After much deliberation, we finally decided on the new car seat to release Ella from the confines of the one that we’ve been squeezing her into for the past month or so. It was delivered at 7:23 last night, though it sat on the front step until much later.
I installed her old seat with a friend on a cool evening in April, both of us wrestling with belts and plastic, trying to contort our bodies in the back seat of the car to put maximum downward pressure on the thing to connect it as closely as possible to the frame of the car. Until finally, with much panting and grunting, we heard the distinct ‘click’ of the buckle, pulled back, tugged at it, and pronounced it secure. It was a sobering thing to come back inside the apartment to look at The Wife’s belly and realize that we really were going to be parents, and it was scary to have that concrete symbol following me around in the weeks that followed.
It was a rainy day in May when I placed our three-day-old Girl in the suddenly cavernous seat for the trip from the hospital where she was born to the hospital where her brother would have open-heart surgery that very day. She seemed so tiny and fragile, and I hated to so suddenly take her away from that clean, dry, comfortable place. All of my friends predicted that the first drive with a new baby would be the slowest, most cautious trip I’d ever make, but I was so preoccupied with seeing her brother that I just took the route I always did in essentially the same manner. I kept both hands on the wheel, and covered the brake, and observed all speed limits, but I also turned left onto First Street through a yellow light, and worried that the camera there would send me a ticket.
It was a muggy July day when the same friend delivered the second seat to the hospital where all four of us were staying. His sensitive wife had thoughtfully withheld the seat from us previously, kindly offering to store it at their home until we needed it (or, until we didn’t need it, in which case they could return it to the store, or so I imagined). So it was with a fair flourish of triumph that Schuyler and I took the elevator down to the parking garage and enacted the whole grunting-and-swearing-and-straining episode all over again, until I stepped back to look in through the car window at two little seats lined up in the back seat. I remember shaking a little with the fearful prospect of actually bringing Will home, but walking back up to see him and celebrate a little. He looked even smaller than his sister when we set him into his stylish seat a couple of weeks later to drive all the way home in traffic. We kept the monitor between us in the front seat, the volume turned up as if we might not notice any alarm.
It was a bright, clear, temperate day in September when, in shock, my hands made the autonomic moves that disconnected the second car seat from the car. I stood up and pulled the empty seat out and handed it to Gospel Matt. Later, he passed it on to another friend, who is keeping it for us until we decide what to do with it. I know it still has a blood stain on it from one of the visits to the lab, and I sometimes think about bringing some peroxide to clean it up; with paying it a visit and making my peace with that pile of plastic and fabric and metal. I know I’ll do it someday, but not today or next week.
Today, it is the coldest it has been for years. And I know that I’m going to put on a jacket and go outside to disconnect the oldest seat, and install the newest one. I know it’s going to hurt a little, with frozen fingers and cold belts and gymnastic contortions and an inverted leg press to push the softness out of the seat to connect the car seat to the frame. I don’t mind the pain, though I’m sure I’ll complain about it. I’ll go out there today like some kind of robot and put in the new seat, because it is for our good; it is for our safety; it is for our peace of mind. I’ll do it because the world is not safe or predictable, and I don’t want anything to happen to my little girl. I’ll do it because that’s the kind of thing I do.