Thursday, June 05, 2008

Cuter Than Baby Jesus

Last week, The Lovely Becky and I drove down to Illinois to attend a shower for our coming child, TBD. We had a very special guest on our trip: my mother.

What made Mom’s presence so special was that, for the first time since 1996, one of my parental units walked through the doorway of a building I paid rent or mortgage on. In fact, my Dad was the last one to visit me. Mom hadn’t been to visit since 1995, back when TLB and I still thought we needed birth control.

When I tell people how long it’s been since my parents visited me, they always ask if we’re estranged. It doesn’t help that I jokingly refer to Mom as Mommy Dearest, or that my family is marinated in sarcasm. The simple act of asking for the salt can produce five minutes of faux annoyance and point-blank bon mots that would have driven Dorothy Parker to drink. Or maybe sobriety.

However, I have a very good relationship with my parents—good enough that I can use sarcasm with them. I see them at least a couple times of year, despite never having lived closer than 500 miles from them since TLB and I got married. I would visit them, meet at my Grandma’s for Christmas, and travel to third-party locations for vacation. But they never came to see me.

As the sand on the parental visit clock grew into a dune, and then a desert, my brother Tickle and I joked about it. Tickle had moved away by 2001, and they never visited him either. My parents had good excuses—Dad has a very demanding job, and Mom spent a good part of that time helping our sister raise our nephew. Still, we wondered what it would take to get them to visit. (My sister and my brother Snake Anthony still live at home or close by.)

They flipped the sand dial over last fall, when they traveled to Iowa for Tickle’s engagement party. TLB waited at the front door with a camera, snapping a photo of them crossing the threshold, so we wouldn’t wake up the next day and think it was some crazy dream. Of course, by the time they arrived in Iowa, TLB and I had to travel there from Michigan, since my parents had been unable to make the journey in the narrow six-year window that we lived there.

The Journey to the Center of Tickle’s House presented my best opportunity. It unbalanced the Non-Visitation Equilibrium. When they didn’t visit either Tickle or myself, it was funny. Now that they visited Tickle, it was kind of sad. Or so I said as I bombarded them with visit propaganda.

Finally, I got the call. Mom was coming. Dad had booked her a flight, and she was trekking all the way to the UP to visit us.

I told Tickle I didn’t believe it, that I waited for the last-minute call that she had cancelled the trip or that it was some elaborate hoax. I drove to the airport last week ready to see everyone except my mother get off the plane. But lo and behold, there was Mom, waiting with her bags. She came to the house, sat on our couch, and visited.

As part of her visit, we drove down to Illinois for the baby shower. TLB’s mother was just as eager to see Mom as we were. They hadn’t been in the same room since our wedding in 1994. They caught up like old friends, talking about us, about TBD, about houses, and even took a trip to the antique store together.

The shower turned into a bit of This Is Your Life for us. We had friends and family from all over the country and from assorted eras of our lives show up. TLB’s friends from college. Our friends from Iowa. Friends from a job I left nearly a decade ago. Tickle and my forthcoming sister-in-law, K. My grandma, our aunts, our cousins, and our mothers.

We had the event at a local restaurant. After the meet-and-greet and lunch, the few boys in attendance headed to the bar. I stayed to open gift after generous gift, usually making a trademark smart ass comment while still expressing gratitude. We got car seats and diapers and bibs and books and hoozles and hotzels and blaggraffins and blitznuffins. Between the Monty Haul we made here, the gifts our coworkers showered on us, and all the stuff we’ve gotten from TLB’s sisters (who have already spawned), Baby TBD will not be wanting for much. Although I could use a couple yaks to carry all this stuff around.

My friends H and K gave us two gifts in particular that stood out. H’s boyfriend is a referee for the Windy City Rollers, a Chicago roller-derby team. She gave us this killer onesie. Nothing says cute like a skull and crossed skate wheels. K, who shares my love for religious humor that borders on blasphemy, gave us a T-shirt that says Cuter Than Baby Jesus, complete with a rattle cross logo. This elicited some obvious non-laughter from the more religious members in attendance, but TLB and I cracked up. After all, if I’m going to Hell, I’d like my child to join me.

After the official shower ended, a bunch of us returned to my in-laws to drink and make merry. Like the pregnancy so far, the conditions were perfect. I sat in beautiful 75 degree weather (look, kids, warmth!) drinking a beer with Tickle. He started talking about some pictures my mother brought with her. I had asked Mom to bring some photos of me as a kid, so I could scan them.

“There’s one of you wearing white pants and this red vest,” Tickle said.

“Oh my God, tight white pants,” said K, laughing.

“Really tight,” Tickle reiterated. “Awful.”

The outfit didn’t ring a bell. When we got back to Michigan and I checked Mom’s pictures, I realized why. My brain had blocked out that I had ever dressed like this:

I’m 15 in that picture, and clearly President and CEO of the Not a Chance Club. And yes, those are pants, not the product of spray paint.

Amazingly, I looked much cooler some ten years earlier:

Sneakers, funky checkered pants, thick black belt, and a white polo. I look like a rock critic, in this case, actually assessing a real rock.

The main reason I wanted to see some childhood pictures is because I had never seen a baby picture of me. That may seem weirder than my parents going 12 years between visits to my house. TLB in particular has been bothered by this much more than I have. I explained that my parents were very young and poor when they had me, and didn’t get a camera until after my first birthday. Luckily, other relatives had taken pictures of me as a baby, and Mom found some of them:

What did my lovely wife, who for years had expressed a desire to see my baby pictures, say?

“You look weird without hair.”

I have to agree with her. And it’s why I’ve started sleeping in a Propecia helmet, just to be safe.

I asked my parents to get us a camera as a shower gift, so we could make sure we have ample photos of TBD. Although sweater vests and pants tight enough to show birthmarks will be forbidden.


PJKM said...

Those white pants are white-hot!

We were excluded from your Canadian baby shower, so will send you something separately. Even though I'm an American now, I may get the gift in my native land.

Grendel said...

Best. Photo. Ever.

Wish we could've been there...

Jennifer said...

OH MY GOD! That photos is just 10 kinds of awesome... some of them scary awesome!

I think you missed your calling as a JC Penney catalog model!

Noelle said...

Thanks for turning on some sarcasm at the end, I thought that perhaps your parents' visit had caused you to swing far into sentimental territory. But either way, the shower sounded like a great time, and I do love those pants.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

My errant brother unloaded some old photos of us on me a while back. Three Dorks, certainly charter members of your NAC club, if not competing with you for the presidency.

I've been contemplating posting the one of me with my bike at about eleven. Good gawd, it's painful. But you, my friend, have laid down the gauntlet and I think it must be done.

After all, this is my Spring of Pain. The ensuing pile-on will be appropriate.

In fact, I wouldn't be SUPRISED if i get retroactively beat up at recess....

Shannon Erin said...

Those pants.

That vest.

Those shoes.


I thought I had bad childhood pictures.

I'm glad you had a lovely shower!

Adorable Girlfriend said...

The party sounds like a good time!

I love, love, love the photos!

I can relate to the parents visits. Trust me, once the baby is born -- you'll be complaining about how often them come. Take it from AG's sib: complaining!!

Churlita said...

I love the old photos. I'm also glad you had a nice shower.

make sure you take as many dorky photos of TDB as possible. Remember your child will go to junior high and nothing is easier or more fun than embarrassing your pubescent child.

Kathleen said...

Those pants! My eyes!

It sounds like a very special shower. You both deserve it!!

Brando said...

Tickle e-mailed this picture to my Uncle T. Actual e-mail exchange:

Uncle T: How Republican of you. How did you get in those pants?

Me: With a little help from my friend Crisco.

I suspect a high possibility of this photo surfacing in giant, projected form, at Tickle's wedding.

Distributorcap said...


that was a great post and a great picture --- so Greg Brady....

fish said...

I like the picture of baby Brando in his very own Skinner box.

Brando said...

Fish, it was built by Dr. Marvin Monroe.

Distrubutorcap may have wounded me more than all of you combined, and he wasn't even trying.

Adorable Girlfriend said...

Atleast it wasn't Dr. Leo Marvin.

What movie, what movie?

Anonymous said...

Lookin' good Mr. Carter!!

If it makes you feel any better, I STILL have not seen a picture of Brian younger than 5. Nothing close to a baby picture. I've come to the conclusion that my MIL is crazier than I first suspected.


Vonnie said...

Cuter than Baby Jesus is really really fantastic. I bought a onsie for a friend's baby that said Cuter than Shiloh. YOur's is way better.

Adorable Girlfriend said...

Music trivia at von's place!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chuckles said...

Dude, white pants are a sin many of us carry deep in our hearts.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God. This post is SO GREAT!!!!!!!!

I love every bit of it.

Hugs to you, TLB and TBD!!!!!!!!