Most days I encounter at least one parent/stroller pair while I’m walking. I don’t have kids of my own so these brief scenes are a bit of a mystery to me: a taste of the mundane daily life of parent-childhood. Sure, I have nieces and nephews – but they are now all teenagers and adults. I have friends with children – who I see on “occasions” where the child is in a special “visitor mode.” I even did some babysitting as a teenager – but those memories are staticky streamed re-runs featuring vague moments of terror bounded by anxiety at the opening credits and relief when the screen goes dark.
So, I don’t have any true experience with – and I sometimes find myself wondering about – the ongoing parenting “process.” The events of a day that’s not an event.
This little glove appeared on my walk in the fall, just as the weather started getting truly cold. Sitting bluely on the sidewalk just on the edge of a driveway off Third Street, the glove sparked the image of a crisis of a cold hand, a favorite article of clothing gone missing and a mom’s search for this moment’s solution in a yet one more day of solving many, many small problems for a little girl named Emma.
“Mama. Cold fingers,” Emma said, holding up the splayed, pink hand for inspection over the top of the stroller. They were downtown, passing the playground. Would she want to climb? If so, it could only be for a few minutes. They had to get home to get the lasagna started.
“Oh dear,” Emma’s mother said, turning the stroller slightly to remove the slide and spinning letter blocks from Emma’s immediate field of vision. “We can’t have that. Let’s put on your gloves before we start home.” Emma’s mother began to search the small bag slung from the handle of the stroller for Emma’s favorite blue gloves.
“Gloves!” Emma seemed to be testing out the word. “GlovesGloves!” Emma liked the word. “Glooooovvvveees” Extending the word was fun too.
“Gloves,” Emma’s mother said, continuing the search. Emma’s mother paused when she only found one glove. The pause was full and fraught. This could be a crisis. These were favorite gloves. The last time Emma had worn them she had remarked – at length – how soft and warm and blue they were. “Remind me,” Emma’s mother said to buy a moment or two to deepen her search, “what color are your gloves?”
“Blue, mama,” Emma gently chided her mother. Of course they were blue. Since grandpa had installed the blue painted mirror in her room, everything had to be blue. Emma’s mother now remembered that she needed to get the rear-view mirror in the Honda re-attached. It had fallen off in her hand yesterday when she adjusted it to examine Emma’s blueberry covered face before they went into –
“Blue blue blue blue blue blue -”
The last time Emma had worn them… more than two weeks of warm weather until today, Emma’s mother thought as the “blue” chant rose in pitch and volume.
“Blue gloves!” Emma’s mother interrupted the repetition before it could wind up too far. Emma loved the sound of certain vowels this week. Was it the sound, Emma’s mother thought, or the feel – the taste? of them. “Blue,” Emma’s mother said, tasting the word. This was a mistake.
“Blue Blue Blueblueblueblueblueblueblueblue -”
“Well, here’s one blue glove!” Emma’s mother interrupted again, choosing the distraction of the glove – and the potential crisis of its singleness – over continued minutes of blue-ing. “Can you put it on while I find the other one?” Emma had learned to put on gloves the last time she had worn these, hadn’t she?
“I can!” Emma’s exclamation was that recently familiar mixture of determined independence and unwilling uncertainty. This process occupied Emma for the time it took to cross Main Street and reach the crosswalk next to the police station on Washington. Emma’s mother wondered if she had learned to take gloves off that same day.
“Both ways, mama!”
“Well, we -” Emma’s mother chuckled as she decided it wasn’t yet necessary to explain one-way streets to Emma before continuing, “That’s right we have to look both ways. Any cars coming?”
“Blue blue blue…” Well, at least she’s only muttering it rather than shouting it, Emma’s mother thought as she pushed the stroller out into the crosswalk. “Blue blue blue blue…” The mantra continued as they turned the corner up Third Street. Emma’s mother used the time to try to recall where the gloves had come from. Could she get another pair? They might have been an impulse purchase. But where? “Blue blue blue blue blue…” The co-op? Perhaps if Emma had seen them on the right day at the right time, there might have been motivation enough to overspend on organic cotton, hand-knitted, locally sourced single season – or less now – gloves.
“Blue indeed,” a lanky passerby agreed with Emma as he flashed by, walking with startling speed and pulling Emma’s mother from her contemplation. Well, at least she’s not screaming for the missing glove. Passing the high school – 10 minutes from home. Should she have stopped at the co-op? Emma’s mother again reviewed the lasagna recipe and her memory of the refrigerator and cupboards. Sausage already browned in the fridge. Mozzarella and ricotta in the fridge. Noodles in the cupboard. Emma will want one with butter, of course. Before Emma’s father gets home, she thought, mustn’t let him see any possible bad habits, god forbid. Canned tomatoes and tomato paste –
“Look mama, it’s like Grammy’s computer messages,” Emma said. Emma’s mother was accustomed to having to decode random obscurities from her creative daughter so she leaned over to look before she commented.
Emma had placed both hands, palm to palm within the one stretchy glove and held them in front of her. They did indeed look quite like the icon that Emma’s father’s mother used to punctuate the end of every one of her rambling Facebook messages. “I’m praying mama,” Emma said and then continued in a somber voice that mimicked her Grammy’s voice remarkably well, “dear God, thank you for my beautiful blue glove…”
Emma’s mother tuned out the the prayer, glad that they were on the other side of the street from the big, old Methodist church. She looked again at Emma’s hands. At least they weren’t expensive co-op gloves. No natural fiber would stretch like that.
They were passing the driveway that served a battered rental house about five minutes from home when Emma’s mother suddenly realized that Emma’s father’s mother had given Emma these gloves. Emma’s mother didn’t notice the splash of blue next to the fallen leaf on the edge of the worn concrete as Emma intoned, “amen” and Emma’s mother contemplated how personally Emma’s father’s mother would take the loss of the one blue glove.