The Walking and the Dead

Posted: November 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, California, City Livin', Firsts, Friends and Strangers, Mama Posse, Milestones, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Scary Stuff, Walking | 8 Comments »

It was killing me that I forgot my camera. At first at least.

I was in San Francisco at night, kid- and husband-less, roaming around the Day of the Dead celebration with my sister and her friends. And man, was there amazing eye candy. Incredible fodder for photos.

Tons of folks had their faces painted white, with black-hallowed-out looking eyes and other skeleton-like features. That might not sound so terribly spooky, especially on the heels of Halloween two nights before, but trust me, milling around the Mission at night with hundreds, maybe thousands of people who look like that and are carrying orange marigolds and lit candles and photos of their loves ones who have died—it creates a certain ambiance.

There were lots of full-bore costumes too. Men in elaborate Victorian high-necked dresses, long full skirts, wigs with curls piled high. I mean, men in San Francisco use a bi-annual teeth-cleaning as an excuse to wear a dress. Troupes of roving drummers and dancers festooned in jingly gold wrist and ankle bracelets swept past. One woman in white face was carried on a platform Cleopatra-like by four attendants. Even dogs, toddlers, and babes in arms had face paint or photos pinned to them.

Ostensibly there was a parade, but the streets and sidewalks were so flooded with people, everyone walking or dancing and moving forward en masse, it was impossible to tell parade participants from on-lookers.

In the midst of it all I thought, “Why would I ever want to live anywhere but the Bay Area?” And, “I’m definitely coming back here next year—every year.” Also, “I wonder when Kate and Paige will be old enough to see this without freaking out?” And, “Why oh why did I forget my effing camera?”

At one point my sister’s housemate, who I’d bemoaned my cameralessness to, handed me hers. “Snap away!” she trilled. But the thing felt heavy and awkward in my hands. I tried to focus on someone, but they swept by before I could ever orient myself.

I handed it back to her. “Ah thanks,” I said. “But I’m actually fine.” After all my lamenting I realized I didn’t want to be taking pictures at all. I just wanted to be drinking it all in directly.

It’s been over a week now—ten days to be precise—since we experienced a momentous, long-awaited event here Chez McClusky. Paigey has finally, blessedly, started walking.

It happened on a Friday at a divey Mexican restaurant. The girls and I met some of my Mama’s Posse friends for a last-minute lunch. Our kids were crawling everywhere, spreading rice and beans on the carpet like confetti, and watching Yo Gabba Gabba on Sacha’s iPhone as a last-ditch effort to maintain decorum before we all fled home for nap-time. Mary had dashed out suddenly a few minutes before, when she’d realized her parking meter had expired.

And from that utter mayhem—or maybe in an attempt to free herself from it—Paige quietly stood up, set a course forward, and jerkily placed one foot in front of the other toward the restaurant’s front door. Sacha and I watched stunned, and I commented to the booth of lunching lesbians next to us just how long I’d been waiting for this day.

“Oh I know about late walkers,” one gal at the the booth’s edge said. “I have twins. One walked at 12 months, and the other waited ’til 16.”

“Really?” I said. “Well Paige here, she’s twenty-one months old.”

At a slight incline in the floor, Paige wavered, fell backwards, then pushed herself up and resumed her herky-jerky strut. I was standing frozen in joy and disbelief when the dykes next to me all started clapping and hooting. Paige looked back at them grinning, fell on her butt again, then got up and headed for threshold and the open door.

I was so touched by the enthusiasm of those strangers, I realized later I should’ve done something impulsive and celebratory like picked up their bill. But in the moment I only managed to snap out of my rooted watching mode with enough time to grab Paige before she hit the sidewalk solo.

It’s weird waiting for something for so long and then having it suddenly there. I thought I’d want to shout from the rooftops that my girl was walking. In fact, I came home that day and attempted to write a splashy celebratory blog post. But my heart wasn’t in it. Not that I wasn’t happy, mind you. But it turned out to be a quieter sort of contentment, not a giddy yelling-out-the-sunroof kinda glee.

I feel that weird but distinct brand of Mama guilt that it’s taken so long for me to share the news. But I’ve been spending the time well at least—slowly following Paige as she waddles down the sidewalk, or taking half-steps alongside her as she proudly walks though Kate’s schoolyard to pick her up.

I’m always on the go, always happily hurrying from one place to the next, but I can’t imagine a better reason for slowing down these past several days than to walk through the world at Paige’s wonderful new pace.


8 Comments on “The Walking and the Dead”

  1. 1 Claudia Dow said at 8:28 pm on November 16th, 2009:

    Oh Kristin, I so love reading about your mamma days. This day is especially poignant to me, as I didn’t know this summer that Paige wasn’t walking yet at one of Megan’s parties. You write small moments with brilliance and I just love reading your pieces. And, tonight, I really needed to find some balance and turned to your blog; it was just what I needed. From an appreciative reader and mom of your friend Megan. Hugs, Claudia

  2. 2 Megan Bibbo said at 10:29 pm on November 16th, 2009:

    I have tears in my eyes. Partly because I missed it. But mostly because of the last line. We are always sarcastic about our stellar parenting moments – you know the ones that I mean. Well that, my friend, truly is one of your finest parenting moments – or it seems weeks. Good on you for soaking it all in at Paige’s wonderful new pace.

  3. 3 Nell said at 5:52 am on November 17th, 2009:

    What wonderful news. Just in time for her to terrorize the cousins at Thanksgiving!

  4. 4 Drea said at 6:37 am on November 17th, 2009:

    Mamas are definitely entitled to savor such beautiful, proud moments and share only when they’re ready. :-)

  5. 5 Kristen Badgley said at 3:14 pm on November 17th, 2009:

    Oh Kristen – I am sooooooo happy for you guys! That sure is something to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

    Yippee for you Paigey – now it is time to start running to keep Mommy on her toes. ;-)

  6. 6 Jenny G said at 7:24 am on November 19th, 2009:

    Thanks so much for sharing how one over-achieving-type (I mean that in the best sense of the word) mama has dealt gracefully with kids not always on the fast track to everything. My almost 4 year-old still uses diapers and despite my frustration I am learning to accept his pace. Thanks for the support and Go Paige!

  7. 7 Jamie Olson said at 4:13 pm on November 28th, 2009:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I came across your blog in a link from your husbands twitter feed and so enjoy reading your posts! I am a wife and one who is now at the stage where my Mr. and I have decided we’re ready for the plunge into parenthood and this post really was just so beautiful to read. I love that I can feel your love and celebration for your daughters big achievement in such a profound yet silently content way. I know I’ll feel the same one day! Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful story!

  8. 8 kristen said at 6:30 am on December 8th, 2009:

    hey jamie: so happy you found me through mark! keep on reading, sister. and good luck with the plunge, whenever you decide to take it.

Leave a Reply