On our last trip to the local supermarket, we hit every aisle. Imogen made me laugh growling at the cats and dogs on the bags of pet food and the Charmin bear. Maybe I should get her out more!
In the checkout line, the guy behind me held two large energy drinks in the same hand. While heaving our purchases onto the belt I for some reason felt the need to explain to him that it was a big shopping trip (“Ya know, ya put it off and ya put it off and then one day ya just gotta do it”); he’s like sure lady, whatever.
Our cashier Paul – who a year ago worked the front desk of the Alaskan Hotel where we’d spent our first two nights in town – rung up our purchases almost patiently. Meanwhile, Imogen had kicked off both boots and wouldn’t take her pacifier, which Mr. Energy Drinks pointed out was lying on the floor.
Outside in the parking lot, I propped the cart against our Subaru jalopy when a voice from a couple of spaces complimented my red coat. I smiled and thanked her but carried on with keeping Imogen from erupting like a volcano. I offered her my keys as a distraction and she chucked them between the painted white lines of the parking lot.
Later, when the house and the baby were quiet, I took a moment to remember the first time I had been in Foodland IGA with her. It was almost exactly a year ago, when we’d been brand-new to Juneau – a time for which I have found myself waxing nostalgic of late just for the simple fact that at that time our lives in Juneau hadn’t really begun: the community was an unknown, giving it a sense of unlimited potential.
We were renting a 600-square-foot cabin about a mile outside of town which was as challenging in as many ways as it might have looked attractive in pictures. I’d carried her to her dad’s new workplace KTOO for this red carpet concert (you can see us in the background at 7:42!), and then could not get her back into the carrier for our walk back to the cabin.
It was getting dark when she started crying inconsolably. I’d forgotten fresh diapers so found myself in the baby aisle of Foodland IGA laying her on my coat on the tiled floor only to discover that she was dry. But I’d shed our winter gear which was heaped in a pile. We moved to a bench by the exit, where we wouldn’t be as much of a navigational hazard for other shoppers, to recombobulate. Imogen fell fast asleep in the process.
I sat almost motionless on the bench with her asleep for about a half an hour. It’s not an exaggeration: every person who walked by us at least smiled, some stopped to have a full conversation.
One lady who’d been observing the situation from her checkout line had even come over and talked to me about how every person had stopped. By the time I was done chatting with her I was ready to try putting Imogen in the carrier again, which was easy this time, and we’d left feeling fully warmed – and welcomed.
A year later it’s the same supermarket. We have a car now; not just a baby carrier. I get into the driver’s seat and, Imogen buckled in and quiet, I look over at the lady two parking spaces over. We make eye contact. Only then does she pull away. Was she waiting for me to regain composure?
Maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe it’s a special place. “My” Foodland.
A fisherman was selling spot prawns at the docks and I told Jacob that Imogen and I would go and get some for our dinner that night. He and I had taken her down to Harris Harbor to get shrimp in the spring, so I sort of knew the deal.
She’d dropped her sunglasses into the water that May day, and Jake had hit the dock and scooped them out just before they disappeared from view, eliciting a round of applause (from me, because I’m his biggest cheerleader even though he says I don’t like anyone).
As it would happen on this cold and rainy fall day, Squigs and my walking buddies Erin and Auggie wanted to go for a stroll too, so I suggested we all go down there together to get prawns. Afterward, we all climbed aboard Erin and her partner Chris’ boat to warm up.
As these things sometimes go, NOW I’m pretty sure I know what it was – her not-completely-dry cloth diaper against her skin, compounded by the fact that we were out in the cold and the rain was hitting her face – that made Imogen completely lose it as we were walking back to the Flats from the harbor.
At the time, though, for as much of a frame of reference as I had, I felt like I might as well have never done anything, traveled anywhere, met, loved, or birthed anyone: it took fifteen minutes once back inside, for her to warm up and settle down.
Walking back, I’d pried open her icy, red fingers and closed them again around a piece of bread hastily torn off the loaf I’d bought to go with the shrimp: why do I keep her on this island in the rain? Who the hell do I think I am hoisting her on and off of boats in her stroller? Am I even qualified to do this at all?
But it was another mom lesson, or a bunch of them in one, hard because they are meant to be: use disposables for even short-ish outings outside in winter (check), get a stroller with a rain cover when you live in Juneau and walk everywhere everyday (check)… keep moving on at the pace of life.
Imogen Charlotte turns one year old a week from today! At first I was a little peeved at Jake for setting up a Labor Day trip (albeit a mini one) in between Ted’s visit and Mom’s visit, but I decided (not to just roll with but) to try to get excited about it.
Then I started to pack, and, even though we’d only be gone one night (I have said this many times before) we needed everything – clothes for every type of weather, every electronic and its corresponding cord, e.g.) we would need for a week or more.
Somehow, by 7:15 a.m. we’d started the 4 1/2 hour journey to Gustavus, gateway to Glacier Bay National Park. On the ferry, Imogen enjoyed alternating back and forth between saying “hi” to everyone and speed-crawling toward the bolts on the bottom of the benches, which she liked to lick.
In Gustavus we checked into Jan and Ela’s Wild Alaska Inn which I would totally recommend as they and their place are very warm, especially on the rainiest of days (that take a bit of gumption to get out in, I might add).
We did one short trail and tucked in for the night. (Woodstove and cedar-plank salmon.) As it would happen, the next day (today, Tuesday) was gorgeous and after we both finished our work went for more of a proper walk to check out “town.”
And I had been thinking (the whole past year, but especially this month) about Imogen’s birth and the anger and hurt I unfortunately still feel toward my midwife who completely phoned it in, but also about the fact that people can be such hypocrites and phonies,
when a car went by with the sticker that looked like one of those stick-figure families, but it was either a snake or a pile of poop, that said “let that shit go” and I had to smile; it was just about the right amount of toughness and truth.
One of the best things about our new place, a south-facing bay window with a view of the mountains, was almost totally obscured by whatever you call these heavy sliding blind things that, even when open, took up more than half of the window.
But a blank slate is a blank slate and can always be looked at as an opportunity. I took it upon myself to frame those mountains à la full DIY… and it ended up being fun and worth the effort to make curtains.
The 8 feet of PVC ($2.29 each) at the same height on each side mostly give the illusion that the windows are the same size (especially when closed). And those are up there with garment hooks we got at the hardware store, and on little rings with clips (to give the “gathered” effect).
They are lined with queen sheets – I found a new-in-package “used” set of 6 and cut the hems off those, so the curtains are nice and heavy. Now we just need some furniture!
Wrapped my sewing machine in Jacob’s and my auxiliary coats, packed Imogen’s new stuffed animals around it, shipped it to Juneau in a Rubbermaid, and after channeling my 7th grade Home Ec teacher Mrs. Goode here I am on this side of one baby dress and a couple of Celtic knot turbans! (Interested in these because Imogen’s name is Celtic in origin!)
Mom actually sent me this fabric AND THE PATTERN which she had saved over forty years. With great appreciation I got to work, and must say I love the final product, especially the big bows on the shoulders and thickness of the fabric for this particular dress. (Didn’t get it on her yet – waiting for spring – but here it is with the pattern and hanging in her closet.)
For my second project, I wanted to make a few baby turbans and Celtic headbands I had seen on Pinterest – there are some sweet tutorials if you are also looking for a my-baby-is-asleep-at-bedtime activity. For this one just had to convince Jake to sacrifice a couple of old, soft (well-loved) t-shirts and wa-la! Baby headbands.
Finally (for now), our family is featured backup dancing in this video featuring Marian Call and Laura Zahasky at 7:40. And it’s a good show too!
In Istanbul I didn’t see the play “Faust” in Turkish, though it was always one of those stories with which I felt I “ought” to be familiar; “The Bodyguard” was playing when we lived in West Germany but only in German, a language I didn’t have the chance, at thirty-eight, to learn:
when I heard the Perseverance Theatre was going to show “They Don’t Talk Back”, I knew that – yes, even though we had a five month old daughter and didn’t know anyone else in the town to watch her, and probably wouldn’t leave her with anyone that long yet anyway – we’d find a way to go.
She attended a concert in Holland in utero, and we did take her to a comedy show when she was a month old (cramped venue, but Ted and Christina were visiting and we wanted to do stuff) and even ended up on one of the comics’ Twitter feeds, but how we’d do a play with her had us stumped.
First, we thought we’d just go to separate shows – Jake would go Thursday, I’d catch the Sunday matinee – but as he works long hours during the week, the weekend is our time together and that was how we wanted to spend it. A special matinee on Saturday was announced and we got tickets.
Despite leaving over an hour early we still walked into the darkened theater a bit late. Jacob had reserved seats near the door and I was happy to see there was another woman with a tiny baby sitting in the next row. Imogen was sound asleep in her car seat.
When she woke up halfway through the first act in the cozy theater, I simply got her out of her seat and moved her to my lap. She liked the drums and dancing; she seemed to be actually following the lead actress’s monologue… the one thing she didn’t quite understand is that you have to be quiet.
We think she liked the energy of the play and that is why she started cooing, but at any rate I ended up first standing in the back, and then sitting just outside the theater on a comfy couch for the second act so Imogen could coo without distracting art patrons.
The woman setting up coffee and snacks, and running the theatre, asked Imogen’s name, and when I also mentioned her nickname (Squigs), the woman painted a lovely picture of Imogen being on a talk show someday, divulging her early nickname to chuckles from the crowd.
When Jacob came out with our things, I told him he should stay in and watch, and that we were content to have seen as much as we had, the woman told me that I should come back the next day and catch the second act. I thought this very kind of her and decided to do just that.
At this point you may be wondering what the big deal is about this post: “okay, you went to a play with/without your baby, got it,” but if you’ve ever moved to a new city and/or shared a tiny space with just your husband and baby, you have an idea what is was like to attend a play by yourself.
It took about thirty seconds for me to get completely lost (in the good sense) in the play. A “coming-of-age” story and so much more about a (Native) Tlingit family, a mother who lost a daughter; weather, music: I felt at once a part of my new community, as if it showed itself just to me.
When I left, the woman who’d told me to come back told me she was so glad I had made it (seriously, why did she even care?), and (I realized after I got into the car how much I meant what) I said, “I can’t imagine if I hadn’t.” Then, she said, “your daughter is precious.”
Thank you Perseverance Theater and Juneau!
Rain and sleet this week have been fairly legitimate reasons for not going stomping around in the woods, and the week before that I did go out there and get my “bearings:” while there were moments I enjoyed (getting a feel for the downtown area, e.g.) I’d say I thought about bears roughly 80% of the time.
My husband can no longer hide his exasperation on the topic: we spent the first several nights in the cabin after the girl was asleep discussing, again (we’ve been on the topic since Germany) what to do if you see a bear (“Hey, Bear! Get outta here!”) and stand your ground, and what not to do (run).
That said, the phrase “bluff charge” will not leave my brain. “You will never feel more alive,” my husband said (as when you stand your ground to a bear that is bluff charging you); I feel quite dim panicking about it after electing to move to a cabin in the woods in Alaska with my baby daughter who I don’t let out of my sight when I use the bathroom.
Now, while bears are an actual fear because they can be quite unpredictable, and they should always be given their space (even if you couldn’t help not giving them their space because you didn’t know they were there), it occurs to me that “bear” could be a metaphor of all of the things in the world from which I cannot protect her.
When I walked past riot police in Istanbul I would get that throat-constricting fear based also on being caught in the middle of an unpredictable situation, but actually we never know what is going to happen, and yet I know that we’re safer here than so many other places. No one is attacking anyone in Juneau; its politics are within my realm of understanding.
Having turned in before 10 pm on NYE, we were among the first ones up for breakfast on New Year’s Day, our second day in town. At the cafe we found, the waitress got down right in her face and complimented Imogen’s eyes. Even more awesomely, a lady at the next table offered to hold her while Jacob and I scarfed down our eggs. We let her.
I like watching our daughter look to the tops of the trees when we go for walks, and see along with her the way the mountains all around us turn pink at sunset. (Mostly-) imagined threats aren’t nearly big enough to cause these things to crash down anyway, new mom. Unless you wanna talk about avalanches.
We did quite a bit of traveling around in Imogen’s fourth month: San Francisco to O’Hare to Oshkosh; back to O’Hare, to Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos, and back to Cabo; back to San Francisco, to Petaluma and all over West (Sonoma) County; finally, to Juneau (where we are now).
Jessica and Nick were lovely hosts and it was a thrill to see their beautiful place Casa Real take shape before our eyes. Jess has an eye for design, and has assured us that the best is yet to come; if kerosene lamps and piping hot tamales are your thing, you’d believe her, too.
Our first morning in Todos Santos we headed for Las Palmas, a beach 20 mins. from Nick & Jess’s… you’ll just have to trust me that there were waves that were exciting without being scary, blue sky, warm sand and all the other lovely earthy beach-y things… because all I see is
and (last but not least)
It was our first family vacation, and while at times I questioned my own sanity trucking her around all over hell, Imogen liked the warmth, the sound of the waves, and her Grandpa Dusty’s long stories. I think she had the best time of all of us!
We finally made it to Juneau the early morning hours of the last day of the year. Had a ‘soft landing’ at The Alaskan Hotel and Bar , and then worked on getting our cabin set up. I’ll post more pictures of the cabin soon – it is a beautiful place for our first place here in Juneau.