I’m riding in the back seat of my best friend from high school’s SUV, listening to a tape of her parents singing “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” My friend, LL, is laughing, as is her husband, as is their toddler, whose sticky car seat I’m squashed against. I’m trying to play along: “Yeah, that’s funny. Ha! Ha! Now can we listen to some adult music please?”
But no, they rewind the tape (this was back in the pre-CD dark ages), and God almighty, we listen to “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” again. Everyone sings along. Except for me.
I was blissfully pre-all-things-baby, and LL was my first close peer to pop out a kid. I first met her baby when I visited my former home, Atlanta, from my then home, London, for the holidays. I visited over the New Year’s Eve holiday. The new baby was less than 2 months old. I was 28.
I knew the night was going to be calmer than previous New Year’s we’d spent together. But I hoped for a good dinner and a number of drinks followed by our usual late night intense, silly conversations. At the least, I expected a Monty Python flick and a couple shots of tequila. Instead, I got crying, spit-uppy baby time and hyper-vigilant parental angst.
The baby was having a bad night, and the three of us spent New Year’s Eve passing her around, hoping that one of our shoulders would prove to be the magical soporific.
“She’s never like this,” claimed her parents. I bounced the baby on my hip, looked longingly at my warm beer, and wondered how soon I could politely leave and find a decent party. I wondered where my childless friends might be hanging out and how I could find them (this was pre-cell phones too). My reverie was interrupted when LL reprimanded me for forgetting to hold the baby’s head, which wobbled on her neck like a sunflower on a stalk.
At one point, I looked closely at the baby. She was cute, for sure. But what a pain in the heine. I silently asked her, “What have you done with my friends, baby?”
“Where are the intellectual, witty, verbose people I know and love? What have you done to them?”
The baby didn’t answer, but eventually, she did fall asleep on my shoulder. Which was sweet until I realized that I was expected to stand immobile until her parents deemed her deeply asleep enough to transfer to the crib.
Six years later, I’d expend just as much angst over my own baby
girl, and I’d understand what happened to my friends. I’d lose much of my personality to sleep deprivation and that part of a mom’s brain that gets rewired by hormones. I’d realize that my friends were actually pretty laid back and fun for new parents. No way would I have considered inviting anyone over for New Year’s Eve. Not for a couple years.
I even remembered LL’s car tape nostalgically. I myself learned the words to “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” And I sang it, off-key, about 400 times to my baby. The idea of a grandparent-produced sing-along became downright appealing.
And when my childless friends tried to hide their dismay upon discovering that the only music in my car featured Elmo and the Cookie Monster belting out classics like “C is for Cookie,” I smirked and thought, “Just wait …”