
Ten years ago today we listened to this poem, and the silly short words we wrote, and then we went forth as a couple to hunt dragons. Little did we know the dragons were real, and breathed fire and almost burned down the toybox. But we continued on, always reaching out for that soft, stubby, love-worn hand in hopes it would still be there.
So far, so good.
'Let's look for dragons,' I said to Pooh.
'Yes, let's,' said Pooh to Me.
We crossed the river and found a few--
'Yes, these are dragons all right,' said Pooh.
'As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
That's what they are,' said Pooh, said he.
'That's what they are,' said Pooh.
It's amazing how much can be encapsulated in a day. Here we thought on our wedding day, listening about a stuffed bear, that today would always be ours. (Ours and Princess Di & Prince Charles'. And Brad and Jennifer's. Auspicious, huh.) And four years later in a delivery room, we realized today would forever cease to be about us, just as our lives would cease to be about "us two" from this moment forward.
Ferdinand's day is today too, and he reminds us that it's not even "us three" (or five as the case may be), but Us here and there, those we can touch and those we grasp for in our mind's eye and in our dreams.
To say sharing this day with Ferdinand makes me more appreciative of the life today celebrates (the life which is currently screaming and throwing a ball around with her new lacrosse stick, jeebus watch that window) is a gross understatement: it makes me touch it, and hold it, and inhale it and her chlorine-scented hair, and find some small, quiet amount of thanks for that which I am blessed with.
Every snarled, dirty-faced, leave-socks-on-the-coffee-table, remind-she's-too-young-to-paint-her-fingernails inch of it.
Here's to remembering, and looking forward. Looking forwards and backwards, all at once, all in the same day.
So wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
'What would I do?' I said to Pooh,
'If it wasn't for you,' and Pooh said:
it isn't much fun for One, but Two
Can stick together,' says Pooh, says he.
'That's how it is,' says Pooh.
Happy Birthday, Ferdinand.
Happy Birthday, Bella.
Happy Anniversary, Us.