Their daughter is nineteen months old, my son ten. Brandy and her husband Christian named their daughter Helena after a character in Midsummer Night’s Dream and I named my son Oliver after the title character in Oliver Twist.
We’ve had the apple muffins and quiche Brandy made, we’ve watched Oliver share Helena’s own toys with her, I’ve breastfed Oliver in the rocker I wish I had. Now comes the time all mothers look forward to, and their babies if they possessed any self-consciousness: we put the babies in the wagon and pull them down the street.
Oliver, who must be drugged to sleep at the best, falls in line as we lift him off the concrete patio where he’d been crawling and sit him on his bottom in the bright red vehicle. Helena leans her back against the handle and faces him. Bending over, Brandy gets ready to steer.
The adults quiet, taking their cues from the children who act as if they just entered a library or the presence of a dignitary, even though they don’t follow social codes of conduct or pick up on social cues. It’s a Sunday morning in January, just weeks after Oliver’s first Christmas. I might be hungover from a party, or ready to spend the day watching TV or rollerskating or even heading to Starbucks, but that was another life, another time. Now, I follow a little red wagon down half a street.
For some reason, I’m barefoot and the little roundabout causes my soles great pain and a battle ensues in my head–grab my shoes and break the reverie? I can’t bring myself to risk it.