Do you remember having just one child? I had only one for such a short, sleepless time that I barely do. When Eliza was fourteen months old I found out I had another on the way. So her solo time was limited because, really, once you know about the bun in the oven your heart is beginning to create another tether, another life line. As my belly grew, Lucille inside, I wondered how I would drive to town with two babies in the back seat. How would I go to the grocery store, I wondered. Target? The bathroom?
I have a friend who must have been on the same celestial clock. Her first daughter was born hours after Eliza and in the same room. Those two have been like soul sisters since. Like twins separated at birth, their actions, reactions and general moving through the world mirror each other even though they don’t see each other every day. When this friend had her second child, I was eight month pregnant with Lucille. We ran into each other once at a mother’s day party and shared the names we were thinking of for our second children, our bellies well into our laps as we perched ourselves on the lip of a hot tub.
“Lucy,” she said. “Just Lucy.”
I don’t remember what I said next but I do remember somehow explaining that our daughters might have extremely close names. We had decided on Lucille, I told her. But we’d call her Lucille. As a Jennifer who’s never been a Jenny or a Jen, I had hope we could pull off Lucille.
I remember when Lucy made her appearance I was holding my breath when I visited her for the first time. How would this mama do it? Literally, how? I was ready to take notes, watch her every move. Hold baby while filling up swimming pool for two-year-old. Put baby on blanket while helping two-year-old take her clothes off. Pass baby to me if she cried. Check, check and check. I’m on it, I thought.
“Have you, um, made it to the grocery store with both of them?” I asked.
“Not yet,” she said.
But, of course, she did, eventually. And so did I. I still can’t tell you how but we did it. Now in Target, I’m like a no machine. No, you can’t have a hello kitty notebook. No, you don’t need new pink pants. No, we don’t need chocolate covered granola bars. No, you don’t need a new bike. It’s all get off the cart, walk beside me please, don’t run and put that back. Then, when it comes down to it, I bribe. If you … fill in the blank… we’ll get a hot chocolate. They have whipped cream, just sayin.
But the thing I’m savoring lately is not whipped cream at the Target Starbucks, it’s those stolen moments, those few hours with just one child. Alone but together. Just me and you time, as Eliza calls it. Time to look one kid in the eye, do something she likes and focus, if only for a little while, on her giggle, her budding sense of humor, her wandering timeless through our favorite gas stations looking for the perfect treat she doesn’t have to share with her sister.
The other day I picked up Eliza from school.
“Where’s Lucille?” she said.
“She’s sick and home with Daddy,” I said.
“So it’s just me and you,” she said.
“Yeah, it’s just me and you,” I said.
“Where are we going?” she said.
“Well, I was thinking we’d go home but I guess we don’t have to. Where do you want to go?” I said feeling a day of work slip off my shoulders and open the possibility of doing whatever my kid wanted.
“Ice cream!” she said. “And I have this!” She held up a free cone card she got a birthday party the previous weekend.
“Awesome,” I said and we headed to the ice cream shop. It was windy and a little chilly so she ate her double scoop in the car. She shared a few licks of tangerine sorbet with me and asked could we go to her most favorite place in the world.
“It’s just across the street,” she said.
When she finished her ice cream cone, down to the drippy end, we ventured across the street to the only skateboard shop in town.
I have to say the store sort of intimidates me. There are teenage boys everywhere, mostly heading to the indoor ramp in the back. There are worn out couches, torn carpets, stacks of snowboard magazines by the door, and rows and rows of skateboards. I can’t help but feel like an awkward teenager who is intrigued by, but doesn’t quite get, skaters though she really, really wants to. Eliza is not intimidated at all.
She walks in and heads straight to the kids section where there are snowboards leaning up against the walls. She has one that she likes to try and asks me to reach the bindings and boots from the display so she can assemble her set up. I do as she asks and she puts everything in place.
The guys who work in the store are used to us because we come here often. They come by and ask if we are ok and they smile at my daughter who so clearly is one of them.
“It’s rad she’s into it this young,” one of them said. “She’ll be amazing when she’s a teenager!”
Eliza beams. I take deep breaths.
I don’t want to think of her out of bounds snowboarding in places she won’t tell me about. I don’t want to think of jumps and tricks and whatever else it is that snowboarders do. What I want to think of is her, in this moment, with me sitting on a skateboard watching her, hearing every word she says because it’s just the two of us on a stolen afternoon, together.