ADVENTURES OF A PANDEMIC BABY by Sara Courtney
If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it… Forget it. Can you hold my baby?
Hi, hello, will you hold my baby? Will you say "goo-goo-ga-ga" to her so she knows another voice? Will you smile at my baby behind your mask, so she knows there really, truly are other people in this world besides me?
My baby was born February 12, the same day as Lincoln’s birthday, the same day as my grandparent’s wedding anniversary, and one month and a day before the lockdown. She came a month early and my mom cried when we told her our daughter’s name – Harriet-Parker.
My mom, who lives in Seattle, was going to fly in at the end of March. We agreed there was no need to change her ticket; in the meantime, my aunt came to visit and brought baby socks, a little dress, and medical masks. But we did not even discuss the masks. I thought, “How odd,” and assumed my aunt was being paranoid. She seemed embarrassed that they were in the gift bag. I put them in a drawer and out of my mind.
In the beginning of the pandemic, when my mom delayed her flight the first time, we tempered our disappointment by joking that the baby could be three months old before she met her. “She’ll be so big,” we thought. The more it dragged on, the more we fancied ourselves experts on which were the safest airlines to fly during a pandemic and which airline to avoid at all costs. In the end, we decided none of them.
Instead, we zoomed with Nana in the dining room where my kids also attend school. I thought back to when my twin boys, now 6, were babies. They had Mommy and Me Music classes, storytime at the library, playdates at the park. They were busy babies with active social lives. Our lives were a series of missions: Chase squirrels in the park! Find the biggest walking stick! Race to the tree on one foot! I was hopped up on caffeine and having a blast.
But now my daughter and I sit on the playroom rug playing with blocks, day after day with nowhere to go and no visitors and there simply is not enough caffeine to brighten the monotony of never leaving the house. The missions have changed: Go to the playroom and make the dinosaurs roar! Go to the dining room, build block city and proceed to knock it down! Go back to the playroom and rock out to the cat piano! Go back to the dining room and attack block city! Nap! Repeat! For a year.
The greatest, wildly amazing adventure we do is going to Barnes and Noble. B&N is a luxury vacation with all the latest hot amenities: A new environment. A few socially distanced people. Overpriced books. It became our after-school hangout, a place where my baby crawled and eventually walked across the cavernous layout of the children’s section.
We zoomed her one-year birthday with her grandparents. “I can’t believe I haven’t met you,” my mom bemoaned, and my baby put her face to the screen to examine this person on a computer who qualifies as a mysterious but friendly additional person in this world, who looks kinda like me. “Say hi to Nana.” And the baby waved cautiously and said, “Hi!”
I would estimate that I spend approximately one million minutes of my day imagining visiting my mom. We rush through the airport with our vaccine-sore arms. Nana picks up baby and gives her a big hug. Baby looks at me and goo goos “stranger danger.” I explain “Look. It is Zoom Nana.” And she will put her face close to my mom’s and, I’m hoping, will relax a bit.
We are almost there. Every day more people get vaccinated. The schools can move to three feet of space. And pandemic baby is that much closer to someone else holding her.
Here’s to that wildly special, better late than never, first Nana-hug.
Sara Courtney is a writer living in Maplewood. She can build an awesome block city.