“She’s inconsolable, Mom. There’s no way I can walk back home. Come get me?”
My daughter had gone down to the bluffs with her ten-week-old daughter, joined by a girlfriend and her baby. At five o’clock on a breezy, sunny, Pacific Palisades afternoon, it had seemed a perfectly logical–and beautiful–undertaking.
“Absolutely. How do I get there?”
“At Starbucks, just go straight, as far as you can.”
I arrived two and a half minutes later. The sweet and salty ocean mist filled my nostrils, while the sound of a crying baby filled the air. But it wasn’t my granddaughter, it was her companion.
“She seems fine,” I said, waving goodbye to the other mom, who was making a speedy departure.
“I know,” said my daughter, “but believe me; she was really unhappy five minutes ago.”
“Well, let’s get her in the car,” I said. Looking at the size of the stroller (we would have called this one a “carriage” back in the day), I wondered aloud where it would go.
My daughter opened the back door of the Prius. “Where’s her car seat?”
I’d been driving my daughter’s car for weeks, running errands with and without the two of them, and the car seat was always in there. At least in my mind it was. What was always in there was the apparatus that held the car seat, not the restraint itself. We’d taken it out and placed it in the living room when we’d returned from a doctor check-up earlier in the afternoon, and there it had remained. Before you could say, “What kind of a grandmother is she?” my daughter was on the phone.
“Honey, my Mom forgot the car seat. Can you bring it, please?”
I’d left my son-in-law merrily working on his computer in their backyard. He was home early from work, attempting to accomplish a bit before the nighttime baby routine began. “Look, she’s not crying now,” I said, hoping to spare him the trip. “Why don’t I walk home with her and you can drive back and take a break? I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“Twenty, and I think I should just get her home quickly.”
The cavalry arrived. We were now three adults, two cars, one car seat and a stroller/carriage strong, a marshaling of forces of which our darling babe was blissfully unaware. Seat snapped in place, baby strapped in, they were ready. Of course, the stroller still wasn’t going to fit anywhere. I walked it home. The journey was uphill all the way, something I hadn’t noticed about the slope of the terrain when I’d driven it in two and a half minutes. But it was great exercise, and people stopped and smiled at me along the way (I was surprised and flattered by the number and duration of glances from younger men), sneaking a peek under the cover of the stroller. The blank look I received, time after time, prompted me to finally come up with a response.
“Empty Nest Syndrome.” I basked in sympathetic stares, but drew the line when an elderly couple, hearing me rapidly bearing down on them, stepped aside on the narrow sidewalk. The woman had been gently guiding her husband by the arm. When they stopped, she peered into the stroller and then at me, perplexed. Her husband, whose eyesight was evidently failing, stared for a moment. “Is there a baby in there?” he asked tentatively.
I felt obliged to explain. They nodded wisely in understanding and I continued steaming home. (For the record, it’s twenty-five minutes, at warp speed.)
I think I’ll take the stroller out again tomorrow. It sure beats walking the dog for a way to meet the neighbors.