Well…Cirque Du Soleil rolled back into town this weekend for their latest show called “Kooza.” It conjured up many strange images for me as I pondered on the precise nature of what the show could possibly entail and what the name might mean.
I knew what it meant to me…A night alone…with The Boy…just me and him; because, to “Mommy,” it meant a Gig. Yes. Work; an honest exchange of time and talent in return for cold, hard cash and the boys over at Cirque tend to pay pretty well so she couldn’t pass it up. After all, they needed all the freaks they could get for Opening Night. They hate to disappoint the Locals.
So she loaded her up her costumes, her make-up, her juggling clubs and her stilts and hit the road…and left me standing in the doorway staring after her with my own young son in my arms and no idea how I was supposed to survive until she returned.
(I had visions of her returning home, several hours later, only to find the both of us naked on the curb with our home in ashes behind us and assorted firemen shaking their heads at my ineptitude and fighting wildly to hold her back as she lunged, repeatedly, for my throat.)
After The Boy had half-heartedly accepted the fact that Mommy was gone, we got down in the floor for further distraction and tussled and rolled around and bit each other and tickled and rough-housed until we both laid back, laughing and exhausted, and fell asleep.
“Too easy,” I thought as we both drifted off in the early evening and I was wrapped in a sense of effusive joy as I realized that I could handle all of this with no problems. I swooned away on rapturous waves and dreamed of me and The Boy, blazing our own trail; finding our own way. We didn’t need any Mommy. I dreamt of huge campfires, fresh kills, lean-to’s and long river voyages into the deep, dark wilderness. Yes, we could handle anything; just the two of us. I smiled in my sleep.
That’s when he woke up screaming and batting me with his tiny, flailing arms.
Clearly, he wanted something…desperately…and he expected me to provide it. I recalled the time I asked the doctor what I could do to strengthen the bond I had with my son. He looked at me mockingly over his glasses and said, “Learn to breastfeed.”
I was then able to ascertain that my son’s flailing arms weren’t meant to just batter me, they were searching in vain for teats that weren’t there…and not about to arrive any time soon either, for that matter. Panic set in. Hard.
I jumped up and carried him into the kitchen, searching frantically for cereal, bottles, bowls and breast milk. And all the while he was screaming at the top of his young lungs as if somebody were holding his feet to the Fire. Great, I thought, the neighbors will hear this and there I’ll be: Caught by DFACS, charged with child abuse or criminal neglect and waiting in a cell until she came to get me and then we’d have to go through the utter horror of fetching our son from some lame-ass Foster Home which, inevitably, would be occupied by one of those smarmy-ass, ultra-religious families with thirty kids from every third-world nation on the planet scattered around singing “It’s a Small World After All” and a smug look on their faces that said, in no uncertain terms, that they knew far better than you how to your raise your children.
I shuddered as I darted around the kitchen looking for the supplies I needed to keep him happy and healthy. And, in case you’ve never tried it, it’s damn hard to do all of these things one-handed because you can’t put the baby down because then he’ll only cry more and add another tier of panic to the situation and frazzle the last nerve you were still clinging to for some measure of sanity.
It was at this moment, when I was most desperate to get something in his mouth and keep him quiet, that I realized one, terrible fact: All of the breast milk was frozen.
I cursed a blue streak inside my head and gritted my teeth while he screamed in the crook of my arm and flailed even more for the nourishment he needed and wanted. His cries reached a fevered pitch and I was sure that the axes would come down on the door at any second.
I fumbled the milk bottle into a pan of hot water and cooed to him that everything was alright; that daddy had a handle on all of it. Yes; everything would be fine. And I went on, in a more conversational tone, about all the advantages of Boarding School and how much he was going to enjoy it when he got there. Sure, it would be hard at first but, eventually, he’d make friends. “Of course you can come home to visit; every Christmas for at least two days. It will be splendid and you’ll get to read all kinds of books and play with other fussy children and you can go straight from there to college.”
He was still screaming. And besides, he knew I could never afford all of that. It had no effect on him at all. He just kept screaming.
I thought briefly about modern-day Gypsies and wondered what a healthy baby might fetch on the open market. At least $70,000 surely. I could get pretty far with that kind of scratch in my pocket.
He kept screaming and the watched pot with the milk in it never seemed to get hot and my head was spinning and all the nightmares I had ever had about what it might be like to be the sole adult totally responsible for the welfare of a child were coming true. Then: The milk melted. I grabbed it from the pan (burning my hand in the process) poured it into his bottle and crammed it in his mouth as fast as I could.
Silence. It really is Golden. I can promise you that.
And…well, it was all gravy after that. I changed his diapers, gave him a bath, read him a brief story called “Baby Danced the Polka” (His mother’s Polish, by way of explanation for the book only; I’m not making some crude joke. Seriously.) And he settled down and we both drifted off…for real this time.
I’m not sure how much time went by before Mommy came home again but I was on the couch when she shook me awake and I jumped in fear as I looked up to see her face still hidden behind her make-up from the show. She put down all her bags and showed me the picture she had professionally made of herself in costume with her friend who had wrangled tickets to the show and surprised her.
“Groovy,” I said, still half asleep.
“How’d it go?” She asked.
I eased back on the couch and smiled at her. “Fine,” I said. “No problems. What? You think I can’t handle it?”
Her eyes went wide and she just looked at me for a second and then she ran to the hall.
“Where’re you going?” I called after her.
“I’ve got make sure that my son is safe!” she called back.