It’s always the planes that get me

We left the house late, of course.  We have a baby.  Walking through weak sun to the bus stop, it felt like a gift — sun in November in Vancouver.

The crowd was enormous, spilling up the streets and sidewalks.  We could just hear the choir sing, high and sweet and pure, anonymous of words.  The mutter from the sky grew louder, more insistent, and a moment later, a bomber flew low overhead.  So low I thought I could reach up and touch it, feel the rivets under my fingertips.  Then the tears started.

I don’t often think about my grandfather.  I don’t need to, I suppose.  He was a good man, large and larger than life — growing peas (oh such sweet peas) in his tiny backyard in a brick suburb in middle-class England.  He played the pipes in a band. He marched onscreen for a nanosecond of a movie with his pipe band, and his friends made him an Oscar.  He was an airplane mechanic in the RAF in World War II, stationed in India.  It took some forty years before he could set foot in a plane again, before he could come to Canada to visit his only child, my father.  I know his name.

That is pretty much all I know — I met him a half-dozen times, on trips to England, his visits here when I was a teenager, unaware of the importance of family connections.  His life did not affect mine, nor mine his, I imagine.  His death after a slow mental decline four years ago did not seem to affect me much either, and I understood that was the normal feelings of no real personal relationship.  It was fine.
Until I heard the planes.  Three years ago, I attended Remembrance Day services in Gibsons.  It was another fine fall day, another gift of no rain and rustling leaves scuffed underfoot.  There, the planes came from the south, low over Keats Island and the harbour, and the noise of them preceded the formation by a minute or more.  When I heard them in the distance, and caught sight of them over the glinting water, I was choked by loss.  The loss of a grandfather I never knew, the loss of a grandfather I would have known, had he not been so damaged by that goddamn war that his fear was more intense than his desire to be a part of our lives.  Of my life.  The loss of lives, of a generation, of quiet despair and ‘keep strong and carry on’.

When I heard the planes — those four lone bombers, flying in a tight formation — I imagined what it would have been like to huddle in the darkness of London, hearing hundreds of bombers streaming through the skies with their impossibly inhumane payload.

Every year, I hear that rumble, and I remember my grandfather, and what wasn’t to be, and I cry.

This year, I nursed my infant son on the curb of a street next to the cenotaph, and my tears landed on the blanket that kept him warm and safe.  I cannot imagine a world which would send their precious little boys to war, to be killed, or damaged, or suffer wounds that their granddaughters bleed generations later.

What do we tell Jack about war?  That it is cruel and horrible, but there are times when you have to take a stand against great evil?  That he should never be a soldier? That he should be a soldier if he thinks the cause is right?  Certainly, we will tell him that he should always use words instead of fists, or guns.

And I will tell him about his great-grandfather, who would have loved him.  I know it.

His father’s son

Jack is his father’s son.

On reflection, what a stupid, stupid phrase: of course he’s his father’s son! By definition of the word… never mind. Jack is obviously Steve’s son. My case in point: shopping. Instead of our usual ‘pajama Monday’, I decided today to spend the day out. We drove Steve to work (ok, I drove), pooped (Jack, I swear), ate (Jack again) and went to Ikea (Jack and I). Jack was fine at the co-op, fine in the car, and began to complain as soon as I sat down in the cafe with my $1 breakfast. He complained the entire shopping trip, at least until I sat down with him on the as-is white leather couch (boy I bet those as-is staff were nervous until we got up and left their couch unstained!) after which it was close enough to home, only with a better, cleaner unstained couch.

We enjoyed as-is couch snacks (Jack, again) and some flailing time (mostly Jack) and, in the middle of breastfeeding, were asked by a woman if “we would be long” — I gathered my righteous indignation for an anti-breastfeeding conflict — only to be asked if she could leave her shopping cart under my watchful (and immobile) eye while she ran to the bathroom. I was almost disappointed — more on my unsuspected lactivism later. The boobysnacks and couch time mollified Jack for a minute or two, and he was fine in the return car trip… right up until we entered Costco. Suffice it to say, I ended up carrying an unhappy Jack through to the checkouts while simultaneously steering a Costco-sized shopping cart through a wave of oncoming people who were apparently incapable of veering from their immediate trajectory. Hmmm. Note to self: do not attempt Costco alone again.

Speaking of couches, Jack destroyed ours last week. Well not DESTROYED, but definitely de-couch-I-want-to-sit-on-ified. The sad reality is that sometimes ‘diaper’ would be better replaced by ‘bucket’, except that ‘bucket’ would not fit in the car seat. Jack hadn’t pooped in almost 20 hours. I should have known. Honestly, watching the creeping stain up Jack’s back seemed alarming enough, only surpassed by the alarmingness of the wetness on my leg I noticed when I stood to take him upstairs to change him. With everyone changed and a load of laundry on, I was just about to sit back down on the couch when I saw the acid-yellow smear on the side of the couch and the puddle on the floor. Yuck. I washed the crap out of that couch, literally and figuratively, and at least the smell was gone after it dried.

We’re shopping for another couch on craigslist.

Preferably free.

Why pay perfectly good money for another couch that will be *ahem* in the line of fire?

That said, we’re going to keep the old, poopified couch as well. Does that make us unhygenic or just new parents? Both, perhaps? The reality is that with a family of three, our lone two-seater just isn’t cutting it any more, which reflects another reality: a 15lb baby takes up more room than a 200lb adult. SERIOUSLY. Especially on a couch. Therefore, we get a new couch so there is somewhere cushy for someone else to surf the internet on her laptop (we’re not mentioning names here) and keep the old couch so that someone else (Jack and Steve) always has a place to nap. I’m not telling which is which, just in case you visit and refuse to sit on the old one. Hint: one of them will definitely smell faintly of vinegar.

Jack is just over three months old — his 1/4 birthday was November 6, 2009 — and as of two days pre-1/4 day, he weighed in at a solid 15lb 7oz and measured 26″ long. In other words, he’s huge. Enormous. Only not in a huge way — he’s a long, tall drink of water (ok, milk, obviously of the boob variety) — just like his father. Which is why I was at Costco: buying size NINE MONTH sleepers for the little man. And just like his father, he hated every minute of the shopping trip.

At least we got some spare Stoatys at Ikea.

The next chapter in my frabjous life

So. We met, fell in love, got married and went on a honeymoon. It’s been a hell of a lot of fun, but nothing compares to what happened next: we had a baby.

Our Jack was born on August 6, 2009 at 10:22pm, weighing in a ginormous 10lb 8oz, which translates to 10.5 pounds or 4770 grams. Insane! He was 22.5″ long.

John Ryan Quattrocchi, to be known henceforth as ‘Jack’. I still look at him sometimes and can’t believe he’s mine to keep, even though he’ll be three months in less than a week. Un-freaking-believable. I can’t believe he’s only been here less than 90 days; it feels like I have had him forever and can’t imagine life before Jack. It also, simultaneously and contradictorily, feels as though he must still only be days old, with years left to smell his tiny head and look at his tiny fingernails and gaze in awe at his tiny, perfect sleeping face.

Who the hell am I kidding? There is nothing ‘tiny’ about this baby.

When I was pregnant, I read every book, blog and article I could find on pregnancy and delivery. I lined up a midwife and a doula. I chose a pre-natal class run out of a midwife office that was the most holistic, all-natural, fuzzy, birth-art making class I could find. I wrote a birth plan. I took vitamins and D supplements. I gained the ideal 26 pounds, and I knew exactly how my labour and delivery could (should?) go. Too bad Jack never engaged, too bad I was induced at 11 days late due to low fluid, and too bad I ended up on the operating table after 28 hours failed induction, still at 4 cm dilation with Jack’s head swelling from being beaten against my pelvis for ten hours. When the midwife looked over at where Jack was being suctioned as Steve prepared to cut the cord, and said: “He’s big, ten pounds at least. Maybe more!” all I could think was “that explains everything.” That, I suppose is a different story.

I seem to have a lot of untold stories from the past few years: the story of how we decided to move back to the Raincity of Vancouver, how we finally hiked the West Coast Trail last summer, how we applied for almost every co-op in East Vancouver and decided to start trying for a baby a little early since it might take six months to conceive (yeah, not so much six months!), how I thought it would be a good idea to go through my second trimester while taking full-time classes and working 40 hours a week, how I fell off a short bus… lots of stories. I gave notice at a job in a Sharpie written note. Steve started running the art co-op he was a part of setting up over ten years ago. We moved into a fabulous two-bedroom co-op with a view of the world when I was seven months pregnant. I got my first A+ in post-secondary education, and walked across the stage to get my BA in English during convocation, only to leave my row three minutes later to go nurse my infant son.

I had a son.