Tuesday, May 01, 2007

This Whole Motherhood Thing

I handed her the keys to shut her up. We have toys, oh yes, she has half a dozen in her diaper bag for I am Good Mother, carrier of snacks and developmentally appropriate Manhattan Toy Company products to stimulate mind, body, and spirit, all of which I have spent the last half hour picking up off of the floor of the produce section an bakery. She is Hippomenes to my Atalanta, and the golden apples in this race are shaped like board books. The keys keep her entertained all the way through the frozen food section, the dairy case, and the checkout. We wheel to the car: strap baby in, pop the trunk, unload the cart, open my… crap.

This isn’t happening. Oh God, somebody please tell me this isn’t happening.

Did I mention how much she loves the buttons on the keyless remote? With one touch, my baby is locked inside the car with the bag containing my wallet and phone. I have choices to make. Do I plead with my baby to “press the pretty button, come on, you can do it, good girl!” (I do), leave the car to call collect from a payphone and return to find a SWAT team from Child Protective Services surrounding the car (I do not), or cry (I do). The child laughs at Mommy from the safety of her glass and steel enclosure. Moments pass, clouds roll in. Countless people walk by and stare. Do I ask for help? Of course not, what kind of a mother locks her kid in the car? Moderate panic turns to full blown mania.

“Hey,” a gentle hand on my shoulder arouses me from my stupor “are you okay?”

(no, decidedly not okay)“Um, yeah, it’s just that, um, my daughter was holding the keys and she pushed the button and sort of, well, locked me out.”

“I don’t have a cell phone, do you want me to stand here while you use the pay phone?”

“Yeah, that’s the thing, my wallet is in the car”

A second woman approaches, with two young children in tow. “Oh, do you need money? Here, hang on a second” and she rifles through her purse for quarters.

It starts to rain. Hard. I run to the pay phone, insert the quarters, and as I dial I hear from the parking lot “We got it! It’s open”

I sprint back to the car where these two strangers are standing, in the rain, with their own children next to my car, now wide open.

“As soon as you stepped away, I heard the lock click and I grabbed the door handle. She’s okay. Everything’s okay”

I look at these two women and tried in vain to summon the right words. “I can’t thank you enough.”

With a shrug, she says “It takes a village, right?” and runs into the store to get herself and her children out of the rain while the woman who placed her hand on my shoulder disappears into her car.

That’s the day it finally clicked for me, this whole motherhood thing. Sure, I’ve been a mom for sixteen months- longer if you count the months of nausea and insomnia, and reflux that preceded her birth-and I love this willowy little girl (yes, even at 16 months, she is willowy- she gets that from her dad; she gets all her good parts from her dad, nobody ever says she looks like me) with my heart and soul. But this is the first day I’ve understood the universality of motherhood. When my daughter was born, I did not assume the care of one human life, I became a member of a village.

Kara writes and rants at CapeBuffalo and CapeBuffalo Says…. She’s adopting a new kitten this week and needs help finding a name.

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Jodi said...

I know so many people the exact same thing has happened to. How nice of those people!

Dana said...

This is beautiful. I can't imagine, if my son locked himself in the car, that'd I'd be able to contain my fears. I am so happy that these two women were there to help and comfort you.

super des said...

I really liked this post. It does take a village.

Amy Jo said...

Thanks for sharing such a great story with me and all of us Kera!

P.S. SOB is digging the name!

Rebecca said...

I am happy to hear that all ended well. I could feel your fear and pain and worry when i was reading!
It does take a villiage! Love the post!

Suzanne said...

What a fantastic story! It makes me feel better about humanity in general.

Laura Lohr said...

I locked myself in the car when I was little. I have always loved that story.

I love your imagery. You painted a real picture in my head. That was great they helped you the way they did.

This brought a tear to my eyes!

cape buffalo said...

Thank you all for your kind comments and thank you, Amy, for being such a gracious hostess.

That part in your post (over at my place) where you talked about your mom fussing over YOU after the birth of your baby started the waterworks.

We're all pretty cool, aren't we?

Mrs. Chicky said...

Kara, I love this post. Love. It.

I locked my kid in the car a few months ago. For a split second I thought I was going to lose my mind but my neighbor (thankfully I was still in front of my house) was gracious enough to watch my car while I jimmied a door and frantically tore my house apart looking for my extra keys. I like your story better, though. It does take a village.

soccer mom in denial said...

How I wish none of us had to go through such moments of fear! Thank you for sharing it with us and isn't it nice to know random strangers will help?

Jenn said...

oh, after a couple of days of idiots around here, you just restored my faith in people :) thx

Jennifer said...

Great post. You are a very good writer.