Bye Bye, Money

by Christine Adams Beckett

Dozens of mini vans lined the Buy Buy Baby parking lot in Totowa New Jersey, a rainbow of iridescent body paint colors glimmering sparkling star dust in the late morning sun. Some were shrouded by sun visors, keeping their front seats cool, presumably so that post-partum bottoms in varying states of soreness would return to the cockpit in relative comfort, stitches in tact, rubber donuts still cooly providing relief. Chrome shopping carts decorated with the red and blue logo of their super baby store neatly collapsed in a parking lot corral. One was lined with a quilted padded liner where a toddler should sit, a pink and orange floral shroud covered in what the senses perceived as regurgitated sweet potatoes.

Automatic sliding doors, the likes of which are found in airports and prisons and houses of priceless art, welcome frantic, exhausted, hoodwinked women who under their breath curse their own mothers who didn’t warn them sufficiently of the drawn out pain of childbirth, the tedium of infancy or the resulting exhaustion. The entire morning’s endeavor was to get here, the Mecca of Baby Tricks to Make Life Easier. Their teeth stained by coffee, brushes still dry in the cup by the bathroom sink at home, Mom is iron clad in securely padded nursing bras and reasonably clean yoga pants.

A climate controlled, airplane hangar-sized super store organized in great rows of packaged everything greets them. Baby Super Store is illuminated by 1000s of florescent bulbs, and patrolled by cart-pushing shell-shocked women, politely inquiring the age of other puckered, pink infants that lay hidden in car seat shells propped up before protective noses. Starving for comradery, they answer one another in streams of consciousness. They buy hundreds of dollars worth of portable cribs, baby tubs, and gentle swings. Pacifiers with a dizzying array of nipple shapes, wipe warmers and plastic contraptions to keep their developing bundles comfortable, safe and entertained make a colorful plastic nest in the bottom of their carts.

Returned home, mother eagerly unwraps her packages to indifferent infant response. Exhausted from her morning outing, mother will sway in motion to a familiar — and soon to be annoyingly repetitive — tune and lull the pink puckered ball of flesh to sleep, rather than the $200 space age, egg-shaped swing that will eventually be donated to Goodwill. The same sway method will be used at grandmother’s, where after having bathed the little darling in an enamel turkey roaster, having forgotten the over-engineered plastic infant tub at home, she will lay her down to sleep in a bureau drawer lined with a familiarly scented quilt. The titanium, light weight, pack-away crib will have remained in the back hall closet at baby’s home, with its cardboard packaging ripped jaggedly at the edge to reveal the wrong color.

Mother realized the gentle power that lay within her. Fabled instincts, a body plumbed with life-sustaining fluids and an incomparable love for years lay inertly within her bones. They were not displayed under florescent lit, plastic packaging but buried under layers of flesh and years of protection that needed only the awakening of childbirth to become latent and rise from its pubescent sleep.

Another dormant instinct to wake, that of fiscal responsibility, will startle her upright — when and if she starts sleeping again — when she realizes she has only 17 and a half years to save $250,000 for her pink bundle’s education. The awakening will hopefully occur before the travel crib, still wrapped in torn, corrugated cardboard, is beyond the date by which it can be exchanged for a few months’ supply of disposable diapers.

Then, perhaps, she will rest.  A little…