Saturday, July 21, 2007

Urban Adventures in Relaxation

Today I drove up to the city to finally redeem a birthday gift-card for a massage at a fancy day spa in Uptown. A massage! An hour of utter pampering! For an overworked, overtired mama! Can you imagine my excitement? I have only had three other massages in my life--including one given to me in the form of a house call by a very dear friend when I was postpartum after my first baby--so this was a rare treat.

The massage was heavenly, although I kept thinking about my sick baby at home and wondering if she was okay--Genevieve has some sort of a virus with a nasty fever and is truly miserable--and I was also beset with an irrational worry that the massage therapist could read my mind and I would get scolded for not having relaxing enough thoughts. (I can't help it; I kept trying to envision, oh, a placid lake or the sunset, and then veering off into less serene cognitive territory, involving thoughts of the construction on the drive up, the school-supplies "donation" we are required to hand over at preschool orientation next month, my sister's recent surgery.) But really! It was relaxing!

On the way back to my car, I was struck by how glad I am to be raising my girls out of the city. How I have zero patience anymore for the traffic, the panhandlers, the litter, the noise, the empty malt liquor bottles on the ground. How I can't imagine walking my angel girls through the urban milieu of exhaust fumes and greasy-fast-food smells and the prostitutes over at Bloomington and 38th. Don't get me wrong; Christopher and I lived a total urban life for six years as graduate students in Chicago--complete with cockroaches, crime, and five solid years of daily public transportation--and then several more in Minneapolis, and in many ways, we loved it. And don't get me wrong; I mourned our Minneapolis life when we moved to our current small town. And really don't get me wrong; of course there are wonderful benefits to exposing one's children to all a large city has to offer, and I in no way pass judgment on any of our many friends who are doing just that. It's not that the city we used to live in--any city, really--doesn't have lovely neighborhoods and safe streets and cute cafes and clean parks and beautiful blocks free from crime. It's just that we wouldn't be able to afford to live anywhere that did. As it was, when we moved out of the city down to this charming college town, we left a block that had a double gunshot homicide--OUTSIDE, IN THE STREET--on the day I discovered I was pregnant with Julia.

Yeah, double homicides, three doors down? Don't really miss that.

And so it was that I picked my way over the greasy blocks up to my car, and found myself stuck in some kind of street festival that hadn't been there when I arrived. I'm not kidding you; it reminded me of that "Seinfeld" episode with the Puerto Rican Independence Day parade--do you remember that one? Yeah, seriously: the end of the street was blocked off and the intersection was full of ridiculously decorated vehicles and people playing musical instruments (and the other end of the street was a dead end). I did get out, with the help of a police officer directing me where to drive, but people--come on now. Stuck in a parade? That's just silly.

Then on my way out of Uptown I swung by an old favorite cafe to grab a snack and a drink for the drive home, and suddenly there it was. The nostalgia. Because this was a place I used to meet friends for lunch when Julia was a newborn. Well, I mean, AFTER the postpartum, fourth-degree-tear-related prohibition on walking. And, I mean, when I finally got brave enough to venture beyond the confines of my house with High-Maintenance Constant-Nursing Non-Sleeping Baby Extraordinaire. But I did it. We'd go there, and sometimes I'd bring the stroller in the car and afterward I'd walk Julia around the sidewalks nearby, because this was one of those leafy, lovely, gentrified-straight-into-upper-class neighborhoods we could never afford, and it was so pretty. And today, I missed that. I missed those blocks, those days.

I sighed a little bit, and took my time walking back to the car. Then I drove home to my sweet, quiet, cornfield-smelling, river-running, ice cream-melting, summer bloom of a small town, and to my sick baby girl. Everything was okay at home, in all senses of the word.

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