Totin’

by Megan (memomuse) on June 20, 2011

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A story about standing in line at CVS, baby fingertip kisses, stranger germ phobia, infertility, and magic you can share with a stranger.

Totin’

I was just at CVS and an older man was behind me in line.  I stopped to get some chocolate, specifically, Bliss chocolate Easter eggs. 

“Do you want to go ahead of me?” I asked.                  

“No, I’m in no huree.  I ain’t been in no hurree since I retired,” he purred out in a deep Southern drawl.

“Oh, alright. It’s nice not to be to be in a hurry,” I said back to him with a soft smile, warmed by the thought, I, too, am not in a hurry and have not been since I decided to stay home with Ben.

“Sure is. I just feel real old, since I turned 80.”

“Well, turning 80 is quite a something to be proud of, Sir.”

“I turned 81 last year, in fact.”

“If it makes ya feel any better, I feel old ever since I had a baby.”

I studied his red wrists and purple lined palms.  His old age reminded me of my father, long gone, up on the roof of Heaven.

“Hello there little guy,” he chuckled, as he grinned and held out his finger.  I tried not to cringe thinking of other mom friends who wear plastic circle signs on their purses that say, “Are your hands clean?” and ‘Love, Not Germs.”  I could see the dirt under his yellowed finger nails, dewed with time and wrinkles, invisible like earthquakes holding decades of history.  Those fingers are alright, I thought. I’ll let Ben decide if he wants to touch him.  Ben smiled some more, showing all eight teeth and reached out with his ET pointer finger and fingertip kissed the old man’s yellowed, storied, wrinkled, finger.

It was kind of magical – in the moment’s lack of worry and judgment.  Old and new, youth and wisdom, fresh unwrinkled skin and leathered, layered skin.

“I had me a cousin who married a lady who couldn’t have kids, until one day she done did.  She toted that baby around just like you.  My cousin had to do all the cookin’, cleanin’, takin’ care of the house.  

Babywearin' my boy

She just toted that baby around like you is doing.  Din’t do nuthin’, but tote that baby aroun.”

I wondered what his background was.  How did his fingers get so storied?  Would he be a good person to interview? What secrets does he have the key for?  Did he have any idea how hard his own wife worked with their kids?  How hard did he work with his kids?  These questions of parenthood I think about often.  Did he know she may have suffered in silence?  Or did she tell him while they laid in bed how difficult it was to be a mom?  Did he share with her his same thoughts and feelings about being a father?  Or was it something people, partners, parents, didn’t talk about back then? Was his wife bored out of her skull at times playing patty cake?  Did she wonder what career she might a had, if she did in fact, have one at all?  The way he talked, he seemed like he was from a family where the women did “women’s work.”  But I couldn’t really know, because we only shared a few sentences. 

I gazed into his light blue eyes, peppered with kindness, salted with age.  Other spices in his freckles and liver spots: concern, calm, depth. He had a prescription in his hand, in a white crinkly bag, with long layered texts, flapping, stapled loosely to the bag.

“My mama just took us two kids out in the field and let us run around while she cooked, cleaned and took up the laundry.”

I wanted to tell him about my own infertility and how I could relate, but the next customer pushed off and out of line, as if leaving the boat dock.

La’tesha, with her big gold hoop earrings and short shaved head, with layers of black hair tapered down, said, “Do you have a CVS card?”

“Yes ma’am, I do. Here it is,” I said as I fumbled with my bags of half price Hershey’s Bliss Easter chocolate eggs, juggling Ben, my purse, and my card.  I laid it on the table, balancing Ben and his eleven month old long legs under my arms.  He was seated in my arms, as if a puppet on a chair.  My body a baby carrier; my arms acting as ERGO straps.

I wanted to tell that man how I understood how his cousin’s wife did not let go of her youngin’ and toted him around.  She wanted to hold onto that magic, that miracle.  That lovely pasture God let her in, Nature let her in, Luck let her in, Science let her in. 

Open Fields

She was on the outside for so long; she never wanted to feel that longing again. That tap tap tapping at the big floor to heart ceiling windows.  Now complete, a locket no one can see – infertility changes you.  It’s a plus sign in a long algebra equation, others might have a minus, something to subtract out.  Us infertiles gone fertile, we do the math, we hold the numbers.  We graze in that pasture and hold onto it much longer.  That’s what I wanted to say.

“Have a nice day and enjoy your retirement.”

I thought about how I don’t want Ben to grow anymore or how I am kinda sad he is turning one soon because the time has gone by so quick, so thick, and this might be my one shot.  My one bull in the pasture.  I’m ok with it if it is. 

I unstrapped Ben out of his car seat when we got home, his soft curls wet with sweat from the early April heat.  The humidity in the air from the coming storm.  His head so wobbly from sleep, his head automatic on my shoulder as I lifted him up.  I love toting him around because I carry this huge section of my heart outside myself.  It resting against my own, invisible magnetics mending us together. 

I had a broken heart for a long time when I was without Ben.  He came to me from the Heavens, from the stars.  Transported from somewhere far away and magical. 

Mama and Babe

I go to the pasture to graze whenever I get the chance.

I wanted to say, “I bet she doesn’t tote him around now.”  Then I thought of holding Ben in my arms, with his long legs angled over my arms at sixteen.  Funny. I looked both ways in the parking lot and then I saw that man again.  Walking to his car, slow and steady, like a bull in a pasture.  I drove home.

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Megan (memomuse) (18 Posts)

Megan Oteri is a wife, mama, and writer. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and son. She enjoys wide open spaces and wide open hearts. She writes about her experience as a new mom and AP parent at www.memomuse.wordpress.com. You can follow her on Twitter @memomuse1 and find her on Facebook under memomuse.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Dana K June 20, 2011 at 5:20 am

This is a really beautiful post. I’m afraid my son is going to outgrow me before I’m done totin’ him around.

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Megan June 20, 2011 at 1:21 pm

@Dana,
Thank you for your kind words. I think ERGO needs to make the “ERGO II, the carrier for beyond what your back can handle”! I think all parents tote their children around in their hearts. It can get pretty heavy at times, that is why our hearts hurt when our children hurt. Enjoy every minute of your physical totin’ and the emotional totin’! Maybe your son will tote you around! ha ha.

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anna June 20, 2011 at 6:51 am

I thought it was just me… I decided a long time ago that my baby was not going to get older. Now if he would comply with my plan.

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Megan June 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm

@Anna,
I felt the same way and it was super heightened when the trees were bursting with flowers, when spring was singing around the corner from a Southern winter. I noticed how beautiful the peach tree blossoms were and paused in silence to stare. I told my husband, like I had not known, “The flowers are so magnificant when they flower. Do trees peak with their flowers and blooms?” In a way, I was asking myself, “Will my son lose these precious baby blooms and fragrant flowers so bright?” He was like, “Of course they do, all trees and things in nature peak.” I remember being so sad the Bradford pear tree blossoms had passed with their big white fluffy cottony white buds, bursting so loud when I passed the trees along the road. I was sad when they were gone and only bright green trees remained. I thought of this parallel with my own son, as he was getting ready to crawl and start a whole new season. Let me know how your son cooperates when you try to put a 12 month onesie on his twelve year old body. :) Unfortunately, for something to blossom so beautifully, we must prepare for the petals to fall to the earth covered floor. Thanks for commenting.

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Martha aka Momsoap June 20, 2011 at 5:29 pm

This is so beautiful! I love the description of his eyes, “peppered with kindness, salted with age.” Just a lovely and beautifully written post.

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Megan June 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm

@ Martha,
Thank you for the specific feedback (I speak for myself as a writer — I love specific feedback like that, especially just to know which words really warapped themselves around you and resonated. If I could know, I’d even want to know which syllables you liked. :) Thank you for your compliment; I truely appreciate it. I am so glad you enjoyed this story.

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Melissa June 20, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Our babies must be about the same age, my little one is about to turn 11 months also. I, too, am struggling with the thoughts of her first birthday and what I wouldn’t give to slow the hands of time so that I could relish in each and every moment all over again. But, I also have a 3 year old, so I can tell you from experience that the next few years are going to be just as joyous and full of wonder and surprise.

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Megan June 21, 2011 at 3:44 pm

@ Melissa,
Yes indeed, I do know how you feel. Once that year mark hits, it gets better, as you might know, but it isn’t easy. I was looking at Ben today, 13 months old, sitting upright, looking so darling like a one year old can, with his little curls and curvy thin muscles. I have to be careful to want the milestones to happen because that means the last milestone will be a memory. For me it is how he crawls (he scoots on one knee like a crab and the other he propels in a normal crawl – it is adorabe). I am excited for those first steps that will propel him into a whole other world and me as well. Thank you for your wonderful comment.

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Joetta Stoner June 21, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Oh – how I miss totin’. Indeed my 15 year old left to go to another state for his first job and although I’m very proud, I’m wondering how he could have disobeyed me so flagrantly. All along I’ve been telling him he wasn’t to grow up! Many’s a day I picture myself holding him on my hip now, and then laugh (and cry inside).

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Megan June 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm

@ Joetta,
“…and then laugh (and cry inside).” Aww. I love that line! It’s just crazy the juxtaposition a mama feels inside – for me, “Come on now Ben, you can walk, you don’t need mama to lift all 22 pounds of you up all the time.” Then he will do the Ben signal for “Load em’ Up Mama,” two hands, parallel, with a little hand twist wave. It’s just adorable and I scoop him up. I am going to ask him when he’s twenty to give me that signal just to appease my achin’ mama heart. I bet you are so proud of him getting a job. Road trip for mama this summer? Thank you for sharing your comments and story.

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