The oldest man in the world works in my building, and his name is Harold*. He is a paralegal for Big Law Firm, from which we rent space. Conversations with Harold are a challenge, because he likes to make jokes, but he can’t hear very well. So he’ll say something humorous, and you’ll make a joke back, and then he’ll stare at you blankly through his thick, spotted glasses and say, “Pardon?” And by then the joke has died, but now you have to repeat it loudly and then wait through the long silence until Harold says “. . . Ah.”
Harold doesn’t see too well either, as was made painfully clear by our encounter this morning in the office kitchen.
Harold: What are you making?
Me: I’m not making, I’m just washing.
Harold: Ah. . . . Those are funny little dishes.
Me: They’re not dishes, actually.
Harold: Ah. . . . They’re not dishes?
Me: Um, no. They’re parts for my breast pump.
Harold: . . . Ah.
The air tastes like ash. My throat hurts each morning. A haze of yellowish-brown hangs over the hills; I watch from my office window as it glowers at the city. From my window, I can see a great tower of smoke curling into the sky. According to the internet, that tower is 22.5 miles away.
Robin says “oom!” at the fires, at the smoke. Robin says “oom!” at everything. “Oom!” A kitty! “Oom!” A bottle! “Oom!” My daddy! What a marvelous word, that can contain so much.
This morning our co-counsel sent me yet another e-mail blaming me for something that is completely not my fault. That is, in fact, the fault of a third party unassociated with either of our offices. I sent him back a long e-mail recapping the events that have led us to this point and ending with “I just don’t see why you need to keep placing the blame on me, thus forcing me to write long e-mails defending myself.” In retrospect, I should have just written back, “Oom!” and let it go.
A little background: Lawyer is a hard-core right-winger. I’m a left-wing “moonbat,” as I was charmingly called recently. Somehow, we get along great.
Lawyer: John and Cindy McCain were on The View the other morning, and of course they had to ask her, “So, Cindy, how many houses do you have?” And she was great. She said “What do you want from me? I come from a wealthy family.”
Me: Leaving aside the question of Cindy McCain’s finances or ethics, I generally think that candidates’ spouses should be irrelevant to the election.
Lawyer: Well, I generally agree with you. Except for Michelle Obama. She’s an angry Black woman, and I don’t want that in the White House.
Me: Are you serious? She’s a Harvard educated, politically astute woman of color, and obviously that’s threatening to a lot people, but what’s she got to do with Barack Obama’s qualifications for the presidency?
Lawyer: Everyone knows she wears the pants in that family. She’s got a chip on her shoulder.
Me: This conversation won’t end well, you know that, right?
Husband, sandwiched between two fretting babies, was trying to settle them down for a nap before I left for work. “I think they want to get up,” I said, watching him pat Robin’s back while Wren’s lower lip began to tremble. “They don’t want to go back to sleep.”
He sighed. “If I put them in the stroller they’ll be asleep before we’ve gone one block. We go through this every morning.”
What he said: “We go through this every morning.”
What I heard: “You don’t know how it works, because you’re not here.”
And I cried.
Being a working parent is not fun for me. Although Husband makes every effort to keep me in the loop – taking photos of the babies on their perambulations, regaling me with the details of their day – I feel left out of my family. When I call home from the office, I inevitably wake somebody up, so I try not to call. Before the babies were born, we planned to have Husband bring them in to the office a couple of times a week for a lunchtime visit; Wren’s hatred of the car and high gas prices have put the kibosh on that one. It often feels like we have a two-part family: husbandandkids, and me.
It would be easy for some to take my feelings and use them to bolster spurious arguments about what women “should” do, what our “place” is, so let me just head that line of thinking off right here. If my job were an interesting, rewarding place to be, I would feel less angst about being away. If I weren’t breastfeeding, and therefore pumping four times a day in my office (fun!), I would have an easier time ignoring the distance between me and my children. And if I didn’t know so many moms who stayed home with their kids, I might not grieve my own inability to make that happen. My gender alone does not determine my experience.
I am grateful that Husband is home with our babies, and that they will have a chance to forge a strong relationship right from the beginning. I only wish I could spend more time with all of them. And that money would rain down on us from heaven. Only cash, though; a quarter could do some serious damage from that height.
Husband and I are stuck in my office today, because the pest people are poisoning termites at our house. He drew this.
(Cats are not actually here.)
I have just realized why I have been so awfully unmotivated at work lately. Have you ever had friends or family come to town during a week when you have to work? And you go to work dutifully, but the whole time you’re there, you’d much rather be with your visitors?
I feel like these two little people in my uterus are so much more interesting than my office right now. I spend each day wishing I were hanging out with them instead of drafting contracts or setting up pension plans. It’s as if I’m somehow being rude or neglectful by not spending time with them. Which is silly, since, y’know, I’m actually spending every minute of every day with them – a fact of which they remind me frequently by jabbing their little toes into my ribs and punching me in the bladder.
I’m sure I’ll feel even better when I have to go back to work after they’re born. Yippee.
A gentleman with interesting hair and a confused expression wandered into my office and asked for directions to a conference room. I offered to walk him there, as I needed to stretch anyway. As I waddled and he huffed down the corridor, I kept thinking, “this guy’s a rock star. I know he’s a rock star. Who is he? Why can’t I remember his name?”
Yeah. It was George Clinton.
A couple of secretaries and I hovered near the elevator for a while with a camera, hoping we’d catch him before he left, but we found out he’s in an all-day thing and may well be here late. Rats. I wanted to take a photo with his hand on my big, pregnant belly.
Now my babies may never be funktified.