Well. It was certainly an interesting day in the life of this Mamma Nonni.
My Ellie and I were invited to a baby shower in honor of one of my young former teaching colleagues, and I was beyond excited to be going.
In the first place, I think we have established the fact that I am somewhat baby crazy. I mean, what could be more hopeful, inspiring or uplifting than the promise of a new life?
But in the second place, this would be the first school-wide event that I would be attending since my sudden retirement last June.
I desperately wanted to be there! I really admire and love the teacher who is about to become a first time Mom. She will be such a lovely and loving mother, and I am so happy to be able to help set her on that path.
But I also wanted to be there because I really miss being part of the wonderful community of professionals that I left behind last June.
And my sudden departure from the school in the spring had left me feeling very shaky about my place in that community. Would I still be welcome? Did I still have a place in their hearts and memories? I wasn’t entirely sure.
When I was invited to this shower, I knew that I had to attend. I wanted to be there for the baby and the Mom, but I also wanted to be there for ME. To remind myself that I had done good work for many years at that school, and that I really could always come back for a visit.
So this morning Ellie and I got ready for a big day back at my old school. Her Momma had dressed her in a cute little onesie that was both gender neutral and adorable. We had a morning bottle and a morning diaper change. We had our AM nap and some floor time sitting up and stacking blocks.
All was well.
I started to get us ready for departure a full 30 minutes before our deadline. I packed the diaper bag with extra clothes, a clean burp cloth, a rattle and three bottles of milk. I made sure that Mavis Hamwater, Ellie’s favorite rag doll, was close at hand. I put on my good clothes, brushed my teeth, slid in some earrings.
And scooped Ellie out of her swing. I leaned in to kiss her neck.
Ewwwwww. Cheese. Really old cheese.
My baby smelled like spoiled milk.
Quickly, fully aware that I wanted to arrive at school before bus dismissal time, I stripped her down, washed her up and popped her into an adorable pink onesie and cute purple socks. I buckled her into the car seat and sped on down the highway to the place where I had spent so many hours, days, weeks, months, years.
As we got closer to school, my heart began to race. Would I still be welcome? Would anyone notice or care that I was here?
I pulled into the parking lot, smoothed back my hair, and got out of the car. I double checked the diaper bag, and then lifted my sweet Ellie out of her car seat.
And I felt the slimy warmth of the bright yellow ooze that was leaking out of her back side. What on earth……?
Ellie has begun to eat solid food. Her poop has gone from benign deposit to toxic sludge, all in the space of a week.
Holy Poop, Batman!
My sweet baby girl had produced enough toxic waste to coat herself all the way up to her hairline. In fact, as I looked closely in horror, I could see that there was poop actually IN her hair. And up to her neckline. And down to her knees. And there was poop dripping from her backside, down her legs and onto the pavement of the parking lot.
There was poop on my sleeve and on my hands and even under my fingernails.
What the hell was I supposed to do?
I couldn’t gather her up and carry her into the school building: I would have been covered in sticky yellow goo and I did NOT bring any clean clothes for myself.
No. I would have to change the poor kid in the parking lot!
So I opened the back door of the car, and laid the baby down on the seat. It was very cold out, and a pretty hefty snow squall had hit us just as we’d arrived at school. I knew that I had to strip off all of poor Ellie’s clothing, but I didn’t want her to freeze!
So I draped her crocheted blanket over my shoulders as I leaned in the backdoor of the car. As fast as I could manage it, I pulled off her clothes (smearing more poop in her hair) and then wiped her down from head to toe with wet wipes. In spite of the fact that the car was running and the heat was on, the poor little baby was shivering in the cold by the time I got her all cleaned up.
I put on a new diaper, and a clean onesie and a new jacket.
I wrapped her in a poop free blanket, and gathered her into my arms.
And as I walked back into school, I started to think about those brave Pioneers that I used to teach the kids about, back when I was a fifth grade teacher. I remembered the stories of strong, unshakable mothers who raised their children on the open plains. I pictured myself as just such an explorer, courageously facing the unknown. I straightened my spine, lifted my head, and held Ellie close to my heart as I walked back into the school that I hadn’t seen in more than half a year.
I felt like a Pioneer Grandmother with her Pioneer Child. Entering the wilderness, heart in her throat.
Until I was greeted by so many familiar, beloved faces, greeting me, welcoming my Ellie, celebrating my return. “We miss you!”, they said. Mothers of students, teachers of students, and most importantly, the students themselves. “Come back to us!” “We wish you were here!”
I held my little Ellie, so happy to have her in my arms and in my life. I embraced my friends and my students. I was so happy to be back.
Suddenly, I saw myself not so much as a Pioneer, but more as a settler, secure in her place on the village green.
Happy Baby, dear Laura! Thank you, thank you to my friends and colleagues and to the wonderful kids who greeted me today! I miss you all!