Tag Archives: babies

When the news drove away

It was raining when the Channel 2 van drove by the house.

It was raining and the baby (and he’s not even 3 weeks old yet) had just fallen asleep in his bed and the toddler was sinking deeper into my side as her eyelids grew heavier with every page in her book but the television station from Pittsburgh sent a van up my dead-end street.

I couldn’t follow. Before, when the girl and the boy were still waiting to come to me, I’d have grabbed pen and notebook and umbrella and followed up the street. I did that once, when fire trucks passed in a hurry (for what turned out to be a gas leak, nothing exciting).

My mind followed though, running through scenarios. No emergency vehicles had passed that I knew of, definitely not a fire or a working crime scene. A feature story of some sort? Would they really send a van all the way out here for a feature?

I couldn’t follow but I could call, trying to reach someone – anyone – in the newsroom. Are you aware? Are you on top of whatever it is Pittsburgh news is covering?

But a newsroom after deadline, during lunch, is a dead place and no one was picking up. The toddler flipped pages in her book, voice petulant. “Read,” she said. Then “read!” again when I dialed another number.
I gave up and we finished the book, rocked and sang and settled her into her crib. The baby slept on and I saw the van leave our quiet neighborhood and wondered.

Turns out my old coworkers were indeed aware of and on top of the situation. A neighbor, whose name and I know and who I see now and again in church – who has 2 kids but drives up and down our street too fast, engines revving as if a 16-year-old boy was behind the wheel – had been arrested on charges of attempted homicide. Police said she stabbed a man during an argument in the early morning hours.

And now it’s my turn to sleep but I can’t. I’m thinking of her kids, tow-headed and tan all summer long. Their dad faced jail time not too long ago, now it’s their mom in trouble. I’m thinking of her mother, who often cries when she shares a passage in church.

But there’s something else keeping me awake. I saw news happening on my street, felt the pull of a developing story again, and watched it drive away as my babies slept.

I guess you never lose the adrenaline that comes with breaking news, even if you can’t follow.

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Filed under Notebook sketches

Small problems

When she holds herself up on arms locked straight and wrinkles her nose at us, he says she looks like a ‘real baby’ now; not a tiny helpless infant.

But when she pulls her knees underneath her and rocks on all fours before scooting backwards and onto her belly again, she looks so small — too small to be rocking on hands and knees.

We put away the baby bathtub last week and bathed her in the real tub and she kicked and splashed and dipped her face into the water, spluttered and blinked and tried again.

She isn’t afraid of anything except sudden loud noises; and then her lip trembles before the tears come.

There isn’t much to be afraid of when you’re six months old, and your biggest problem is that you can’t sleep because every time you’re on your belly you remember that you’re trying to learn how to crawl.

But across the country a baby girl is killed by gunfire while her father changes her diaper in the front seat of a car. She was six months old, too.

And a springtime walk ends with a teenager putting a bullet through a 13-month-old’s head while the injured mother pleads in a robbery attempt that gains him nothing.

And a family vacation leaves a 10-year-old dead and his mother and siblings injured when out of nowhere an airport sign crashes down, crushing them.

This is the problem when you work in news: you cannot turn away from it all. I write of the tragedies here and I read of ones elsewhere and I go home and she laughs because I fake-cough, over and over.

I know her world will not be this easy forever. Someday she will see and hear the things that I see and hear and write. Someday she might experience these things herself.

But today we fake-cough and laugh, over and over, and she tries to eat the coffee-table leg and the rug beneath her and the ferret she sees on other side of the couch.

Today her biggest concern is that she doesn’t want to go to sleep.

And that’s OK with me.

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Filed under Charlotte, Home, work

Remember this

“I don’t remember her as a baby at all, I kept saying ‘I’ll remember,'” but I don’t,” she tells me. She’s standing outside on the front porch, waiting for her daughter to stack her piano books and pull on her boots and coat, and I’m holding the baby who really needs a nap but is staring with big, sleepy eyes.

“I was just so tired. I’m just glad he took pictures, I can create the memories.”

They walk down the sidewalk and my next two students are walking up, shedding their own boots and coats. And I’m wondering if I’ll be saying that.

And it’s only been a few months but the newborn stage is long gone and every day she learns something new. Yesterday it was Eskimo kisses. Two days ago it was dancing – with her head, at least, swinging back and forth to the beat inside her own heart. A week ago she found her toes, pulled her socks right off and left her fat feet out in the cold. She talks to her toys and to shadows and to nothing and laughs when you strip her down to her diaper and whines when her toys are just out of reach, spinning on a round belly because she can’t quite make herself move forward yet.

She knows when we eat and wants to join us, grabbing for plates and cups and spoons and watching every bite, mouth moving. “Hey!” she seems to be saying. “Hey, you forgot me!”

But more than anything she wants faces. She grabs for noses and lips and hair and whines and shrieks if she’s alone and laughs when you lean over her. She won’t sleep if anyone is in the room, no matter how tired, but holds her head up and watches or flips over and kicks and laughs.

She cries like she’s been stabbed when you leave her in the crib, big fat tears, until suddenly they stop and she’s asleep mid-wail.

“This is YOUR baby,” he tells me when she won’t play one morning on her mat but sits quietly with him in front of the computer, and he’s right. This won’t-you-be-my-friend? personality is mine, the big eyes when people are around, the inability to sleep when there might be a party – it’s all me. And so when an ill-advised playdate with her babysitter’s family goes badly and she doesn’t eat or sleep for six hours I leave work early, take her home where it’s quiet, and she crashes hard in the mother of all meltdowns but I know why. I’ve done the same so many times.

People adrenaline always means a crash when the people are gone.

And she’s not quite six months old but those first newborn weeks? They’re fuzzy, pictures out of focus, lost to exhaustion. And maybe it’s OK. Maybe those memories are supposed to be blurry on the edges.

But these days, these days I will remember. I will write them, so that I’m not standing on someone’s front porch 12 years from now saying I don’t remember.

Every day a little more of her emerges from the babyness. Every day I see a sliver more of the person she will grow to be.

And all of it is worth remembering.

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Filed under Charlotte, Home