Families with babies and families without babies are sorry for each other. — Ed Howe
The gestation period had only been three months — from the date I conceived my little one to the moment she was delivered. During that time, my friends, whom I’d infected with my excitement, would ask me to predict the exact delivery date. But, as those sorts of things go, even after numerous consultations with experts, I was unable to suggest anything more precise than a two-week window.
“I’m thinking of throwing you a shower,” said my friend Jen, two months before the big day. Assuming she was kidding, I laughed it off. When she mentioned it again, I giggled at her continuing joke. But the fourth time she offered, I realized she was serious, and why not? A shower is celebration-inspired consumerism at its least apologetic. An event that unabashedly declares, “A welcome addition will soon enter this woman’s life; therefore, you must select and purchase for her an item from this list she has so kindly assisted in compiling!” Then it hit me — Jen had been joking; I had just been too obtuse to catch her more developed lead-up to an even grander punch line.
“I think I might take you up on the shower thing. I’ve even started to figure out what to register for,” I said to Jen while hiking with her in Torrey Pines.
“Shh, David might hear you, and that would be bad luck,” she said.
Mirroring Jen’s mock seriousness, I said, “Don’t worry, he’s behind me, my words are lost to the ocean breeze. Isn’t that right, David?” I said, in a slightly raised voice.
“What?” David huffed, more from frustration than exhaustion.
“Nothing, beh beh,” I responded, flipping my head to flash my love an adoring smile. Facing forward to Jen, I said, “See? Now, what was I saying...right, there’s this catalog. I’m only thinking of the things I need, of course, things I couldn’t possibly afford at this juncture, what with all the new financial responsibility I’m taking on. It’s not like I’m simply being greedy, you know. It’s just that I had no idea that a basic check up could cost so much. Oh, and I also came up with a few games we might play at the party.”
Jen smirked, perhaps remembering our conversations about the banality of such games, and my countless rants against the myriad vulgarities of gift registration. The subject was dropped in the next moment, as Jen pointed out a slate-colored bunny munching on a blade of grass just ten feet away from us.
My decision to dispense with the child-rearing phase of life allows me to spend what, to those who have chosen to breed, may seem a disproportionate amount of time and money on other subjects of my choosing, be it myself, my friends, or, most recently, my new car. Each day, after custom ordering my Mini Cooper Sport from England, I checked on its progress. I knew when it was being built, when it was placed on a ship to New York, when it was loaded onto a truck to be driven across the country, and when it was delivered to the dealership in Escondido. I picked it up and drove it home to meet its father, David, who was waiting to greet the new addition to our parking garage.
David pampers the car more than I do. He can hardly pass by the miniature machine without taking a soft cloth to some part of it, gently massaging away a fingerprint here, a black smudge there. I express my affection in other ways, like dressing my beloved new thing like me — that is, in red and black, the dominant colors of my wardrobe. Regardless of our different ownership styles, the fact remains that David and I are both enamored with our new toy.
After two weeks of exploring the streets around its new home, the dust-covered Mini was in need of soap and water. David insisted on joining me for this momentous occasion. Just after we pulled into the carwash, a white Mini pulled up next to us. David and I got out of ours and a man and woman exited theirs. Smiles were exchanged and then each couple noted the other’s matching dealer plates. “Hey, no way, yours is new too?” I said, bridging the grinning gap of silence. I learned the cars had been purchased from the same dealer within a week of each other. The four of us made our way into the store, where cards and air fresheners are sold on one side, while on the other, people peer through windows to watch their vehicles go through the automated wash.
“So what’s its name?” asked the woman.
“I’m Barbarella, and this is David,” I said.
“Oh, yes, sorry, I’m Barbara, and this is Frazer. And there,” she said, gesturing through the window at the cream-colored car, “is Pepe.” She raised her brows in expectation.
“Oh, its name, right,” I said. “We don’t have a name for her.” Her disappointed expression made me feel remiss. “I mean, not yet.” I breathed a sigh of relief as the smile returned to her face.
“People at work think I’m crazy the way I talk about Pepe,” she said. “But that’s how I feel when they talk about their kids, so...”
“I totally know what you mean,” I said. I was beginning to like these people.
“I noticed you have a ‘she’; that’s nice. Is this her first bath, then?” I nodded, and the four of us turned to monitor the Minis as they passed slowly by the window. David used his iPhone to take a picture of ours.
It’s common for two adults to make each other’s acquaintance because their children befriended each other at school or in the park. Without knowing a thing about each other, the parents socialize. Because of similar life circumstances, other commonalities are virtually assured and the two gravitate easily toward points of intersection. It’s harder for people like David and me, with our tendencies toward counterculture pursuits, to find likeminded others to whom we can relate.
I was considering all of this when, as if reading my mind, Barbara said, “We should schedule a play date!”
“You mean like take them for a ride to Julian or something? That sounds lovely. It would be their first road trip,” I said.
“Or,” said my new friend and fellow Mini mother, “the four of us can go have dinner or wine, like normal people.”
“I’m about as normal as I want to be,” I said, and handed her my card. “Please, email me.” I thought it might be nice to learn something, anything about these people before setting off on a day trip. “I have an idea — why don’t the two of you come over to our place? You like wine and cheese?”
“We love it,” said Frazer, in a Scottish brogue I hadn’t picked up on when he’d first said hello.
“Great, then. Shoot me an email and we’ll set a date.” The guy standing next to my car waved a blue towel in the air. “That’s us,” I said. “Better go before she suffers separation anxiety.” When I reached my car, I turned and waved goodbye to our new friends, and, as we pulled away, I beeped bye-bye to Pepe.