Your mom and you have a hankering for Italian, so off you go to the local Italian establishment. It requires driving through the sketchy, heroin-riddled part of town that causes you to shrink back in the driver's seat while gesturing the sign of the cross even though you aren't Catholic. But it's worth it for the crusty bread. You walk through the parking lot, hugging your baby close to you to protect her from the chilly November wind, commenting to your mom how grateful you are that the chances of running into an acquaintance here on a Thursday afternoon are slim, which is good, because you're rocking a college hoodie, windblown hair, and pre-baby jeans that will fit like a sausage casing after one bite of food.
You walk inside the restaurant and immediately and accidentally make eye contact with the dad of one of your high school friends. You weren't close friends, but she woke you up at show choir camp from her hysterical crying over the news of Steve Irwin's death, and it's impossible not to bond in an awkward situation like that. Does he remember you from years of choir concerts, high school musicals, and show choir performances? Hopefully not. You put your head down and fiddle with the baby while you wait for the hostess to grab a highchair. The hostess takes you to your table, and you hand the baby to your mom so you can wrestle the cart cover onto the highchair, and then wrestle the baby into the highchair. You know lugging that cover screams first-time mom, but it's cold and flu season and after having a baby, you suddenly find yourself thinking about germs more than you think about coffee. The baby wails from being manhandled into a wooden chair, and you look up to find half the restaurant staring at you. Suddenly, your nursing bra is soaked in sweat.
You sit down and reach into the bag for the wet wipes to wipe down the table, but not before the baby gives the edge of the table a juicy lick. You mutter a comment about building up her immune system while wiping down everything else. The bread comes, and it's better than you remember. You give some to the baby to keep her calm, but she throws it on the floor. She fusses, so you give her a toy. She throws it on the floor. You hook another toy onto the highchair, but she manages to unhook it and throw it on the floor. She scrunches her nose and sticks her tongue out at everyone who walks by, and she once again charms her way back into your good graces. You look around and wonder how people can continue their conversations when there's a completely adorable baby right in from them. Your eyes widen as you realize you've become that mom who thinks everyone should be as in love with your child as you are. You tuck the thought away and reassure yourself no one has to know you think things like that. Until you come home and blog about them the next day, of course.
You turn to your mother to tell her about a book you're reading. You turn back to the baby 5 seconds later to see that she has somehow managed to ninja-grab a roll of silverware from the opposite side of the table (I still would like to see security camera footage to know exactly how this happened), and is excitedly reaching for the fork while suspiciously eyeing the knife. With lightening speed, you move everything as far away as you can and hand her another toy. Which she throws on the floor. Does the 5 second rule apply here?
You look around the room and think about the memories you have in here. You ate here before either freshman or sophomore homecoming, and now you're scanning the room for a secluded area to breastfeed should the need arise. Your table is only a block away from the old theater where you sang and danced and played the piano on the same stage Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra once crooned on. You smile at the memory while you eat your salad. The balsamic vinaigrette is much zippier than normal, and your eyes water like you're cutting an onion. You worry the taste will bother the baby next time she nurses, because these are the things you think about now. Your thoughts are interrupted by the sound of a panda rattle hitting the floor.
Your food arrives, and right on cue, the baby will no longer tolerate the highchair. You pick her up and notice she's not wearing her shoes. You knew they were a little too big, but you put them on her anyway because you want people to know you care about the warmth of your baby's feet, and also because they look ridiculously cute with her fair isle leggings. Priorities. You look for the shoes and find them on the floor, next to the graveyard of crusty bread and dirty toys.
You try to twirl your spaghetti on your fork while bouncing the baby on your leg, but it's hard. Keeping a baby an arm-length away from the table while eating one-handed feels a little like when you were a kid and you would pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time. It takes practice and a coordination you're still working on. Your mom takes the baby so you can eat a hot meal for once. She effortlessly holds the baby away from the table while eating her eggplant parmesan, and you watch in awe. She tells you it's like a bicycle; it took lots of practice to learn, but the skill comes right back. She gives you the knowing look and half smirk of a mother who once ate every meal that way to keep her colicky baby calm, and once again you realize just how much your mother did for you. The baby gives you a smile and you start to miss her, so you grab her and spend the next five minutes trying to keep her hands out of your iced tea. You walk her around the room while mom pays for lunch, and everything she has ever done is forgiven when you look in a mirror and she excitedly exclaims "mama!"
You take her home and put her down for a nap. Even though your body is allergic to naps, you curl up on the couch and immediately fall into a dream. You groggily pull yourself toward the Keurig 20 minutes later and fall into your mother's arms while she smiles and says "taking care of a baby is exhausting work." The baby wakes up cranky, but she has reindeer on her pants and a crooked bow in her hair, so you forgive her, rock her, and hand her another toy to throw on the floor.