Just a Blur
There aren’t any high chairs at the hotel’s complimentary breakfast. The autumn display near the entrance—candy corn filled lanterns, foam pumpkins, and tiny gourds sitting on cubes of hay—is my toddler son’s first target of the morning. He swipes a curly-stemmed gourd and scampers back to our table. “Nee,” he says, curiosity lurking in his wet, blue eyes. This is his go-to word. “Nee” means everything: I want that. Look over there. What’s this?
I reach for the baby pumpkin, but he guards it, clutches it to his chest, and whisks off in a new direction. I sigh as he soars past a tour group arriving for breakfast and slams into a gray sofa. The gourd crashes to the floor. I turn to my husband, “I’ll get him. You return the pumpkin.”
It’s the morning of my brother’s wedding, but my sixteen-month-old son is not aware of this fact. All he sees is vast new space. All he knows is his body’s need to explore. Relatives are joining us downstairs. My parents are there. My in-laws. Even my brother—the groom himself—has stopped by for coffee. The energy is good, our heightened voices mingling. My daughter, who at age four, can finally sit still, is delighting everyone with her nonsensical tales of reality mixed with fantasy. She’s adorable. She’s handled.
Someone touches my arm, “He’s heading for the front door.”
The large automatic doors lead to a parking lot surrounded by busy, ruthless highways. A hotel employee, who has just arrived for the day, is entering as my son attempts to exit. The employee looks concerned, frozen with indecision; she’s contemplating whether to intervene with someone else’s child who’s about to cross over into dangerous territory. Relief fills her face when she spots me ambling over, mouthful of yogurt, half-dressed in pajamas, bare-faced and greasy haired.
Today, my little brother’s wedding, is a day to experience. I wonder how much of this day I’ll miss, due to my son’s reckless need to be in forward motion. Will I miss the cocktail hour? The pictures? I may miss good conversations, the maid-of-honor or best man’s speeches. I wonder if I’ll even make it to the dance floor.
“He’s adorable!” the hotel employee now chimes. The automatic doors close. “Thanks,” I say, “Sorry.” I clutch my hands under my boy’s armpits and bring him back to our table. He’s flailing, kicking, arching his back. His frustrated howls bounce around the lounge. Some people turn their heads. The woman at the front desk looks up from her computer. I sit again, forcing him in my lap. I offer him some oatmeal. He shakes his head from side-to-side, his silky blond hair flays about.
With the oatmeal rejected, I try yogurt—strawberry, his favorite. Again, he refuses. I give in, tempt him with a donut. He’s not interested. My sigh is subtle, but long and deep. I want to eat my breakfast. I want to talk that anticipatory talk people have before weddings. I want to just sit.
My son has weaseled away and is now heading down a corridor. I trail behind him and let my mind drift. I’m in the bridal party. My in-laws are here to help, but if he gets upset, or decides to take off, I can’t just leave my post up at the altar. I need to be at the bridal suite soon for hair and make-up. Someone is going to have be here for the kids.What if he can’t be contained? My son trips on his feet. His wails are imminent, and my breakfast is over.
I thrust my hand in my husband’s face. “Key!” No one notices how steamed I am. No one wants to help. No one seems to care if I’m part of this day. I’m struggling. I’m spent. I’m drenched in resentment.
Our hotel room is a flurry of activities he’s started but hasn’t completed. There’s Cheerios spotting the kitchen area’s floor. A toy truck left behind on the radiator near a window that looks out to the parking lot. A Ritz cracker with a single bite is lying next to his port-a-crib. His Mickey Mouse doll is faced down on the bathroom floor. He’s located his pacifier, usually reserved for bedtime. But I’m tired and the day hasn’t even begun. Despite not seeing his mouth, I can tell by his eyes he’s smiling. He’s always had such expressive eyes—even at birth, if his eyes were opened, I knew what he needed. I soften a bit. He’s got me again. He’s lured me into his wild little world.
I punch out a text to my husband, “Coming up?” It’s only fair, I want to add. Time is dragging yet passing by quickly. I’m due at the bridal suite in less than an hour, and I still haven’t showered.
I crash onto the couch.
He follows, climbs next to me, and then something strange happens—he’s quiet. He’s still. It’s as if he senses my exasperation. A long line of drool hangs from his chin, creating a damp streak down the length of his green onesie. He smells of strawberry yogurt. And those eyes, observing me now, show nothing but the purest kind of love. Untainted love, the kind that’s never known disappointment. He removes his pacifier. “Mah-ma,” he says, and throws his arms around my neck.
Everything goes quiet for several seconds. All I hear is a muted hum, and my boy’s ragged, yet even breaths. His chest presses against mine, my palm rests on his tiny, clammy back. It’s not, I think, in these quieter moments, that I long for reprieve, or to bask in indolence, snatch a moment of solitude, eat breakfast in peace, or socialize—rather, I yearn for these moments because I see him, and how can I see him if I’m always chasing him?
On their wedding day, people tell the bride and groom to stop occasionally, soak it up, take mental photographs. I will miss parts of this wedding. I will not experience it the same way I might have without small children. I will miss it in the same way I missed portions of our family vacations, parties, and gatherings. It’s inevitable. I pull my son closer and realize that it doesn’t matter. I may as well stop resisting. It’s all just a blur regardless.
He wriggles free, temporarily forgetting my presence. Instead, he turns his attention to the half-eaten apple that has fallen from the countertop. But he’ll remember me soon, and return for more love, reclaim his neediness. And yes, it will be a long day. A very long day.
Katie Greulich is a mother, wife, and writer living in New Jersey. She is a regular columnist for a local publication, and her work has appeared in Mamalode and on other sites. Along with her personal essays, she is currently writing her first novel.