Thursday, July 24, 2008

Oh the places I go...

I am standing in a very loud room watching a giant rat wearing a baseball cap give the birthday boy a high five, and I am wondering how I got here. Not existentially how my being came into existence or what my spirit's predestined mission is, but rather how a well-educated, mostly sane woman in her late thirties ended up at a Chuck E. Cheese on a perfectly good Saturday afternoon. 

When I was first pregnant and imagining life as a mother, I pictured stroller rides through the park on a crisp fall day; train rides into the city to check out a children's museum and gaze at the Golden Gate bridge; hikes up the local ridge with the baby in one backpack and lunch in the other; car trips to the ocean, the aquarium, and even a pleasant amusement park. But I never pictured myself standing in the middle of 87 screaming children with numbered handstamps chasing each other through colored tubes, fighting over tickets dispensed by cranky machines with flashing lights, or jostling for position on miniature helicopters, tractors, and carousels. I have no idea how that happened.

It seems that since becoming a mother, I have been ending up in places I never thought about before Josh came along. Sure I drove past the local Chuck E. Cheese regularly when I was shopping downtown, but I simply regarded it as a place other people went. And by other people, I mean people who are not me.

When Josh was an infant and I was first attempting to take him out to public places like restaurants, I one day found myself sitting on a wobbly chair in the women's restroom trying awkwardly to nurse my always-starving son while other women came in and out to do, uh, other business. And when I wasn't in the ladies' room, I was feeding him in somebody's guest room staring at the wall or in the car, alone, on the hottest day of the year with the engine running and the air conditioner set on high. And even back then, with nothing to do but wait for Josh's tummy to fill, I often wondered the same thing: How exactly did I get here? 

That same thought floated through my head at countless Gymboree classes, as I sat in a circle with moms and babies on either side of me smiling and singing, "There are bubbles way down low, way down low. There are bubbles way down low, way down low. There are bubbles way down low. There are bubbles on your toes. There are bubbles way down low, way down low."

And I wonder the same thing every time I am giving Josh "some privacy" in the bathroom of a Costco or Target or grocery store or park — places I never even knew had public bathrooms before I potty trained my three year old. 

Where am I and how did I get here? 

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't like these places. (OK, maybe I don't like Chuck E. Cheese, but I have nothing against public bathrooms, friends' guest rooms, my car, or Gymboree.) And it's not that I don't realize I am indeed a mother raising a small child in the suburbs. I just can't seem to get used to it. That's all.

No matter how many other mothers are standing next to me at the local bouncy house place or the bowling alley or even the playground, I still sometimes feel like a visitor from another planet. A planet full of quaint shops, trendy restaurants, and boutique wineries. A planet that encourages weekend getaways, dinner parties, and afternoon matinees. A planet where people take leisurely drives in clean cars on sunny afternoons and listen to music that stirs their soul instead of songs about llamas wearing pajamas. A planet where adults have conversations that begin and end in one sitting. The planet I inhabited when I was a little younger, a little smarter, and much more rested.

It's just that sometimes when I find myself waiting in line for the Super Slide at our local fair, watching a ridiculous animated film among hundreds of chatty children, or fighting my way up the rope ladder at an indoor gym, I miss my home planet. And at those times, I whisper a silent plea to the mother ship to come back and pick me up the minute Josh goes off to college.


Megan said...

I love this post. I definitely have days when I can't get those Talking Head lyrics out of my mind, "And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?" It's usually right after I've returned from a kids birthday party or just sent an e-mail to a friend with the subject line "playdate?"

Kate said...

Oh, man, I am right there with you sister. Can you please, please, please make sure the mothership stops by my house after it picks you up? I remember, usually late at night, when everyone is sleeping and I can sit in their silence, how I got's just sometimes, it is really hard to recall. And by the way, for one month, two days, and 4.2 hours when I was in high school, I WAS chuck e. cheese. As in, the kid in the mouse get up. Yeah. I'm still working it out with my therapist.

Laurie Rodak said...


I hope you don't mind me stopping by after seeing you post on Catherine Newman's blog. I was hooked with your first sentence "I am standing in a very loud room watching a giant rat".

My biggest change before and after motherhood are the friends I have made. People I wouldn't have anything in common with yet have met through Gymboree or somewhere else and before I know it I'm invited to a cookout at their house. "How did I get here?"

Laurie Rodak said...

The quote was found on a Starbucks (cup of all the places) but it has always stuck with me. I'm glad I'm not the only one in need of a pajama day every now and again!

5424dion said...

Robyn, I love your blog! You are a fabulous writer - these are always so poignant, sweet, vivid, and funny. I hope you compile them into a book someday!!!
: )
Elizabeth Robitaille

Designed by Lena