The Agony of the Car Seat

I’ll just get right to the point. Yes, I know car seats are important. Yes, I know they save lives. Yes, I know infants, babies, toddlers, and children up to the age of eight in New York State must use them when traveling. (And “if the child is eight years old and is under 4’9″ tall or weighs less than 100 lbs, it is recommended that” I “continue using a child restraint system.”)

Yup, got it.

But the big old fact is they’re one big pain in the booty. Bulky. Heavy. And let’s face it, ugly. And you need a PhD to install the damn thing in the car, that is, if I still owned a car.

About four years before I actually became a mom, I’d started thinking like one before Julia arrived. And one day after I’d driven to the fine state of New Jersey for the high-end, luxury shopping experience found in The Short Hills Mall (I still get missy-eyed at the memory of the Nordstrom’s shoe department) I came to the realization after —I’d survived alternate side street parking, made my peace with forking out some of the highest gas prices in the nation, toughed it out among the city’s fleet of Kamikaze taxi drivers— however my car and I ,must part.

That day, as I had done so many times before, I came out of the mall, loaded down with bags in a post shopping hangover only to shriek“ Somebody stole my car!” then discovered a monster-SUV-gas-chugger had parked beside my mini ride. So after a six-year run of cruising with the top down, shifting like a pro, and sing a-longs to Prince, I sold my Miata, a vehicle easy eclipsed by SUVs, trucks, and sadly, most standard model cars.

Now, thanks to the car seat, I still experience car drama, without the convenience of having a car. So far, after getting a dark grey, super padded, Peg Perego back in April, the beast has been taken out of the house, exactly, once, to attend Easter dinner, otherwise it has collected dust in the corner of Julia’s bedroom.

Last Sunday I freed Godzilla to take Miss J to brunch at her Auntie Charlena’s house. On the subway. With the help of Aunt Carla, another brunch attendee, who helped wrangle baby and equipment, all went well. However, on the return trip things became dicey.
“ Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” Carla asked as the subway slammed into her stop.
“Sure,” I lied. I wasn’t sure of much of anything, other that I didn’t want Carla to go out of her way anymore than she had. And that I had to get my kid home ,by any means necessary.

Thirty minutes later; at 103rd Street, we exited the train. I climbed the two flights of the stairs. Not too bad. I’d managed nicely. However I’d forgotten that the downtown train came into the station one full level lower than the uptown tracks I usually traveled to and from, home. Another two flights? Yikes.
So I set out, performing a steady climb like a Sherpa, first one set of steps,  then the second set, trudging up the final angled levels, without the benefit of stopping or even pausing on the last few steps until I reached the cool, clean air of the street, covered in a warm lacquer of sweat. A wet shirt contest with a contestant of one.

As luck would have it, the one lazy doorman the building employees was behind the desk. He did not move from towards us. I did not open my mouth to ask for assistance. By then I could see the elevator, the salvation that it would deliver I, and my child to: the chilled air of the apartment. “Thank God I didn’t punk out and turn off the AC,” I thought as the lift doors closed.
The beast of the car seat in my left hand, a over stuffed diaper bag in the right, a twenty and a half pound baby strapped to my chest, if I did the weight calculation—even four days later—I’d probably weep at the total.

I  pushed the door open, dumping the car seat in the hallway, dreaming of the glass of cold white wine to come, after Miss J’s bedtime, I remembered, a few weeks back to when Julia and I were at my Mom’s in Michigan. Inside the cool, musty interior of the garage in Redford, I’d nearly crumbled in a fight with that car seat. Today I’d powered on. I must have known, deep down, somewhere, it was just the beginning.

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