Wednesday, August 18, 2010

99. Pool

(Fun Flashback Moment—second in a series) So I am almost 9-months pregnant with Short, and chasing after my lovely 2-year-old toddler, Tall, when my (then) neighbor Helga suggests we join her pool. She is a lovely elderly woman, probably in her late 70’s, and she would be the cover model if there was a magazine called Graceful Aging. She sports salon hair 24/7, a different Neiman Marcus outfit every day (pressed, natch), and a Colgate grin. As for her meticulously-tended backyard rose garden, well, Versailles could take lessons. She is a retired airline executive, so she often uses her hard-earned travel passes, jetting off in first class to film festivals, African safaris, and hiking expeditions to Mt. Kilimanjaro. Plus, she’s a considerate and helpful neighbor, bringing us home-made bread or the latest magazines she has finished reading (Travel & Leisure, Health and Fitness, Vanity Fair, Vogue). Helga is, in essence, Martha Stewart on crack. I hate her. She basically makes me feel…… substandard. And obligated. I remind myself that I don’t have the energy to feel obligated: this Mothering-a-toddler-while-obesely-pregnant thing is wearing me out. I don’t have time to make home-made brownies to reciprocate and get this Guilt Monkey off my back, nor do I have time to read her cast-off Fun-Glittery-Lifestyle magazines. I wish I did, but I don’t. Instead, the alluring magazines mock me from the recycle bin: MOV! You used to be “fun”! You used to care what Sarah Jessica Parker was wearing! You used to want to read about Tahiti—heck, you’ve BEEN to Tahiti! You used to wear nice clothes that weren’t covered in apple sauce and magic markers! Helga is a constant reminder of tiny beautiful droplets of my personality that have evaporated but I wish to reclaim. I often avoid her; but the rational part of my brain (that 5% or so) is acutely aware that she means well. She leans over the back fence one day, purple roses tucked under one arm, and waves to catch my attention, “MOVey, darling, have you given any consideration to which pool you’re going to belong to?” I look up from my spot with Tall at the sand box under the giant beach umbrella where I am trying to prevent him from eating too much sand. Now, he brandishes a large construction vehicle and is covertly using it to dump copious amounts of sand onto the grass. “Huh?” I shoot back intelligently. “Well, once the baby comes you will need to join a pool,” she remarks matter-of-fact, as if those two are inextricably linked: Baby/ Pool. “Have you decided, you know, which one yet?” Have I decided which pool? Heck, I haven’t decided what we’re having for lunch yet and this woman wants me to commit to a pool? “I dunno, Helga,” I say unconvincingly. “Why don’t you join our pool, Pinnacle Provenance?” she asks sweetly. “It’s only $8000 per summer. I do happen to have some extra guest passes if you want to go try it out with me. We can try it out the day after tomorrow; it’ll be fun!” I don’t want to try it out her pool with her. The pool I want to try out in MOV’s Perfect Universe offers unlimited free peach margaritas and all-day child care. If I go to Helga’s pool, I know I will have to bring a diaper bag and extra swim diapers and healthy snacks and water bottles and sunscreen and bug spray and a change of clothes and two beach towels and several toys as diversionary tactics if Behavior Unravels. Ugh, I am tired just thinking about it. Oh, and don’t forget: I will have to wear a swimsuit. A maternity swimsuit. That doesn’t sound like fun. In fact, it sounds exactly like the opposite of fun. “Sure, Helga,” I hear my lips say. Hello, LIPS? I understand betrayal by my big fat belly that used to be flat and even mildly attractive. But my lips? They have never argued with me before. They normally say what I want them to. Why the sudden rebelliousness? Have the Unpredictable Pregnancy Hormones afflicted my lips as well? “Oh, come on,” The Husband says later over dinner, “it’ll be fun! Besides, it’s not like we’re going to actually join Pinnacle at that ridiculous price. Anyway, Helga was just being neighborly to even ask you. The least you can do is just go one time to the pool with her.” Pool. Pool. The only pool I feel remotely comfortable with is the Pool Of Hormones that I’m already engulfed in. I don’t wanna go to the pool, I pout, I wanna stay home and look at photos of how skinny I used to be! Helga wants me to go to the pool, The Husband wants me to go to the pool, Tall wants to go to the pool (well, he would if he knew it were an option). Even though I think it is A Very Bad Idea, I eventually relent. I wake up in the middle of the night obsessing about the pool. You know how with the movie Titanic, everyone in the audience knows from the very first scene how it will all turn out (uh, badly)? That is how I am feeling about the pool. The appointed day starts off amazingly well. Despite my midnight ruminations, I feel rested—energized even. Tall has eaten a healthy breakfast of strawberries and Cheerios. Even though he is getting a new molar, he is remarkably cheery. I put on my black maternity swimsuit with the hot pink trim that makes me resemble not so much a couture pregnant woman, but more a water buffalo (who designs these things?). My Saving Grace is my rather large, stunningly chic, and trendy fuchsia-colored sunhat. It frames my face nicely, and it actually makes me look quite young, possibly even teen-ager-ish (well, knocked-up and teen-ager-ish). It was an expensive hat, but worth every penny for the compliments I know it will garner today. I dress Tall in bright-yellow Hawaiian-print surfer trunks, and he miraculously cooperates. He looks ready to hula. We gather up our gear and walk (or in my case, waddle) to Helga’s house. I knock on her door and she answers eagerly. I immediately notice that she is wearing my identical sun-hat. We look like we planned it. Need I remind you that she is approximately 900- years-old? I feel stupid, and not exactly hip and stylish and YOUNG like I did a mere ten minutes ago. I instantly wonder if Helga would be offended if I take off my hat and inconspicuously crumple it up and throw it in the trash. She seizes the opportunity to say, “Oh! We have the same hat! It looks lovely on you! I guess brilliant minds think alike.” This is not the compliment I was originally going for. She smiles broadly and says, “This is going to be so much fun!” Be nice, MOV, be nice. We arrive at the pool and it is not yet crowded. This could turn out okay, I tell myself. We find a nice shady spot by the kiddie pool, which is essentially a very shallow fountain. The babies and toddlers are having a blast getting wet, and they seem genuinely shocked when the (predictable) fountain sprays in their direction. Tall loves it. “Fun, Mommy, FUN!!!” he giggles. Tall makes a new friend, an adorable little girl named Janelle. They are tossing a small orange-and-white beach ball back and forth. Right now, with her strawberry-blonde ringlets and his surfer appeal, they could be a TV commercial for Pinnacle Provenance. Then Janelle, in all her three-year-old wisdom, spontaneously decides it would be fun to take off her swimsuit. Tall is giving me a puzzled look. Wow—she is taking off her swimsuit! Is that what you do here at the Fantastic Fountain Pool? (Here his demeanor shifts.) Well, I want to participate in that action! Ziiiiiiip, Tall’s swimsuit is off. I crawl over to him and attempt to wrestle him back into it. He is having none of it. Now he is screaming. “Lemme go! No swimsuit! Stop! You hurt me! Aaaargh! NOOOO! GET AWAY FROM ME!” People are starting to look over at us. Have they never seen an upset child in the kiddie pool? Do they think I am actually beating my child? I hate it when complete strangers are staring at me; I despise being the center of a “scene”. “Tall! Tall! You must wear your swimsuit. Let’s get you back in your swimsuit or we’ll have to leave,” I hiss. Now Janelle has gotten out of the baby pool and is doing a naked dance on the side. Where is her mother anyway? Tall stops screaming because he is suddenly mesmerized by this miniature Britney Spears. He gets out of the pool (at least he’s dressed again at this point) and attempts his version of Janelle’s disco-mania. My child could be such a perfect angel all the time if it weren’t for the Very Poor Example of other people’s bratty children. Tall gets a little too close to the edge and before I can reach him, he has slipped and cut his lip on the edge of a metal part of the fountain. Oh, shit. There is blood everywhere. The pool looks like a baby-eating piranha has just been set loose. The only thing worse than the sight of your child’s blood all over the baby pool (magnified by the water, natch) is the horrible sound of your child wailing because he has cut his lip. No wait, scratch that. The only thing worse that the blood or the wailing is the sheer numbers (dozens) of emergency helpers and teen-aged life guards that miraculously appear out of nowhere to offer assistance. The activities of the entire pool have come to a screeching halt and All Eyes Are On Us. The previous swimsuit/no swimsuit debacle was just a warm-up. Helga, God bless her, handles it all like a pro. “Don’t you worry, MOV, I have nine grandchildren and someone somewhere is always getting injured.” She effortlessly scoops up all our personal belongings as if they are just more purple roses. She continues calmly, “Let’s get him to the ER and see if he needs stitches.” Which is what we do. Tall is not particularly happy to be at the hospital but his wailing has subsided and been replaced by the Universal Injured-Toddler Language of breathy sobs punctuated with sniffles. We are seen be a nurse practitioner fairly quickly, and then a pediatrician; the general consensus is that he—luckily—does not need stitches after all. The blood (bright red) has now been replaced with bruising (dark purplish-blue). Helga offers to stay with us, but after much prodding, finally leaves. I fill out myriad insurance forms while the doctor finishes up with Tall and we wait for The Husband to pick us up. The baby who-is-almost-ready-to-be-born is kicking me hard. Please wait, Baby, I pray, I do not want to go into labor on this particular hospital visit. A different doctor I have not noticed before comes over to us; he reminds me of a very handsome lanky tennis player. He is tall, blonde, has great dimples, and is wearing tortoiseshell glasses. For a split second, I fantasize about flirting with him, and then the reality sinks in that I have matted wet hair (never a good look), am wearing my swimsuit cover-up, am almost 9-months-pregnant, and oh yeah, married. Dr. Tennis opens his mouth and says, “I’m glad your son is okay. I’ve gotta tell you, in my professional opinion, it’s just A Very Bad Idea for you to be at the pool running after such an active child when you are so close to giving birth. I’m sure you just wanted to have some ‘fun’ before the new baby arrives, but you should really just stay home the next couple days and take it easy.” I agree with Dr. Tennis: turns out the pool was A Very Bad Idea after all. I think it will be fun to stay home tomorrow, and maybe watch my Titanic DVD. MOV (“Maternity On the Verge”)

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