Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
It is Boxing Day and we are still celebrating. As a child I celebrated Christmas in a traditional way, with Santa, Christmas Eve church, being the angel in the nativity play, and so on. As our own family my husband and I celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, a time when we honor our heritage by continuing traditions. That works well in what I consider to be a mixed marriage; I believe in Something, he does not. We also share strong bonds with our families and we like getting together, giving gifts, telling the old stories, all of that. We celebrate Boxing Day since it’s common in Canada and my husband has great memories of roving from house to house eating leftovers with his friends. That’s no different than what he did with his friends most other days of the year but it’s free to call it Boxing Day and it makes him happy.
On Boxing Day 2014 we would be debuting the Baby Swing. There were certain things that could make life in the hotel easier. Mom would buy them and she and dad would bring them up to Iowa. She mentioned that we should get a swing. My mom likes to shop and she is very smart about shopping for baby things. She gets them at consignment stores with creepy names like “Once Upon a Child.” Seriously? Didn’t a single person involved at the franchise level even hear that sentence out loud before they slapped it on a store?
Mom was buying what we didn’t have waiting for us in NE. Remember, we had started out with nothing. As people learned of the Extenuating Circumstance they generously donated things we could use at home. My sister ended up running a whole consignment shop out of her basement so friends could drop off whatever they no longer needed for their own little ones. Oh–a word on my sister. She has declined to have her first name show up in this blog. She said she will only answer to “O Captain, my Captain!” Very well. Robin Williams it is.
So my sister Robin sifted through the donations, reported that there wasn’t a swing available, and mom went to Once Upon a Molestation Charge and bought one. It looks like a papasan chair and a hammock had sex with a space ship. There’s a soothing basket chair hung on a space-agey motorized plastic and metal frame. It has bumble bees hanging overhead, palm fronds, plays music and nature noises, comes with 7 speeds and is generally nicer than my first car. Mom got that up to Counciltucky and could not WAIT to get the baby in it.
We decided we’ll put it in the room she and my dad are sharing, and after Mom helps us give Baby his first-ever bath he can relax in his new swing. Bathing a child in a hotel is hard because they are slippery. If we could safely attach wet babies to a luge (and I am not for one second suggesting we should try) we would revolutionize the Winter Olympics. Anyway. Mom, dad, husband, baby and me; sitting around, looking at the new swing, talking about next semester’s classes, prepping for the bath. Mom asks if I’ll be teaching my Irish Theatre class again. Yes. I tell her about the religion segment, Husband mentions he is adding a new religion segment to one of his theatre history classes. Dad asks why. Husband answers. Baby lays on the bed. I talk about the role religion played in Irish playwriting. Mom asks intelligent question. I pontificate. Husband wonders if we need more towels for the bath. Mom says “yes.” I undress the baby. Dad asks about particular play. Husband pontificates. Baby pees. Mom goes to look for baby shampoo. Husband mentions Christmas memory. Dad laughs. Mom asks for shampoo. I take key card and go to the room.
I return to my parents’ suite to…silence? I come in with the shampoo. Mom is sitting on the bed with a slightly befuddled expression.
“Mom? Are you ready for the bath? Where is Husband? And dad?”
“Oh! Yes! Sarah! Hi! Yes! Baby is ready for the bath, Husband went to get more towels and your father is an atheist.”
I left for 30 seconds and my father renounced belief in a higher power? What the hell HAPPENED while I was gone???
Here’s the funny thing: as mom and I put down 87 towels for the bath and dad returned from getting a cup of coffee in the lobby it emerged that this wasn’t a very big deal. Mom had suspected it, he hadn’t given much thought to formally putting it into words, and then when everyone was tired and happy and discussing religion it just sort of slipped out. If anything, we can all look for the positive in a 40 year marriage where your spouse still has the ability to surprise you at the holidays.
We gave the Baby his bath, which took three adults 10 minutes and 7 towels plus bathmat, baby washcloth, cotton swabs, shampoo, lotion and reading glasses (“can you see if that’s poop?” “Does it rub off?” “No, that’s why I wonder if it’s poop!” “Could it be a mole?” “Well, does it rub off?” “NO.”). Then we put him in the swing and spent half an hour fretting over whether it was too fast, too forceful, too stimulating, too much. We wondered. The baby didn’t, he fell right asleep, leaving us to think about what celebrating holidays means to different people we love and why we gather with them no matter where they are.
It wasn’t until the next day they discovered I’m Bob Newhart.
I never, ever thought about the name “Once Upon a Child” until you wrote this. Dammit, Sarah.