This is what happens right after you have a baby: You are (accurately) presumed starving and incapable of cooking so nice people bring you cold-cut platters, pound cakes, casseroles, hams, and if you’re really lucky, bottles of wine, which you resentfully watch your husband drink because you couldn’t possibly, wouldn’t dream of, spiking your breast milk this early in the game (this isn’t Europe, for god’s sake!). Your precious little squinchy-faced lamb is the somnolent recipient of tiny socks, colossal stuffed animals, and burp cloths much too pretty for their purpose. Well-wishers delicately inquire if you have “help” and express mild consternation if you don’t. Amazement is expressed at how svelte you look — for someone who’s just disgorged an actual living, breathing human bean (that last bit is generally left unspoken). “Are you getting out much yet?” people wonder, and you respond by saying, “If going to the mailbox once a day to fetch magazines I don’t have time to read and bills I’ll forget to pay qualifies as getting out much, then, yes, I am!” They smile and promise that in six weeks, eight weeks, three months or six, things will definitely be Back to Normal.
Well, my baby daughter has officially been out of the womb for as long as she was in it. She’s got two beaver teeth, says “mama” to a hairbrush, and nimbly scuttles across the floor, gathering dust bunnies more efficiently than my Roomba. Her formal debut into San Antonio society was marked months ago by several dozen ladies quaffing cunning little cans of champagne at that very necessary rite of passage, the Sip ’n’ See. Which all means that according to the calendar and conventional wisdom, my postpartum kvetching will no longer be tolerated. And if normalcy can be measured in toenail maintenance (I’ve had two pedicures since her birth) and telecommunications (I’ve returned at least two phone calls since December), then I suppose everything must be Back to Normal, or to the New Normal, which bears a vague resemblance to the old one, just with seemingly fewer minutes in an hour and fewer showers in a week.
In the spirit of the New Normal, I’m writing my monthly column again. Some readers might even remember it. After 18 years in New York City, I moved to San Antonio, and the Current kindly gave me a forum in which I could publicly puzzle over my new life. It was cathartic — a kind of culture-shock treatment — to ask questions like: Why, exactly, do San Antonians bust out their jeans and woolly sweaters in 100-degree heat? The thing that just bit me — was it a tarantula, and is there an antidote? Is the faux Venetian canal in the parking lot at Neiman’s Last Call a joke that I alone don’t get? And do I really have to learn how to drive — isn’t there a subway in this town? How about a sidewalk?
But in July I celebrated my third anniversary as an Alamo City resident and while that doesn’t make me a real San Antonian — I’ve never seen a Spurs game and I tend not to wear sweaters until at least Thanksgiving — the stranger-in-a-strange-land premise of this column was wearing a little thin. Consider, after all, my many accomplishments: I learned how to drive. I continue to avoid the freeways, mind you, but I did get my first speeding ticket last week. I regularly turn around and don't drown. I know the difference between a great-tail grackle and a common one. I can slay a scorpion — with a flip-flop — while simultaneously holding a fussy baby and talking on the phone. I vote in local elections, I’ve been summoned for (and gotten out of) jury duty, and next year my older daughter will start kindergarten at a public school. I have a physician, an OB, a dentist, even a favorite weatherman. OK, I still fly back to NYC for the occasional hair appointment but, I’m sorry, some services simply have to be outsourced.
So what, then, does that leave me to write about? While I may have gotten a handle on San Antonio life (sort of), the bemusing, amusing full-time mother of two gig, as well as certain local phenomena, should continue to provide grist for this particular mill. Expect me to keep on asking all the important questions — plague of crickets, what do you want from us? H-E-B Buddy Buck, what, pray tell, is my daughter supposed to buy with you? — as the baby’s napping schedule permits.