Monday, January 7, 2013

Jo's Sixth Toe

I want to be a crafty mom.

In an age of Pinterest projects and DIY-mania, you might think that I mean making lovely holiday decor from recycled boxes or making all my own soaps or sewing all of my daughter's clothes from old concert t-shirts so she will be a super-cool indie-rock kid. And while I certainly admire those moms (and simultaneously curse them for making the rest of us look bad), I am realistic enough to know that I will not attain that level of craftiness in this lifetime.

I come by the crafty mom desire honestly. My mom is crafty as hell. Let me give you a few examples of her craftiness:

  • She made cute holiday outfits for my sister and I when we were growing up. A more memorable sweatshirt included a light-up Christmas tree, complete with D-battery hook-up on the inside. Incredible.
  • She made me a bow out of a 2-liter Pepsi bottle label. Adorable.
  • She sewed all of our Halloween costumes--from a cheerleader to a witch--and they actually fit.
  • She made homemade, personalized fortune cookies for my class at school one Valentine's Day.
  • And perhaps most disturbingly, she made a pair of earrings out of my two front teeth when they fell out. (Of course, I had to wear them to my next dentist's appointment. Of course, the dentist wanted pictures of them. Of course, this is kind of creepy in retrospect.)
So, you see, I've got a lot to live up to. But more than that, my mom's craftiness made some beautiful (and sometimes odd) memories for me growing up.

But here's the deal: I can't sew; I don't knit; I don't crochet or needlepoint or any of that awesome stuff. And I'm not artistically talented. I can't draw, paint (without numbers), or carve. Even worse, I have the dreadful combination of a "let's wing it" attitude and a perfectionist streak. This means that my crafts don't often turn out very well...or they wind up stomped to death in frustration. So, when I began thinking about what craftiness my daughter and I could enjoy together, I felt like a genius when I came up with the idea of making Christmas ornaments together every year. A different one each year! That she could make! And then when she is grown up and has her own Christmas tree, she will have ornaments and special memories of making those ornaments! How hard could it be? CRAFTY!

So, what to do when Jo is still an infant? I remembered that my friend VA makes adorable hand print ornaments with her girls each year, and I thought, "What a great idea! Wouldn't it be great to get Jo's infant hand print on an ornament!" So, I bought all the supplies and planned our first craft for the first week of Jo's life. CRAFTY MOM!

And, one day when my friend Jenny came over, I said, "Let's do a craft!" Now, Jenny is absolutely the type of person you want in your life. She's an amazing person to go antiquing with, to talk about life with, even to save you from a deadly elk. She is not--and she is the first to admit this--the type of person to do a craft. Which is how I knew she was a true friend when she agreed to help that day. I arrayed all of the materials--paint, brush, glass ornament--and sat down before my sleeping daughter. Now, I don't know how much time you've spent with an infant, but let me tell you something about them: they do not open their hands very often. Fortunately, Jo was in that infant zombie sleep, where you can move them any which way and they limply and adorably sleep through it. So, with Jenny holding her wrist, I carefully painted Jo's hand. And she promptly balled it into a little fist. I do not know why I did not anticipate this turn of events. Blame it on the MommyBrain. In any case, I became completely flustered. My craftiness! It was not succeeding!

But never fear...this baby still had feet, didn't she? Feet that could not as easily be curled up into craft-thwarting little balls! Yes! And so, Jenny held her ankles as I painted her foot. And as I attempted to stamp the foot onto the ornament, I realized, This baby has enormous feet. Simply stamping the foot would not work. We would have to rotate the ornament over the painted foot, rolling it on. Let me just say this: it is lucky that the paint could be washed off the ornaments, because we had to try this at least a dozen times to get it right. And through Jenny's laughter and my teeth-gritting, we came out with three good ornaments (two for grandparents, one for us). We washed the baby off as best we could (there may or may not still be a tiny fleck of paint on her fingernail that I am too weirdly sentimental to wash off), and I set the ornaments out to dry.

Only then did we realize that one of the ornaments was special. Quite special, indeed. Somehow, we had managed to squeeze six toes onto the print of Jo's right foot, when in truth, she only has five. Again, Jenny laughs. Again, I grit my teeth. "We could wash the extra toe off," Jenny offers. No. No, it is better this way, actually. 

You see, I'm realizing that being a mother is not at all lovely and picture-perfect. The moments that already stand out for me are not the expected, anticipated, nearly staged moments. They are the imperfect, surprising moments that find me unwittingly falling head over heels for this tiny little demanding person. They are the moments when I could cry from frustration, only to be redeemed by the realization of what an incredible adventure I am on. They are the moments when I catch a glimpse of the future I have of getting to know her.

These moments are the sixth toe: unexpected, unintended, and absolutely ridiculous. But, they are what give this parenting thing its depth and meaning. They are what add dimension to what could be simply cookie-cutter moments--ultimately bland and forgettable.

But the sixth toe? That's a story not so easily forgotten. And I realize that while I might not be able to produce the perfect memory quilt or birth statistic needlepoint or baby book, what I can craft for her is a life rich in stories; stories that are honest about life's imperfections and their necessity in making life interesting. 

So what if her first craft was botched? At least the story of her mysterious sixth toe won't be. You know...the one about how she was born with a sixth toe... CRAFTY MOM!

1 comment:

  1. Oh man, I was so excited to find another person I know to have a 6th toe. But alas, no such luck (I have an old neighbor who legit has a 6th toe). Great thought though Chelsey, and if you ever need crafting ideas/want to learn how to knit/crochet, I got your back.

    P.S. you're a great writer.