Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Notes From The American Front

I know. I'm a Bad Blogger. Home for the holidays and nary a post for a month. Part of it is that LE seems to have decided that naps are no longer necessary. Part of it was all the relatives and visitors and food and, quite frankly, a lot of much better and more interesting things going on than blogging.

We've started trying to get LE to sleep by putting in the long fight, after nearly a month of no naps. He's starting to turn into one of those babies no one can deal with, from lack of sleep. You know the kind. Whinges when he's in the high chair. Whinges when he's on the floor, then tips over and bumps his head. Whinges when you hold him. Whinges when you don't. Yesterday I sat next to him for an hour till he slept. Today my mom and I switched off with him for 2 hours (mostly her) while he refused to sleep, and he eventually gave up and slept with his eyes open, snoring. I seem to remember a Grimm fairy tale called The Willful Child. It had a very bad ending for said child. I'll have to read it to him someday.

I'll post more on baby sleep another time. It's become an obsession for me lately. But for now, I want to stick to America. Let it not be said I don't love freedom. I leave tomorrow and as usual, I'm not ready to return to the land of No Pork and Nosy Strangers. I'm kind of pissed off about it, actually.

America, for someone who's been away for awhile, is cool. Broad flat sidewalks. Fresh air. Trees and grass. Very little trash. Beautiful skies. Great things to buy. I develop this uncontrollable greed when I'm here, maybe from lack of cool things to buy in Turkey, and probably also from the feeling that I may never have a chance to buy it again, so I need it Now Now Now!! I always have to pay for an extra piece of luggage on the return trip, no matter how hard I try. It doesn't even matter that my husband is with me, allowing for two more suitcases. Or that the baby allows for one more. I've still filled an extra box. That the airlines keep chipping away at the weight limits every year isn't helping.

I haven't nearly gotten run over even once here, not even close. But a weird thing American drivers do is that if you signal to change lanes, they won't let you in. Even if they're several car lengths behind, they speed up so you can't go in front of them. There must be something to be said here about capitalism, or American ambition, or something. In a previous post, I mentioned that American TV commercials are mostly about cars and food. This is no longer strictly true. They're still there, but most of the commercials I've seen this trip are about prescription and non-prescription medications (and seriously, how do they not see how ridiculous it is to list all those side-effects when trying to push a medicine? Is the cure ever better than the new symptoms?), and slick or not-so-slick ads about debt payment and debt consolidation. There must be something to be said here too, about America.

I have seen many bare baby heads. In Turkey, the only babies' heads I see other than my own baby's are my foreign friends' babies' heads. A bare baby head outdoors in Turkey is a non-existent sight. Quite how they keep their babies from whipping their hats off is beyond me. Babies' heads look really nice to me after them always being covered up for the supposedly Siberian Turkish winters. And springs and falls. And summers too, really. LE's even been out with bare feet a few times. He didn't get sick. And never once, NEVER ONCE, has a single stranger approached me to tell me how I've done something that will make my baby get sick, and not one single person (besides friends and relatives) has either kissed or touched him. It's bliss, seriously. I'll bet I get back to Istanbul having gone all soft in my baby-protecting skills.

BE and I left LE for a night without Mommy for the first time in his life, for New Year's Eve. Never once did I feel an urge to call and check if he was okay. If he wasn't, I didn't want to know, feeling light as I did not having a baby attached to me. Which isn't to say I didn't think about him constantly. At the party we went to, a woman started telling us about her job photographing newborns at the hospital. I kept piping in with information about LE as a newborn, assuming that the conversation was about babies. It wasn't. It was about this woman's feelings towards her experiences engaging with new babies and new parents. Eventually, like I've always tended to do at any party I've ever gone to, I ended up in the basement on a sofa having basement conversations with a big smelly, cuddly dog on my feet. There was a guy named Leo from Wisconsin. He kept saying he was from Wisconsin. He had a lot of stories to tell, very long ones, and most of them were about Wisconsin and things that happened to him there. Sometimes Michigan figured in a story.

My friend B was the one who invited us to the party, followed by another party at a club. B is one of the few friends I've kept in touch with in the US. We pick up where we left off like no time has passed, the baby just another amusement. He's not from Wisconsin, but he's half Norwegian and tried to contribute to the Wisconsin talk. Leo, however, was a one-upper kind of fellow, and always had a better story. If it wasn't better, it was just longer. B's stories are funnier, though this Leo was a pleasant enough fellow.

I love the basement. I'm glad I haven't changed much. In fact, my American self seems to be stuck at about 6 years ago. I fail to see a need or a point to having high-definition TV, or a Blackberry, and there's all this stuff in the common cultural currency I've never heard of. I remember it was last year that I finally realized Paris Hilton wasn't a hotel, so perhaps this is a blessing.

Many people at this club we went to were in costume. B warned us ahead of time that there would be people in costume, but that it wasn't required. There was clearly some theme to these costumes, though B and I couldn't identify it. We had fun trying, though. Moulin Rouge meets Jules Verne. Scary 1920s carnival meets Jack the Ripper London. The White Stripes meet a wacky inventor of dirigibles and a few Anne Rice New Orleans whores. All very Victorian with something gadget-y yet off about it. For B, a clown lurking in a dim alleyway with an ether rag figured heavily in his descriptions. He has a pathological fear of clowns, and fortunately for him, there weren't any there. There were a lot of vests, though, and bowler hats, and goggles, and walking sticks. Crinoline and corsets. I saw a few leather corsets with little pockets for cell phones cleverly attached to the sides. I was impressed by this, and several times found myself wondering where these people do their shopping. I finally asked a guy in a vest, bowler, and tails what the theme of this party was. He started on about people who want to do their own thing and then said something about Burning Man, at which point I lost the plot. The mention of Burning Man did help to explain, though, the acrobats and the prevalence of large moving gadgets. B asked another person what the theme was and she said it was called Steampunk. B and I had to look this up on Wikipedia.

But even though I didn't really know what was going on, I didn't feel uncool. I was all prepared to feel uncool. Maybe I'm too old to feel uncool. Maybe I've accepted being forever uncool because of being a mom. Maybe because people here are really nice. Most people at the party and club were thirtysomethings like me. Maybe it's the 20somethings that go around making each other feel uncool. In any case, when I asked that guy about the theme of this party, he seemed more pleased to have a chance to explain than a chance to make me feel uncool. For my part, my 'costume' was in the details. I went as 'Someone Without A Baby Attached To Her.' As such, I wore my hair down for the first time in 11 months. I wore earrings. And a necklace. This was because the baby wasn't attached to me, and so wouldn't be there to keep grabbing at hair and jewelry. I also wore lipstick, free as I was to not worry about getting lipstick all over the baby's face by kissing him. As we were leaving the club, a drunk guy fell on the floor in front of B, who neatly picked him up and propped him back against the bar. As I passed, he lurched out again with a hand extended towards my head, and I just dodged it as swiftly and automatically as I do a baby hand.

Through some great stroke of luck, we found a taxi home. We'd managed to leave just as the bars were closing, and from the taxi we saw, on every block and corner, pockets of people leaping out trying to hail our taxi. Our taxi driver was Somalian. Apropos of nothing, BE said in Turkish that he hoped LE was sleeping well, because Insallah is used to mean 'I hope' in Turkish. The driver picked up right away on the Insallah and they immediately established the camaraderie of coreligionists, so that was just like Turkey, my husband getting into a taxi and finding a point of commonality with which to befriend the driver. It's a really sweet thing about him, how he makes friends with everyone. The taxi driver's wife was expecting a baby, so we all talked about that for awhile.

There it is then. I can hear LE continuing to not sleep downstairs, and I can hear that even my mom has given up trying. No matter. We're going home tomorrow and the whole sleep thing is bound to be screwed up for awhile anyway. I have 16 hours on a plane plus a 4 hour layover with a baby who thinks I'm a jungle gym to look forward too. I also expect some stern looks from counter personnel for my bags being slightly overweight.

And I didn't make any New Year's resolutions. I expect I'll be fine.