Draining the swamp
We knew it would come to this.
With the birth of a new baby, the home-schooling, the constant battle to keep Gurdon Manor from collapsing like a Karl Rove alibi, and the incessant lactating, America’s Worst Mother™ has decided to call it quits before only son Paladon enters his latency period, and we will all be the poorer for it. No more biffing, muffing, canoodling, or kattywhomping or whatever it is that Meghan and Mr. Meghan call it when they’ve locked the bedroom door and the kids can hear muffled giggling and the occasional shriek of delight. And sometimes Meghan makes a noise. And speaking of Mummy-boffing, let us introduce the newest result of a spent Mr. Meghan member who joins brother Paladon and sisters Dorritito, Bellegravia, and PoshSpice.
“Lovely baby Flooooooraaaa… we’re in a tuxedo and you are groooowwwwing…” Phoebe sings in a soft falsetto, as she pets the new baby. “You have a braaaiiin, it’s a little one â€” “
“Don’t thump her head like that, darling, it’s not a melon.”
“You have skinnnn….”
To be honest, it’s all I can do to keep from snatching Phoebe’s hand away. One of the most disconcerting aspects of having a newborn in the house is how appallingly large and lumbering one’s other children instantly become. When my husband and I made our desperate 3:00 A.M. dash up Massachusetts Avenue to the hospital where Flora would arrive a short time later, we left behind us a youngest daughter slim and delicate of limb. When the baby and I returned two days later, Phoebe, at four, had transformed into a muscular giantess.
She is, however, a smiling, singing giantess whose heart appears in danger of breaking, so I will not snatch her hand away. From experience I know that Flora will survive a certain amount of manhandling; from experience I know that the heretofore-youngest child needs love-bombing when a new baby comes home. I lean over and drop a cluster of kisses on to the nape of Phoebe’s neck.
“How old is she?” the child asks in normal conversational tones.
“Oh, I thought she was six months or something.”
“Well, kind of. She’s actually nine months old if you count from when â€” “
What? What? Was Meghan going to say that life begins at shtupping? Was she going to tell Bellegravia about that night when she and Mr. Meghan played ‘the 7/11 manager and the nightdrop teller’? C’mon, we want details. But, alas, there is an interruption:
The door opens and someone knocks.
“Can I hold her?”
“Have you washed your hands?”
“Of course.” Molly approaches the bed with ten dubiously clean fingers outstretched.
Molly halts, spins on her heel, and disappears. There is the sound of ostentatious splashing from down the hall, taps being turned off, and back she comes. “Of course with soap,” she says scornfully, lifting Flora into her arms and cradling her. “Hello, dumpling,” she coos to the pink sleeping object, “hello, little fattycakes.”
Violet comes into the room. “Hello, you fat, low, common, barge woman,” she says to me, with a broad smile. Violet has been listening to audiotapes of The Wind in the Willows during breaks in the home school day, and has taken to quoting from it. She waggles a finger in Flora’s oblivious face. “Hello, baby.”
Okay. We’ve got “muscular giantess”, “dumpling’, “fattycakes”, and now “fat, low, common, barge woman” which leads us to believe that we’re about one snippy remark like ” Are you sure you should have that fourth Ding Dong?” away from someone coming down with an eating disorder.
I have Bellegravia in my office pool.
Meanwhile, what is a AWM™ column without the arrival of Paladon bursting into the room in an excessive display of unbridled potential manliness where he literally oozes testosterone and sweat and just a hint of Old Spice:
By this time my husband has arrived with coffee for both of us, followed by Paris, who leaps on to the bed and into what used to be my lap.
“Careful, Paris!” Molly and my husband say at the same moment. Molly deposits the baby on the fragrant new lamb fleece by my knees. Paris springs on to all fours and, like a panther at a watering hole, drops his face into Flora’s.
“Hello, funny girl,” he greets her, nose to nose. “Goo.”
The baby grimaces, stretches, and opens one eye. “Look,” Phoebe cries, “When she lifts up her leg, she’s saying, “Look at my leg!””
Um, yeah. And when she openes her eye her first thought is to wonder if there might have been a mixup at the hospital and, omigod, I’m going to have to through life with the name of Flora Gurdon which has middle school librarian spot-welded to it. I guess all the good names like Eunice and Spinsterina were taken.
“Goo,” says Paris again. “Man, look how red she is. Do you think she has a fever?”
“In Japan, the word for baby is aka-chan,” says my husband, gazing rapt at his newest daughter. “It means ‘little red’.”
“Hello, little red,” say several voices at once.
Outside the window Gurdon family gardener Kenji slips guiltily away…
Back to Paladon, because the column has always been about him:
Paris waits until everyone else has filed out before tucking in beside my husband and me. “She’s so cute,” he says, and then, “what I want to know is: When can we go on a field trip?”
“Soon” I promise, “Once I get my strength back. Remember, I’ve been carrying this baby since right after Christmas. From now on, things are going to be a lot less, well, freighted around here.”
“And will we go to the zoo?”
“And will we do outdoor science experiments?”
“You will,” says my husband.
Paris sighs with relief. “That’s great. So you’ll be able to be a proper Mummy again?”
Because she is the very model of a proper modern Mummy who has managed to raise four children who speak like little Victorian moppets and if we didn’t know any better we would swear that this whole thing has been the fever dream of a very lonely woman with an encyclopedic knowledge of Charles Dicken’s novels and four cats named Paris, Molly, Phoebe, and Violet.
But that would be ridiculous. Afterall, this is National Review we’re talking about and they live in the real world.
Okay. Maybe not so much.
And so we say “so long” to Mummy and Mr. Meghan and all the little Gurdlings, we’re going to miss you…
Why do I suddenly feel like Vaughan Meader?