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Long Days, Short Years

She was a well-meaning woman, pretty, slim, early 50s. She was dressed in sensible muted colors and buying Activia yogurt, broccoli and white wine.

“I’m so jealous of you with that sweet baby,” she said as I waited behind her in line at Gerbes Supermarket in mid-Missouri. “Mine are in high school now. It just goes so fast.”

It was February 2007, freezing cold and gray with about eight hours of thin, weak daylight each day. Ruby was 5 weeks old. I had slept probably two hours the night before. I hadn’t washed my hair in a day or so, and I had breast milk stains all over my shirt. I was wearing a pair of blue sweatpants (because nothing else fit), and I honestly wasn’t sure when they’d last been through the wash. Ruby was in her car seat in the basket of the grocery cart, screaming her tiny lungs out surrounded by frozen waffles, peanut butter, cheese sticks and other foods I thought I could probably eat one-handed while holding the crying baby. Because she was always crying.

I don’t think I was even able to articulate a response to the nice woman who was inexplicably jealous of me – me! – while her life seemed together enough, her children old enough, that she was able to eat a balanced diet and dress in matching clean clothes and relax with a glass of chilled wine. I probably just gave her the same strained smile and blank stare that I gave everyone I interacted with in 2007.

I truly believed it would never get better. I thought that woman was insane, or maybe just a far better person than I, the kind of person who could spend hours in the company of a colicky baby and never once completely lose her shit and scream, “OH MY GOD STOP CRYING, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?” at an infant who obviously cannot understand.

But then it did get better. It not only got better; it got great! It got so great that I went and had a second baby, and even though I was tired and covered in stretch marks, I was used to the mom thing by then, and Georgia didn’t have colic, and it wasn’t winter, and I wasn’t in Missouri and everything was pretty terrific.

Now even my baby isn’t a baby anymore. Georgia started pre-K last month, and she tells me about evaporation and the solar system and politely orders food in restaurants. Ruby started fourth grade and has a whole sphere of her social life that is a mystery to me – secrets and sleepovers and rivalries and rituals, friendship bracelets and puff-ball headbands.

She and I discussed transgender rights and gay marriage on the car ride to school, and then “Purple Rain” came on and she said, “I love this song. I think it’s my favorite Prince song, unless you count ‘Manic Monday,’ which he wrote but didn’t sing.”

That day in Gerbes in February 2007, I never could have imagined my red-faced angry bald-headed baby would one day have a gorgeous head of blonde curls and the ability to discuss Prince songs with me. I also never could have imagined that the lady was right about just how fast it goes. Ruby is more than halfway to technical legal adulthood, and although sometimes I actually count the time until bedtime out into six-minute increments to keep from going insane, I’m also not sure where those nine years went, nor do I know how Georgia is already in real big-kid school.

And yesterday, I found myself in line at Rouses behind a frazzled-looking woman wearing yoga pants and a screaming 2-week-old baby in a sling rocking gently back and forth with a tight smile and a blank stare.

“I’m sorry,” she said as she patted the baby on the back. “I’m almost done paying, and I’ll take her outside.”

“Please don’t worry about it,” I told her. “It doesn’t bother me. My baby just started pre-K, so I’m actually kind of jealous of you right now. It just … it really just goes so fast.”


Excerpted from Eve Crawford Peyton’s blog, Joie d’Eve,  which appears each Friday on MyNewOrleans.com.

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