Wednesday, December 13, 2006

On Earth as it is in Ikea

This past weekend Cora had her first trip to Ikea, Swedish wonderland. One of the first things we saw when we walked in (at the start of the Ikea maze - their store layout is so brilliant in a totally evil kind of way) was a vat of small stuffed ocean animals for about 25 cents each. Even as Chris pulled out a red and white striped fish I could hear my mother in the background advising me not to get her used to getting a toy or treat every time we go shopping. Oops!

But she does love her little fish, though she tends to tuck it under her armpit - luckily (?) Ikea items have so many and such long tags, she can still suck on a tag. Perhaps this is an early sign that her instrument will be the bagpipes?

As we walked through the store we encountered many more very cute stuffed animals, and we showed them to her, then put them back in their bins and waved goodbye to them. Chris and I did a similar thing with the couches. We really need a new couch one day - the one we bought when we moved into the house has developed terrible sags. So, we sat on many different Ikea couches and looked at the upholstery options, and then waved bye-bye. We did get a rug for the living room, though - our Christmas present to the house - a round one with a labyrinth pattern. Much softer landing for people who can’t quite sit up for long.

This is the first week of our temporary part-time nanny, who is helping us burn through a flex plan account so that the money will go to a real person and not a corporation. By the time we do finally get into daycare (and we’ve been on the waiting list over a year!) It will be next March or April, just when we will probably no longer need, want, or be able to afford it!

So for two weeks we have Sue from 9am until 1 or 2pm. The second day, yesterday, when Sue arrived, Cora took one look at her and started crying. Today she smiled when she saw her, though I have heard her crying off and on, but also laughing off and on, so really a pretty normal day. Still...I miss my mornings with the baby!

In the meantime, I’m getting grading done in a more timely manner, along with other chores like that. I finally got my corner mostly worked out, so that I have a tiny "office" space on the landing, across from Cora’s room. There’s still a lot of stuff I don’t really have a place for, but it will work well enough. And I’ve got my computer up here now. My hope is that in the future Cora can be persuaded to take her naps up here in the crib and I can work. Or, she can play on the floor in her room and I can work. Basically, I just want to feel more productive than I think I have been this semester.

Despite all this yearning for being productive - getting grading done quickly, reading for classes, getting some writing done, being more prepared for class - I also have a yearning for spending time just sitting with Cora reading books, or practicing sitting (on the nice new rug!), or listening to new music (this week’s big hit: North African compilation CD from the library), or making silly faces and noises.

All this comes as a big surprise to me. I really thought I would be one of those "love the baby but can’t wait to get back to work" mothers who doesn’t mind spending lots of time away from the baby. But I also thought I would hate being pregnant, and I really didn’t. I guess I assumed these things because I never really felt those "maternal urges" - the burning desire to have a baby that I hear other women talk about. Even with Cora, the decision to get pregnant seemed more logistical, more a kind of gift to Chris and my family, than an irresistible impulse. Maybe that is why she is so irresistible to me now.

And I think about all those stories people tell about babies and their souls and babies picking their families (though, really, a night watching the news should put that story to the test) and babies biding their time to be with the right family. And I think about how when Cora was conceived, I did think to myself that we must have just made a baby. And two months later dreaming her name, and dreaming about holding a sleeping girl in an airport, waiting. Was that dream a metaphor after all? In the dream, I literally saw her name in lights, and I had never considered Cora as a name for the baby, though now it is clearly perfect for her.

So which is it? Is Cora like a fish we pulled out of the genetic Ikea bin? Are we like the couch she picked after sitting in a bunch of others? Did we have the best upholstery choices? Is she like the nanny that the agency picked for us after we submitted our application and information about our family? Is she the gift the universe sends me to turn my expectations upside down and make me rethink my "productivity priorities"? Oh, I don’t think I’ll ever know the answer. I think I get to pick the answer I like best. And like the Japanese businessmen in Life of Pi, like Pi Patel himself, I prefer the story with the tiger. I like to think, I like to believe, that Cora thought it would be fun to surprise me, fun to join this family of music and words and delicious food, fun to grow up in this little house.

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