A large portion of being a new mom is spent watching your tiny person; grow into a small person, who is headed, in time, to full-scale adulthood. After Julia’s one-year birthday, she shape-shifted more and more each day, feeding herself, babbling, touching, and walking around the apartment as she glazes at me, to ensure I am observing her big girl activities.
However, the not so warm, gooey side of new motherhood is the ability of small people to get into big problems. First the 1920s drawing of lilies, crafted by my friend Rebecca’s Grandmother back in London took a hit, crashing against the corner of Julia’s changing table with the kind of alarm that made me jump from my bed like the house was engulfed in fire.
I ran next door into Julia’s bedroom. I should have known right off trouble was a foot. She was facing away from the door, not toward it, which is her morning, default-setting. At the start of each day, Julia bounces up and down in her crib, like Nureyev, doing little baby reviles, as she and I delight in seeing one other, since the previous night. That morning she faced the destruction, beyond her crib, the wounded glass of the frame, the ruby flowers imprinted on the forest green carpet, sprinkled with a fine dew of glass.
So it should not come as a surprise when I report, a month after I bestowed my daughter with that moniker, Julia ripped up two pop-up picture books, (sorry Grandma, I really did not think her little arms could reach them from the crib on the neighboring chair). Then she snapped the fine links of two bracelets, followed by two necklaces—the last, a golden birthday gift, that slithered from my neck the moment my butt had settled onto the sofa,at the adoption agency during our six month check-in back in August.
As I worked to shape the picture of single baby mama confidence, I felt a hard, sting tug against my neck. Then, the snap.
“Oh, Julia, “ I groaned.
“Well, you can’t blame her,” Stella, the social worker, said. “Since you’re wearing that bright shinny thing.”
“Past tense. I was wearing that bright shinny thing,” I said through gnashed teeth, which, fortunately, Stella interpreted as a rough smile.
After all, Julia was just living up to her name. After smashing a wine glass at her God Mummy Kim’s house over Labor Day, (don’t worry God Mummy Eula, she’ll be over to bust up something at your house real soon…) and a few breakables at our home, before and after the holiday, somewhere long the way, Julia broke her nickname too.
She simply stopped braking stuff. Now Julia devoted all her time to sussing out stuff, right about the time she transformed into a mobile bi-ped. Instead of trying to grab on to the world, she could invade it, along with the protective coverings of wall sockets, Kitchen cabinet handles, stove knobs, my bookcases, her bookcase, even a wet umbrella tossed on the kitchen floor called for intense study. The world is a classroom. Then came, shoe obsession.
After a toddler can toddle ten, good solid steps, unaided, toddlers need a proper shoe fitting and proper shoes. Julia and picked out a great pair of rose-colored Mary Jane’s, and stylish, purplish, lavender pair of ankle boots. 120 dollars later, I keep a tight lock on those little wee shoes.
So does Julia.
She apparently loves the feel of fresh air between her toes, because she will remove her socks and shoes at the slightest provocative breeze. Men who use to check me as I stroll the streets are now too busy retrieving the shoes my daughter has tossed away. For years, before I became a mom I had no idea why I found so many little shoes in the middle sidewalks like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs. No longer.
So as Julia and I stood on the sidewalk at 102nd Street and Broadway, after a lovely, post church brunch with Auntie Charlena and Zia Carla, I looked down at my darling daughter. She looked back up at me, smiling, beaming, waving a tiny white sock in her left hand, and a wee shoe fuchsia shoe, in her right. Julia doesn’t garner enough satisfaction taking off her footwear. She has to know that I know she has taken them off. She waves them like warning flags for rip tides.
I sighed and said, “Well MacGyver, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you.”
Just then, a seventy-something snazzy, African American Grandma strolling by, stopped.
“What a beautiful baby,” the elderly lady said. “Did you say her name is MacGyver?”“ Nooooo, her name is Julia,” I said suppressing a laugh threatening to crack one of my ribs. “I just call her that since she can get into just about anything. Besides that would be a funny name for a little girl.”
The old lady looked straight in the eye and said, “Well, I don’t know that actress did name her baby, Apple.”
“ Stand corrected,” I said.
I give. No more nicknames.
But the shoe war wages on.