Children make holidays memorable. And sometimes those memories haunt you.
When I was still married to my ex-husband Mark, we once flew down to Vancouver around Christmastime to visit a friend who he had chummed with in dental school. I was pregnant with twins (although I didn't know they were twins until my 7th month! Another story.) and our son Steven was just past his first birthday so it was an exhausting but much needed escape out of the frozen North. This would be the first time in years that this class of professionals would reunite for a posh soirée and a chance to brag about their successes and feigned, über-happy lives.
None of them had children, except us. It was a chance to one-up this tanned, ritzy DINK crowd and show them what they were missing. Yes, they were a DINK gathering (Double Income No Kids), a full level up from the common YUPPIE set (Young Urban Professionals). There were so many white teeth and diamonds in the room I thought I’d been time-warped into the Osmond’s living room. (*For those who don’t know the Osmond’s, they were the original form of aspartame and a family who became rich and famous for their goody-two-shoes persona, saccharine music, mile-wide smiles and surreptitious plans to take over the world by perpetual breeding).
After a round of Hello’s and SoGoodToSeeYouAgain’s, we sat down to nibble on Sterlet Caviar, Curried Squid, Grilled Baby Octopus and other tidbits that looked like they were scraped off of the bottom of a fish tank. An expensive fish tank. I sat Steven down on the floor in front of the fireplace, next to my chair, with a toy to keep him occupied.
Host DINK: Steven is just adorable!
Guest DINK #1: He sure looks like a content baby!
Denise: (beaming with pride) He is. And he’s really smart for his age...he has a bit of a cold and I have this thing about dirty noses, so I taught him how to blow!
Steven: (hearing the key word ‘blow’, which had been drummed into his head like a command for circus seal, he forgets that a Kleenex is part of the act and dutifully blows his nose into his hand which launches his tiny, wobbly body backwards, banging his head on the brick hearth) WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!
After a quick clean up and a chance for horrified guests to forget that the mess in Steven’s hand looked a lot like the French foie gras on their Sesame Water Crackers, I brought our sniffling son back into the room and Mark took him to proudly display on his lap. But something had changed. There was a tangible shift in the air and where there was once a covetous ‘I want a brand new baby too!’ atmosphere, I felt a distinct ‘Thank God I don’t have kids!’ vibe.
Guest DINK #2: I don’t think we’re ready for children. Too high-maintenance.
Guest DINK #3: I agree. We do like our Mayan Riviera retreats and children can be quite a hindrance...
Denise: (interrupting defensively) Not really. As you can see, we can go wherever we want. They don’t have to cramp your lifestyle if you just...OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!
Steven had become very quiet and my astute, motherly instincts and keen, bloodhound-like sense of smell had set off an internal alarm. As Mark had been talking shop and absentmindedly bouncing our son on his knee, a sickly, oatmeal-thick stream of baby poop had begun leaking over the back of Steven’s diaper and was now oozing down onto his daddy’s best dress pants.
Like a fat Speedy Gonzales on steroids, I blasted from the room with Steven under my arm and had him washed and changed before the first guest could gag. For want of anything that fit, a pair of ratty old sweatpants were dug up for Mark to change into, which blended nicely with the splendid heirloom, circa 1850, William IV Antique Library Chair he was still sitting in. After a few awkward moments, with everyone looking at me like Gremlins were about to burst from my rounded belly and start swinging from the chandelier, I tried to salvage the night.
Denise: (flushed, flustered and slash-my-wrists embarrassed) I am so sorry...this has never happened before...I...he...you see...
Host DINK: (smiling stiffly, serving a garlic-heavy Duck Liver Pâté that doubled as an air freshener) Never mind. These things happen. Does anyone want another drink?
Denise: He has a cold remember...and his medicine must have loosened things up...
Host DINK: (interrupting loudly) I have more champagne in the kitchen! I’ll be right ba... (looking down) Oh! What’s that on your chair?
Denise: (looking aghast at a gooey clump clinging coyly to the ornate mahogany leg of Mark’s chair) Must have fallen off Mark’s pants...I’ll get a rag...
Host DINK: (ashen faced, in high-pitched denial) It’s just my Molten Goat Cheese Dip! It is a bit too runny, isn’t it...where is that champagne?
Every Guest DINK: (slowly lowering their half-eaten appetizers back to the table) Just goat cheese...too runny. (pregnant pause) How about those Canucks, eh?
Planned Parenthood should have me on their payroll.