Photo by Marissa Price on Unsplash
By Marilyn Pellini
All of life starts out with baby steps. From our first lusty cry at birth, we open our eyes to the world and all it holds. We see our mother for the first time and already know the comfort of her arms. We sense and even smell our environment.
The cooing of our parents, yelps of our siblings, and even the dog’s barking fills our ears with both the familiar and a myriad of new sounds. We find our fist and scrunch it into our mouth and love our mother’s sweet milk. All of a sudden, there is a spoon in our mouth, and on it is something so yummy and tasty. Tomorrow there is another flavor and another color. Keep it coming! It is delicious and my tummy feels happy and full. So full indeed, that I doze off to sleep in my crib without a murmur. When I awaken, there is something moving and dancing above me. I don’t know it yet, but it is called a mobile. If I stay very still it completely stops moving; then I can wildly kick my feet and it starts to jump and leap, and the hanging animals sometimes get tangled together. I’m taking the baby steps needed to begin to control my environment.
When I start to cry loudly, it is often because I’m tired of the dancing giraffes and bears and tigers above me. Then someone comes and picks me up. They change my wet diaper and feed me again. Now it’s playtime. I hear “patty cake, patty cake,” and if I smile and chuckle, my playmate will do it over and over again. I now know also, when someone climbs the stairs with me, I’m going to be deposited in my crib and am going to have to stay there until I sleep. I cry louder with each step we go up, because I do not like being alone. I already understand crying often gets me what I want. Bedtime or naptime is not my favorite, as I like to be with my family where the action is, where there is always something to observe or steal my attention.
Next advancement means true baby steps. I’m trying to pull myself up now, and if you will hold out two fingers I grab on to them and hesitantly put one foot in front of the other. Now I am really walking, and soon will be able to do this strictly alone. I can hardly wait for the time when I can go out to play with my siblings.
It’s my first day of school, and Mom and I will walk there together, as it is just down the street. When she sees just how grown up I am, I know she will let me make this journey on my own. There are not even any streets to cross, and she can just look out the window and watch me the whole way. I want to be just as grown up as the other kids on my block. They walk alone or with their friends, and I know I can do it too.
High school is coming to an end. I’m going to miss it. My family and home I’ll miss too, because I am off to college come fall. I’ve wanted to be more independent for a while now, but the folks made it clear that they make the rules while I lived in their house. Much too strict, if you ask me. I know, and have been taught right from wrong, and I now reason my life is not their life, after all.
Hm? I’m here at college and I’m wanting to go home. Classes are really hard, my roommate is such a pain, as everything has to be her way. Wasn’t I the one who said I wanted freedom? Well, I’m discovering that with freedom goes an awful lot of work. No more Mom to do my washing or cooking of my favorite meals. Anything I need and want is now my job and responsibility. I’m reconsidering this independence thing!
Got a job, a really good job. Yes, I’m told that a 60-hour work week is the least that is expected of new recruits, but who cares, I’ve nothing better to do! Left the college boyfriend behind. He was definitely the loser my folks told me he was, but it took almost my whole four years at college to realize he would never accept a job like the one I just took — too much work and responsibility and time. Wish I had not wasted four years on that guy. Just might have met the man of my dreams, and I’d be sitting pretty in a mansion somewhere with some darling little kids, a nanny and great hubby; the fair-haired boy at his law firm. For now, I’ll have to be satisfied with exploring my new city, driving out to see the folks and siblings every few weeks, and working myself to the bone.
It’s happened, a promotion, a raise, and guess what — I may have met Mr. Right. He is darling, holds the door open for me, is sort of vegan too, loves the movies, even will sit through “chick flicks” on occasion, works out, and loves his folks and my whole family too. This may be it!
What a day. Charlene threw up before breakfast, Carolyn lost her diaper somewhere between the bedroom and kitchen, Charlie is screaming in his crib, and Cathy is banging her spoon on her highchair for some breakfast. I gave up a 60-hour work week for this? Even with some household help, I can hardly keep my head above water. There is no mansion out in the ‘burbs. Just a nice, ordinary, plain house, with four bedrooms and three baths. Only kidding though, this is fun and satisfying. I’m watching my very own little ones grow right before my eyes.
Gosh! If this is Wednesday, it must be Carolyn’s dance day, Charlene’s gymnastic class, Cathy’s tutoring session, and Charlie’s horseback-riding lesson. Thank goodness for one boy. He does not go from lesson to lesson as the girls do, and has no trauma about friends, at least none that he mentions. The girls are always crying that so-and-so hates them and won’t let them play or let them eat lunch at the same table. I don’t bother saying, “Go tell the teacher,” because they look at me like I have six heads, and of course roll their eyes. “What good would that do? She can’t do anything about it.” “Well, she could in my day,” I say. Another roll of the eyes, and whoever is standing there with the complaint is gone. I do so wish I could figure it out for them, sit with them myself at the lunch table, but I do remember back to when it was me in that circumstance. Somehow, someway I lived through it, and so will they.
All the kids are gone. A new step to take. One that is quickly leading to old age, but before that hits I have a new-found freedom — me and hubby, that is. Wow! What should we do with ourselves? Travel to far-off lands maybe? Our piano has been sitting in the living room all these years with no one to play it now. Perhaps it is my turn to treat myself to some lessons, and while I’m at it, some art lessons too. I’m thinking even golf could be fun.
Charlene needs help. Her baby has terrible colic. As a good grandma and grandpa, we drive the three hours to her place and help out. Her older one, now almost two, just loves grandpa, and when she sees him just wants him to carry her everywhere he goes. If he puts her down to go the bathroom, she cries at the door, and he has to talk to her from inside assuring her he will be right out.
My steps are shorter and I hobble a bit now that my beloved is gone. The three women’s clubs I belong to keep me busy, but nothing will replace that man of my dreams I met so many, many years ago. I’ve got to find something meaningful to do, perhaps a writing workshop and a hunt for a darling, posh, polished magazine like The Brick Magazine to publish my stuff. I tell myself, you’ll never know if you don’t try. I’m back to taking baby steps at such a mature time of life and I’m loving the thrill of it all!
Marilyn Pellini has recently published a grief book entitled Dear Al, A Widow’s Struggles and Remembrances. It has been selling quite well. Her other credits as a writer include a recent article in Brick Magazine entitled “Memories in My Button Jar,” pieces in Westchester Parent Magazine, Bay State Parent Magazine, On The Water, Balanced Rock, and others which she would be happy to provide copies of upon request. In May of 2018, she took the first place prize in the N.Y. State Federation of Women’s Clubs writing contest.