« Fear factor | home | August 25, 2003 »

Order out of chaos

My friend Kimberly and her two-year-old daughter left on a 7-AM flight today. I had email before 10 AM saying they were home safe and sound. It's 3 PM now, and I've read and managed email, had a meal and plenty of tea, and gotten some work done. I've also washed and [dried and folded|hung to dry] my week's laundry plus all the laundry generated by the visitors. All that remains of their visit is a pile of books, waiting to be reshelved, that Lauren pulled off the shelves in a fit of pique and a fuschia umbrella with two pink barrettes and a ladybug finger puppet clipped to it, waiting to be mailed back to Lauren.

Kim is an exemplary guest. I never got a chance to wash a dish while she was here, and those books are the only spoor of the terrible twos that escaped her neatening. She bought groceries and picked up more than her share of checks, and knowing that I still had to work while they were here, she planned and executed nearly full-day adventures with her daughter almost every day -- and with minimal queries. The exception was a day that she brought Lauren to my apartment, already asleep, and left her with me while she went for a run -- on which she brought the bursting Blanca, which made folding dogsitting into my day considerably easier.

Of course it was disruptive, especially to an aging cat lady like myself, who has lived alone almost continuously for nearing two decades. But it was strangely heartening, too, to labor alone throughout the day, with stolen breaks for movies, and then have visitors every evening. We had almost all our shared meals in the apartment, but they came from some of my favorite local restaurants, familiar and comforting to me and fun and new for them.

When Kim and I were teens, we took for granted that I would marry early and have a family, and that she would not, would not, most likely, ever have children of her own. Barely out of college, she was married, and now she is a full-time mother, and our switch is complete. Still, seeing her with her child, as having infant siblings at home when I was a teen, gave me an opportunity to imagine and consider the role, and looking over my own behavior, I can forgive Kim's gentle assumption that a child is something that is missing for me.

The Lotus Bun was crazed by Lauren. He established whole new hiding places in the apartment and displayed feats of dexterity among the cabinets that surprised even his doting owner. I found myself holding him, toward the end of the visit, and bringing him over to the bed, where Kim was holding Lauren -- thinking in my head that Lauren was being quiet, and the Lotus Bun was less fearful, so maybe I could bring him a little closer to her so they could get to know each other a little bit. In retrospect, it seems like such a small, sad gesture, as seen from the outside, "Look, mommy, I have a baby, too."

I won't make any embarrassing claims, any sharp insistences, so reminiscent of a two year old's rhetoric, that my cradling the Lotus Bun was just as I experienced it at the time, no more significant than that. My selfish genes would be defective indeed if I were completely lacking in maternal feeling. Instead I am merely enjoying the return to order -- delightfully swift and simple in the wake of my friend's deeply appreciated efforts -- an order that more or less created itself in its supreme and motivational desirability. I am writing, and not glancing at the clock, wondering when I'll hear the key in the lock. And my cat is sleeping on the desk, no longer compelled to seek the highest shelf in the closet.

August 17, 2003