When I was eight and a half months pregnant, we received a visit from our best friends, Rhett and Stacy, who are both pharmacists. This visit gave us a somewhat skewed perception of what parenthood would be like. Rhett and Stacy were accompanied by their 5 week old son, Wyatt, who had slept like an angel the entire 9 hour car ride. The morning after their arrival, we took the baby out to a nice brunch, and then later that evening, to a fancy restaurant for dinner. Both times, he dozed happily in his baby carrier, while the adults enjoyed cocktails and grown-up conversations about music, politics, and other non-baby-poop related topics. Since Millie’s birth I’ve been thinking more and more about this visit, and I’ve concluded that--- even though they are the best sort of people imaginable –there certainly appears to be a suspicious link between their son’s behavior and their access to prescription grade Ambien.
Emboldened by their success, and by the assurances of EVERY SINGLE person we have ever met that car trips are soothing to babies, we have taken Millie on two road trips in her first three months of life. She travels pretty well, as long as you completely redefine the meaning of the word “well.” Of course, traveling with an infant is never for the faint of heart, and we wouldn’t have taken her at all if we didn’t have a REALLY good reason for going. In our case, that reason is that we no longer have any brains whatsoever, and that portion of our heads which used to contain our brains now contains frozen lasagna, on which we have subsisted on almost exclusively since Millie’s birth.
Since I’m not sure about how my new, lasagna-based brain will perform in terms of long term memory retention, I’ve decided to jot down a few reminisces of our first road trips so we can share them with our daughter someday.
To Millie—this is important--- when I am very very old, and you are deciding what type of nursing home to place me in—I want you to go back and re-read these stories and ask yourself, “does my mother really deserve to be placed in this cheap, low budget nursing home? Or, doesn’t she deserve to be in a more spa-like atmosphere, you know, like one where the cafeteria pudding is made with organic coco and agave nectar, and instead of bingo they have mandatory holistic massage and acupuncture??” Think about it.
Today’s story is:
Episode 1: Millie’s first French Kiss.
Sean was a new dad. As a new father, he ranked child: car safety as the highest priority, and very soon after Millie’s conception began to read consumer reports with an intensity heretofore reserved for planning camping trips and discussing German automobiles. In the course of his research, he learned that the ABSOLUTE SAFEST PLACE for the baby’s carseat to ride, was in the very middle of the backseat, facing backwards of course.
Now, up until the baby arrived, the back seat was the excusive domain of our 70 lb Labrador, Cricket, and she considered every inch of this space necessary for the stretching, moping, sleeping, and drooling required of her on these occasions. On Millie’s first road trip, we did not leave the dog at home. We packed the baby into the car, and called for the dog to “kennel up.” When she did so, she was faced with an upsetting new reality. The carseat was in the middle of the back seat. HER backseat. A back seat that, while admittedly a little on the small side, was just large enough for a Labrador to ride in tolerable comfort to South Carolina and back. Now, to her horror, her riding space had been reduced by two thirds.
We started the car, and Cricket’s concern was heightened when the quiet and solicitude she had come to depend on during these car rides was interrupted by an insufferable wailing. She had heard this noise before. The sounds of the baby crying. At the time, I was riding, (in my arrogance,) in the “Shotgun” position next to Sean. We weren’t surprised when Millie started crying, but we both looked forward to watching our colicky baby succumb to the narcoleptic properties of long car rides that had been prophesied to us by our friends.
Sure enough, within a few minutes of our drive, the crying abruptly stopped. We breathed a sigh of relief. That was AMAZING we told each other--- it’s like someone flipped a switch and turned the crying off! We rode for a few seconds in the golden silence until, to our horror, the unmistakable sounds of a slurping Labrador tongue issued from the backseat, followed by a muffled baby cry. "GOOD HEAVENS!" We cried, in our most polite voices, not saying any cuss words at all! "STOP THAT CRICKET!"
For months now, Cricket had been telling us, "Guys, I know how to make that baby stop crying--- just let me lick her in the face." When she finally got the opportunity to test her hypothesis with both of her meddling parents in the front seat and out of arm's reach-- she seized this opportunity with both paws, and-- as fate would have it-- a tongue. I'll have to give her this, Millie definitely stopped crying. I'm not going to pretend that I didn't panic for a few hours after I extracted the dog from the baby-- after all-- I know exactly where that tongue has been. But, Millie didn't show any immediate signs of any dog-borne diseases, and after a few hours I began to relax. In fact, what with the severe thunderstorm, and the car breaking on the side of the road later on that very evening, there were a few times I was tempted to say "Hey Cricket. I think the baby needs another kiss..." But those stories can wait for a different day, because right now the oven is beeping, and I need to start my frozen lasagna.