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Sparkly Green EarringsCatching the Light at Every Turn
By Melanie Shankle
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Melanie Shankle
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDeath, Taxes, & Motherhood
I ALWAYS ASSUMED I'd have a child someday. Like death and taxes and Barbara Walters, it seemed like an inevitable part of life. But I can't remember the exact moment Perry and I decided it was time for us to bring our own little person into the world.
However, I can guarantee we didn't put nearly as much thought into it as we probably should have. I mean, it's a person we're talking about. We were making the decision to create and then raise a human being. Which is much different than a dog, despite all those well-meaning people who compare their experience of raising a puppy to having a baby.
And, by the way, I was that person. It makes me want to go back in time and gouge out my own eyes when I think of how many times I compared my best friend Gulley's stories of sleepless nights with her newborn son to my own harrowing tales of getting out of bed to let our puppy, Scout, outside to go to the bathroom.
Yes, that's the same.
I think Perry and I both had the same perception of parenthood—something along the lines of "How hard can this be? After all, we've raised a puppy." Which is probably the same thing Cujo's owner thought. And we all know how that turned out.
But if I really think hard (which is something I try not to do very often), I'd say the whole baby thing began as Perry and I drove home from a beach vacation one day in June 2001. We'd just spent three glorious days at the beach, fishing and reading and doing whatever other relaxing pastimes we used to do prior to becoming parents. I'd give you all the details, but this isn't that kind of book.
We had the windows down and the Beastie Boys turned up loud. (Don't judge. Beach vacations mean the Beastie Boys to me. It's who I am. A child of the eighties. You've got to fight for your right to party.) We were a couple of tanned, relaxed fools listening to bad rap music.
Then my cell phone rang. I turned down the music and flipped open my phone. Because this was back in the days of yore when phones still flipped open and were incapable of telling you how well you slept the night before or what you needed to buy at the grocery store or how many steps you took that day.
(I read somewhere about a guy whose wife whispered, "Mark of the beast, mark of the beast," every time he used his iPhone to get directions and it was able to pinpoint his exact location.)
(Don't think about that too long or it will freak you out.)
Anyway, I opened my phone, and Gulley greeted me with, I m pregnant!
Immediately I felt tears sting my eyes. My heart did some kind of weird flip that on second thought may have actually been my arteries hardening up, courtesy of my steady vacation diet of various forms of processed snack foods.
I wasn't shocked to hear she was pregnant. After all, I'd been with her the week before and watched her devour an entire plate of triple-cheese enchiladas, which totally aroused my suspicions. That day she'd said it was too soon to know for sure if she was pregnant but admitted it was a possibility.
Three-cheese enchiladas plus a bowl of queso seemed to indicate there was a good chance a baby was looking for some calcium to build strong bones and some fat to build chubby, edible baby thighs.
I was right. She was pregnant, and I couldn't have been happier for her. But in my happiness there was this twinge of loneliness or sadness or some other emotion that I couldn't nail down. I mean, this was Gulley. My very best friend in the entire world. The person I'd shared a ten-by-ten room with all during college. The person who has loved me through all my ups and downs, who has seen me laugh the hardest and cry the most and encouraged me in everything from my faith in God to getting my bangs cut. The person who has known me since we believed there was no finer outfit in the world than a pair of plaid walking shorts with a denim shirt and some loafers. Worn with socks.
We've been together since the days we'd nail a beach towel over the window so we could nap all day before going out all night. College: it really is where idiots are born. Or at least where they thrive.
Now I was afraid she was moving on to exciting new things without me. We'd managed to get married within a month of each other. Probably because God knew we'd each need the other one to talk about all the things we didn't know about marriage, such as HUSBANDS EXPECT DINNER. But now she was headed toward full-on adulthood in the form of becoming someone's mother. She was moving on to things like wearing jeans that went all the way past her belly button and discussing the merits of different types of fruit snacks for school lunches.
(Considering that was my perception of motherhood, it should come as no surprise that it took me five years of marriage to even consider it.)
(Having a dog doesn't require any of those things.)
(Although Scout will eat a fruit snack, if the opportunity arises.)
I hung up my phone, looked at Perry, and announced, "Gulley's pregnant." He took his eyes off the road and glanced over at me, and I watched the color drain from his face. "You want one, don't you?" he said.
"I don't know. I haven't really thought about it. Maybe. I don't know," I answered. Which was all a total lie. The truth was I had thought about it. I'd thought about it a lot, and I knew I wanted a baby. Most likely a bunch of them. I may have even had a list of baby names prepared. I was ready to move on to the next phase in our lives.
My eyes must have conveyed my real answer because all of a sudden he said, "I feel like I'm going to throw up. I may need to pull over and throw up."
What can I say? I married romance.
It's safe to assume that the last hour of our trip was much quieter than the previous stretch as we tried to ignore the enormous elephant that had just dropped between us onto the console of the car.
For the next few months we engaged in the occasional conversation about having babies and listed all the pros and cons—and then September 11 happened, and it seemed like a bad time to bring a baby into the world. Especially because Perry went into some kind of mode like he was a contestant on Survivor and we had to do things like stockpile bottled water and cans of Vienna sausages in our garage. Although, let's be honest—I would rather die in some apocalyptic event than eat meat that comes from a can.
* * *
And then came the day in January when I drove to Austin to be with Gulley while she delivered the most beautiful red-haired baby boy I'd ever seen. It didn't matter that her epidural didn't work the way it was supposed to or that I heard her actually growl when her husband had the poor judgment to enjoy a stick of beef jerky while she worked through a contraction. All that mattered was the barrel-chested, impossibly pink little boy in the nursery who made all the other babies seem sickly by comparison. All I could think was, HOW CAN I GET ME ONE OF THOSE?
But in spite of my fever for the babies, I knew we'd need to wait a little longer because we'd already committed to chaperone more than a hundred high school students on a spring break ski trip, and then we had plans to travel to Sicily with my parents so I could see the land of my ancestors. These are what you call first-world problems. Oh, we can't have a baby right now because we have to go to Colorado and ski and then go to Italy to tour Saint Peter's Basilica.
Looking back, I think the funniest part of all this is that we were under the illusion we were in control. That a baby would happen on our timetable, like we were a couple of fertile magicians pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
As it turned out, that wasn't exactly what God had planned for us. Yes, we would become parents (otherwise this would be a short book), but our path to getting there was harder and filled with more heartache than we'd counted on. I guess in a way it became our first lesson in the realities of parenthood. Which is to say, it can make you feel like a monkey in a windstorm.
Excerpted from Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle Copyright © 2013 by Melanie Shankle. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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