~ Domra Serenade
It's 4 am on my last day at home, and I'm not ready to leave. Though we bought this house just a couple of short months before we schlepped off to China, it felt very much like home from the start and I always have a hard time leaving. It doesn't help that Southern Connecticut during this little space between the summer and "real" fall is absolutely gorgeous, and every morning our yard is a veritable Bambi-forest-tableau with deer and birds chirping and bees in the flowers and leaves gently dropping from 100-ft oaks and maples. Though to be perfectly honest with myself, part of the reluctance to leave is also anxiety about the deer finishing off the remaining azaleas and how best to deal remotely with the thousands of cubic feet of leaves that'll get dumped on the house between now and December. Once again, we come upon the limits of technology: managing work, bills, and finances from 6,800 miles away is a piece of cake but why isn't there a website that'll clear the gutters for me?
My folks arrived over the weekend, with Papa bringing his new toy, a mandolin-like stringed instrument from Russia called a domra, which he acquired after making the switch from playing the violin with a symphonic orchestra for 20 years, to joining the Washington Balalaika Society. This may seem like a radical change, but he loves his new instrument, and he spent a few contented hours serenading baby with Filipino folk songs on the domra (which I have to think is a pretty rare cross-cultural combination). Since I was playing the piano, it was hard to sit still enough to gauge baby reaction, but I wasn't getting kicked in the bladder or the ribs in protest so he/she must've liked it. Mama brought frozen tupperwares of my favorite foods, her sewing machine, and yards of coordinating Winnie the Pooh material and trim. She had taken the week off from work, so stayed after Papa went back to Virginia and spent a ton of time designing and sewing a stack of insanely cute baby blankets, quilts, and cloths. It's probably a good thing she was occupied with that for a few days because it delayed the start of our inevitable baby clothes-shopping spree. Since I know that a certain party with some level of interest in my Visa bill is going to be reading this, I'll caveat that I use the word "spree" loosely… it wasn't excessive, most of it was on sale, and he certainly won't be as surprised as, say, the time when a certain party "surprised" his young wife with a "present" of a shiny new 850cc motorbike a couple of years ago.
Given the markup possibilities, it's really not surprising that so many brands have gotten into the baby clothes racket, and it always makes me chuckle to see who the new entrant is in the market. Tommy Hilfiger was bad enough, but even Dolce & Gabbana now has a line of baby clothes and shoes. It doesn't seem fair that the same people who cater to the fashionistas should be given an opportunity to capitalize on baby cuteness - which is, after all, supplied by nature to ensure survival and perpetuation of the species - for their material gain. Yet, here I am, happily supporting the industry for no better reason than the cuteness of the little embroidered ducks on the sleeper kiesters, or because I'm tickled by the idea that a 3-month old needs pockets on her little fleece vest. Maybe for a power bar in case playtime gets a bit too hectic?
In general, though, I've really done my best to avoid (or at least minimize) commercializing my pregnancy: I've refused to buy a single pregnancy magazine, have (so far) resisted getting sucked into the 7th circle of Jacadi hell, and stayed away from designer maternity clothing, though I believe that Gap Maternity and really practical Swedish maternity/nursing wear is exempt. Books are also fair game, although at this point I'm reaching saturation and have come to the conclusion that the main purpose of most (good) pregnancy and baby parenting books is to reassure the reader that every pregnancy, every baby is different, and that you can do more research than you did for your thesis but in the end your little family will have to figure out what feels right as you go along.
I ended up spending half an hour at the bookstore skimming through a book called "Confessions of a Slacker Mom" and found that a lot of it hit home with me. I'm impressed by the fact that the author's main thesis is that parents don't need expensive baby gear and dozens of books about parenting theory to raise happy, intelligent, loving kids, while at the same time trying to sell a book that's shelved in the parenting section herself. I debated buying the book out of solidarity with her cause, but in the end decided that the author probably full well realized the irony of what she was doing and would understand my giving the royalty money to a couple of struggling young novelists instead.
At a high school friend's beautiful wedding in the Catskill Mountains this weekend, I found myself doing the kind of thinking about love and family that people probably would do more of at weddings, if they weren't otherwise occupied with hooking up with a bridesmaid or emptying the open bar, neither of which obviously was an option for me this weekend. Though the parents and grandparents of our most accomplished, talented, and most importantly, happiest friends are often intelligent and accomplished themselves, at weddings, all of that becomes secondary to how supportive and sometimes dopily loving they are to their kids. I know there are a lot of dots to connect between now and the time we dance at our son or daughter's wedding (or civil union or whatever), but it's reassuring to think that whether Mik and I choose to take the advice of Drs. Sears, Spock, Ferber or the Baby Whisperer, it's probably going to be the dopey little things (exemplified by domra serenades and unnecessarily complex baby linens sewn by a smitten grandmother) that will ultimately generate the desired Happy Kid/Happy Adult outcome, which sounds like a lot more fun.