Sunday, January 23, 2005

Contraband

There's a Rubbermaid storage container that lives in the back our closet. Clear with a blue lid and about two feet square, it serves as a repository for future gifts for friends and family--the mid-century green ceramic vase set aside for B.'s birthday; the comical Portuguese guide to English grammar and usage I picked up for my father, the O.W.; the emergency presents--candles, mostly--for acquaintances' housewarming or holiday parties.

The container has also housed baby presents--cute too-big items that I picked up in July for dispersal in December, when size 9-12 months would fit my friends' baby girls, all born in a spring batch. And there are the onesies and little tee shirts that J. loves to personalize--silly pictures of Eric Gagne for the tyke of a Dodger fanatic, iron-on Parliament photos and lyrics for the toddler of a funk aficionado. When I bought The Contraband, I figured this would be a good place to store it, since it could be easily camouflaged as gifts.

The purchase of The Contraband didn't raise any eyebrows at the time. I was just sale shopping, after all, and though J. thought it slightly odd that I would buy so far in advance, he accepted my explanation--"They're for our niece's birthday next year," I said with conviction, hoping he couldn't see my blushing face. The face of an impostor--an impostor pretending to her husband to be buying for a real, live baby belonging to others; an impostor pretending to herself that she was not infertile.

But, you see, I couldn't do otherwise: the dresses belong to our baby--our baby girl, who will have an old-fashioned name and brown hair and brown eyes and be allergic to cats, just like us. She will wear the yellow sundress with applique leaves at her first birthday party, where we'll take her picture as she smears herself liberally with whipped cream from a lumpy strawberry cake. When she's a little bit older, babbling and burbling and pointing at things she wants us to see, we will take her to the Children's Fairyland at Lake Merritt in her steel-blue polished cotton dress, the one with little pearlized buttons up the side and a pleated skirt, and she will giggle and be warm in her soft-white knitted sweater.

I seldom daydream about a real, live child. I keep myself focused on the next goal, and maybe the goal after that: a pink line, perhaps a doubling beta. But when I touched the dresses that day, the pictures were so vivid that I had to close my eyes and shake my head to dislodge them. For a moment, I had seen the ultimate goal, and she was real to me.

. . .


The Contraband has been in the container for more than a year now, nearly past the point of usefulness for our niece and most of the other baby girls we know. I hid it at the bottom all those months, taking the dresses out surreptitiously, even shamefully, during the two week wait on particularly hopeful cycles. I would run my fingers lightly over the pliant fabrics--smell them, sometimes--and the images would come back, fully-formed. I could even hear her tiny, high voice in a cry of excitement or a wail of displeasure.

J. mentioned The Contraband recently, when he pawed through the container looking for an errant Christmas gift--"Oh, look, weren't we going to give these to Niece for her birthday?"

I turned away to compose myself, not wanting him to see the subterfuge in my transparent face. Said, "Oh, well, we'll have to wait for the next one--I'm sure someone we know will have another baby girl soon." J. said, yeah, he was sure that would happen...in fact, he forgot to tell me, KathFromCollege is pregnant again. Maybe she'll have a girl this time.

But my composure crumpled, and I told him that I had lied, that these were for us, and that KathFromCollege would never get her hands on them--never!--because they were going to be for our brown-eyed daughter. Our daughter.

. . .


We went to Ikea a week or so ago in the middle of a workday to buy some shelves for J.'s office. Normally, he cannot stand Ikea because he gets vaguely claustrophobic and can't abide lines, but it was relatively empty and we made our way up the escalator. We strolled past Dalselvs and Karviks and Lacks and Snigs--set of three for four dollars!--and I asked if we could slow down and take things in a bit, since there was no rush and no crowd. So we slowed, and started to wander off path, going against the usual pattern and zig-zagging drunkenly. When we came through an entryway that we thought would take us to office furniture, we found ourselves in a world of bunkbeds instead. Thinking J. would get irritated, I started to pull him back through but he asked me to stop--he wanted to take a look. At bunkbeds?

"Well," he said, pointing to an inventive model with a sturdy ladder and a cunning little bureau and wardrobe built in underneath, "I like this one."

I stared at him, confused, and wondered if he meant to use it in his office somehow. But his office ceilings are only seven feet high; it would never fit. Eyebrows drawn together, I let out a quizzical, "Hunh?"

"For the baby. When he's not a baby anymore. When he's old enough to sleep on a bunkbed. In the TV room. Which would be the nursery then. I can picture it. I like this one," he said, his voice cracking slightly. "I like it a lot."

It was real to him--he could see his tousle-headed son clambering up the ladder in a pair of flannel pyjamas. This was his Contraband--this pine-and-laminate bunkbed made up in blue striped sheets and turtle-green pillows.

21 Comments:

Blogger Jen P said...

Oh Bugs,

I'm sorry it hasn't happened for you yet. I wish with everything I have that soon there will be a gorgeous wee girl, with her old-fashioned name and glowing brown eyes to dress and her wee brother to drag around with her as they run to play on the bunkbeds.

I'm just so sorry it hasn't happened yet.

7:18 PM  
Blogger Cass said...

I have a small box of "contraband" tucked away on a top shelf - no clothes yet, but a couple of absolutely wonderful stuffed animals (an old-style Winnie-the-Pooh that I bought even before we were married and said was just for me, and the cutest stuffed duck, ever), a pair of booties, stuff like that. It's getting full, though, and I won't let myself get a bigger box, for fear that I'll get carried away. As it is, I haven't let myself buy clothes at all (even when they're SO! PERFECT!). The booties are from my mom - she saw them in a store and called to see if I needed a gift for an upcoming baby shower, and when it became clear that she really wanted to buy them, I told her I had no problem with her buying them and just putting them in the closet until it was time to bring them out. Of course, I meant HER closet, but what can you do? Point being, I know what it's like to have contraband. I don't know if J (my-J) does - he knows about "the box" but I don't know if there are things he'd add if they'd fit. I don't know what helps make it more real to him.

8:43 PM  
Blogger persephone said...

Bugs, that's the second time you've made me cry. Stop it.

i'm just kidding, keep up the beautiful writing.

9:31 PM  
Blogger JJ said...

I have contraband too. Crochet patterns.

I have a book of 40 baby blankets, a book 12 toddler type brightly coloured afghans, a book of Winnie the Pooh toys, and 2 books of baby booties ranging from rollerskates to cowboy boots to mary janes.

I bought them under the pretense of making them for Frosty's first baby, then my friends who have kids. Now they just sit in the closet collecting dust. I hope one day I pull them out and work my fingers to the bone trying to make these in anticipation of my own dream children.

4:58 AM  
Blogger Soper said...

O.K., you made me teary-eyed, I admit it....

6:42 AM  
Blogger Suz said...

I shouldn't have read this at work; people are looking at me and wondering what's wrong as I sniffle. I've kept my old-fashioned girl's name in careful reserve for more than 10 years, sharing it with few and scanning the name lists for fear it will suddenly become popular. I have no contraband for the fear that if I ever started, I wouldn't be able to stop and my husband wouldn't really understand. I think that the most touching, wonderful thing about this story is that your's did.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Mudbug said...

Thank you for that.

10:00 AM  
Blogger amyesq said...

I don't know why this post made me tear up, but it did. I am picturing your sweet little girl, just like I often picture mine. Blonde and naughty. I haven't bought her any clothes yet, but she will have Winnie the Poo, the Complete Works. She will also have a baby animal video. The ducks and bunnies were too cite to resist. Crying more now..

11:47 AM  
Blogger April said...

oh bugs. You make me cry - but I love you for it. I am so sorry it hasn't happened for you yet. You two will be such wonderful parents.

12:34 PM  
Blogger stephanie said...

You paint a beautiful picture. I hope it makes the terrible waiting time more bearable, this tangible affirmation that it WILL happen :-)

1:30 PM  
Blogger Barren Mare said...

This is going to sound strange, but thank you for reaching into my heart and squeezing until I made a little yelp of pain. I love knowing I am not alone in doing these things. I love it that you're out there.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Sheri said...

(sigh) Lovely post.

I have contraband too. It's hidden in a bag in a cabinet drawer, but everynow and then I pull it out and dream....I hope our dreams come true soon.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

We too, have contraband with kid's books. We also have a UPromise account where you can start saving for a child's education through items you buy on a regular basis. We've had a UPromise account for 2 years with 100% allocation going towards our un-named child.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Cricket said...

Just wait, b/c I know you will... once you get a kid, you'll never be able to throw anything away. I have just about every stitch of clothing my son has ever worn, most toys, books - but no big ticket items, b/c ex thoughtlessly and maliciously gave those away. And I have a corner of J's closet devoted to the new stuff that I cannot use as gifts, even tho that's what I originally (yeah, right) purchased them for.

7:31 PM  
Blogger The Lioness said...

What a heartbreaking post this was, so very very beautiful. I hope your little one comes soon.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Lala said...

Nicely written, very touching. I'm hiding a used pram in my mother's garage.

6:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

screw off.
you're not allowed to make me cry at work.
i'm a *guy* for the love of mike royal. you're not allowed ot make me cry at all.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Anna H. said...

*weeping* in LA...

xxoo

12:50 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I too have a draw full of contraband...two of the cutest little firefighter bibs (for either a boy or a girl) since thats what my hubby use to do for a living, an adorable little dino nightlight, and (the most heartbreaking of all) a little pillow my youngest son found at a yard sale and told me we needed to buy it for the next baby.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Bugsy said...

Oh darls. You know, in just a few years, you will be posting a picture of your daughter in that dress, and another of your son climbing that ladder to bed, and we will see those pictures and remember this post and smile and say "She did it. That dress looks divine on that cute little cookie of a girl, and will you check out the beautiful head of hair on her son - What a sweetie". You wait and see!

We started off with a contraband box, which quickly spread. Now we have a room that we daren't call a nursery or "the baby's room". It is referred to as "the sewing room", as my old machine collects dust in the corner, amid the cot, change table, and drawers and drawers of the cutest baby clothes you have ever seen. My son will one day wear that blue all in one with the cute little cap, and my daughter is going to wear that tiny pink dress with the butterflys on it. I have to believe in that. I have to have hope, as it is all I have.

Now come and believe with me.

1:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, you really touched a lot of people with this one. Including me.

I just discovered your site - it really helps to read about a lot of the stuff I'm going through myself. Thanks for sharing and good luck.

9:24 AM  

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