Friday, May 15, 2009

The Catalog

I remember exactly when it happened. I was sitting on my couch, leafing through the mail I had picked up from my box earlier, when I spotted it. I picked up the phone and immediately called my best friend.

"Well, it's official. I can now move on to the next phase in my life."

"What are you talking about?" She asked.

"Pottery Barn. They have a kids catalog. I think I can be a mother now." I was twenty eight, had been with my husband for ten years, married for five of them, and was looking for a sign.

"You're crazy," she answered, "are you forgetting the minivan?"

"I could learn to like it."

"Whatever. We're meeting at Neighbors for happy hour. Bring the catalog."

And there it was, something I could finally relate to. Pages of perfect children's rooms filled with themed items you could purchase and sprinkled with fun vintage pieces that you couldn't. I could see myself with one of these rooms. Still hip and stylish.

It would be two more years before I took the plunge and found myself pregnant with our daughter. At that time, the celebrity baby boom had barely begun, and the"it"girls adorned themselves with a small dog in a leather bag, not a small child in a sling. I poured over the pages of my Pottery Barn Kids catalog and decorated my daughter's room in a vintage travel theme, mixing in antique Eiffel towers and old postcards. Rachel on Friends was pregnant too.

Of course, just weeks after she was born, the room looked nothing like I expected. I had to throw a towel over my cute chair so she wouldn't spit up on it, the pillow and throw blanket once carefully tossed over the back, now lay crumpled on the floor behind it. Eventually, I had to put away the things I had carefully chosen for her bookshelf. Rachel's baby never moved, but mine sure messed up the room I designed.

So much of becoming a mother is about reconciling the ideas you had about yourself, your child, your home, to the actual situation you are given. I wish I could say that seven years later, and with a second child, I don't occasionally cringe at how little my life resembles that stylized version of motherhood (just yesterday, dusting the now mostly empty shelf in Little Guy's room, or this morning, where the coffee table has been taken over, not by stacks of expensive wooden blocks and clever children's books, but by cheapie plastic toys, the worst kind of bottom feeder types that came from who knows where). Still, it has gotten easier. As my kids have gotten older, my expectations have also matured. Their rooms have become a reflection of who they are, not who I am. And as for me, I don't give myself too hard of a time for staring at the pretty pictures. And the minivan?

Still learning to like it.


Stacy said...

Great post, as always.

I went to a baby shower yesterday. That is when motherhood is at its most picture perfect, when one is receiving pristine baby items and everyone is oohing an awing over everything.

But that perfect image is probably needed to gain the courage to have children.

latisha said...

this was so great. i love the way it was written. with a little expansion i could see this in a mag somewhere.

well done.

i am just getting that. we just 'redid' our living room cuz she was breaking stuff and we realized none of 'her' things were out of her room to play cuz i couldnt ruin my 'look' with baby crap everywhere...i got it.