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Bringing Up “Baby”

I don’t know what reaction I expected. But definitely more than a blank stare and half-hearted shrug, punctuated with “So, would you like Jasmine or Black tea?”

My throat, scratchy from the grip of a monstrous sinus infection, croaks out a little fractured air and a tri-syllabic sigh. I stare out the floor-to-ceiling windows, across to the blue blip on the far field where Andy putters around in a fluorescent sweater.

“Jasmine…is…fine.”

My mother mills about the kitchen, banging pots together with an unexpected ferocity.

Maybe she thinks it’s a bad idea.

With the terriers’ muffled snores being the only other noise funneling up to the hobbit home’s domed ceiling, even my internal dialogue seems crushingly, boisterously loud.

Well if Mom acts like this, there’s no telling what Dad will say.

And I’m not disappointed. Well, I am. But not surprised. When Andy returns and Dad blows in the side door, I keep the fading conversation stoked, prodding it along with wheezes and coughs, like blunted fire pokers to dying embers.

“So…I mean, we’re just, you know, in the…beginning stages of course…” I wheeze.

Andy sits upright and relatively motionless, aside from the slight nervous twitch of his feet.

Mom continues to hum along in the kitchen, and Dad dusts off his gloves, and scratches his head.

“…but it’s something we’re seriously considering. Probably in two to three years.”

Dusk is setting in, and the fading light streaming down the solar tubes illuminates my parents, as if they’re on stage, readying for their monologues. But instead of sagacious advice, or a heartfelt, emphatic show of support, Mom chirps, “Well, yes, that’s a lot to think about. And of course the cost.”

As if conditioned by the word “cost,” Dad exits, stage left – down the hall to their bedroom, and closes the door.

The funny part is we’re not even asking for money. We’re just trying to start an ongoing dialogue about us potentially adding a wee biped to our geriatric Chihuahua duo.

Dumbfounded, I stare at Andy. Mom asks if he’d like tea, too. I can’t stand it.

“SO ARE YOU EVEN INTERESTED IN BEING GRANDPARENTS?”

Mom stops abruptly, as if a sheet of ice has popped up in front of her.

“WELL, of course.”

My mouth hangs open – both to breathe, and to add a touch of dramatic flair. But mostly because my mom’s exclamation is not nearly as glass-shattering as I’d envisioned. This whole conversation reminded me of when I came out – no emphatic exultations, no hubbub. Of course back then I was more relieved than anything. But now, I’m sort of pissed.

Isn’t this what most parents want to hear? That their family isn’t just going to die off?

Instead, the conversation dies off amid my wheezes and coughs. And then Mom slams home the final nail in the coffin.

“Oh, honey. Let me get you set up on my nebulizer. Poor baby.”

***

Nebulized yet snotty, I whisper back and forth with Andy as we tuck ourselves in. Especially since he’s about as pleased as I am.

“I just don’t get why they’re being so calculated with their responses.”

“I know. I mean, let’s be honest, I figured it’d be harder to convince your parents.”

But we’d actually discussed it in a surprisingly thorough fashion. Or as thoroughly as you can without having a bun in someone else’s oven. We’d even gathered around their kitchen table for fuck’s sake!

He nods. I snuffle.

“It’s almost like they’re waiting for us to reveal that we already have the kid, and we’ve kept’em in the garage this whole time.”

“I just don’t get why they’re so…noncommittal.”

“It’s sort of their way of doing things. Especially now. Rather than voicing overwhelming support or utter disdain, they just sort of smile and nod, thinking the non-pushy way is best – less smothering. BUT FOR ONCE, being pointed and direct would be fucking helpful.”

I guess what surprises me the most is the fact that I’m legitimately upset, especially since I haven’t always been on board with having a kid. What’s even more amazing is how much this potential child is becoming more like the eventual child. But first, we have to get our footing – and it always helps when you can count on your family to be there for some semblance of support.

We chat back and forth a bit more, and then fume ourselves to sleep.

The next morning, we putter around a favorite antique haunt with my sister, whose support and perspective we always value. She bounces ideas off of us as we half-heartedly sift through hoards of junk for bits of Fiesta, Harlequin, and Riviera.

“Yeah, you know, it’s weird. You’d think they’d be more excited about it.” She holds up a cup and considers it briefly. “But I just don’t get it.”

All we glean is ambiguity. Which is apropos, I guess – because who really knows what in the hell they’re getting themselves into when they start thinking about having a family. It’s all a welter of confusion and intrigue and terror and exhilaration. More so when you have to intensely strategize the kid’s conception and entry into this crazy world.

Regardless, there’s beauty and comfort in the ambiguity.

Comfort that stems from me indulging the paternal tugs I feel while seeing some cute kid doing something absurdly endearing with their parents, and even whilst witnessing absolute meltdowns in the grocery store.

Beauty in realizing that my hardened, cynical shell is quickly gladly cracking.

Knowing that I may one day be thinking about all of this while running errands, and then hear a little voice from the backseat squeak out, “Dad.”

Oh, childhood.