A few weeks after Valentina’s birth, Priscilla grew tired of cabin fever. She had been on bed rest before the delivery and now she was confined to the apartment with a premature infant that had to be woken every two hours for feedings. She was such a sleepy baby that this was actually a challenge. We couldn’t keep her awake long enough to finish a whole 2-ounce bottle. A mother of three told me we should put a wet washcloth on the bottom of her feet while she’s eating. Priscilla was horrified at the thought of abusing her little angel that way so I let her figure it out.
We decided the best way to introduce Valentina to the world was to take her to a mall . . . in Hollywood . . . on Christmas Eve. I will confess I was one of those people who didn’t understand why it takes people with a baby so long to get ready to go anywhere. It’s a diaper bag and a stroller, people. Get it together. Then I went on an outing orchestrated by two women who were using a stroller and car seat for the first time. It went like this:
10 mins: I had proudly assembled the stroller but now we couldn’t get it to unfold. We scratched our heads and looked at each other when kicking and shaking it proved ineffective. Somehow it popped itself open. It is clearly possessed.
05 mins: We got the bags, stroller and car seat down the elevator to the parking lot.
15 mins: The car seat we brought wasn’t the one that snaps into the stroller so Priscilla had to go back for the other one, which was meant for my car. Meanwhile, I surveyed the mess in the back of her car. She didn’t know about the base hooks that snap it into the loops in every car made since the 90s, so it was in the middle and three seatbelts were crisscrossed like a spider web. It was impressive really. I wish I’d taken a photo.
20 mins: I climbed into the backseat of her convertible and broke a sweat trying to pry the seatbelts loose, which had been wrenched tight and were so twisted into knots that I couldn’t untie them. I still don’t understand how it was accomplished. Priscilla came back to find her kid sitting alone outside the car and me colorfully expressing my astonishment.
10 mins: The car seat was properly installed but the stroller didn’t fit into her two-door Volkswagen Beatle. We jammed it in this way and that until we finally had it wedged into the front seat. I sat in the back seat with the baby. The Beatle realized its days were numbered.
An hour. It took us an hour to get from our apartment to the driveway. I humbly apologize to new parents everywhere.
We arrived at The Grove, a swanky outdoor mall where Mario Lopez flexes his muscles on his daily tabloid TV show. We got a crow bar, pried the stroller out of the front seat, and started off on Valentina’s first adventure. We felt good as we entered the mall, in complete denial about how many people would be shopping on Christmas Eve. Priscilla proudly proclaimed, “We can do this. She’s not the boss of us.” I think they call that foreshadowing.
We had dinner and Valentina predictably slept through it. People walked by and complimented us on our cute baby. I decided Priscilla had better get used to me just saying, “Thank you.” I’m not going to waste my time explaining this unorthodox situation to every passerby, and if strangers want to think that this adorable little person is mine, I’m OK with that.
Suddenly, Valentina started fussing. She had slept through her first three weeks of life so this was a new phenomenon. We paid the bill, snuggled her back in the stroller, and headed to the car through the crowd. The baby started wailing. We picked up the pace. We dodged our way around comedian Louis Anderson trying to say goodbye to his mother while pushy tourists grabbed onto him and tried to take a picture. I was in a hurry but still had time to think, “Let the poor man hug his mother!” Valentina continued to scream all the way down the length of the mall, with me in front rudely parting the sea of people to make room for the stroller like an ice-breaking lead ship. Priscilla kept patting the cover of the stroller protectively like monsters were about to jump out of the bushes and attack her child at any time.
We made it to the parking lot and, in a crowded elevator, Priscilla reached her last nerve and said to the stroller, “Please don’t die!” I rolled my eyes, which is no small thing. I’m very good at it.
So there it was. The first outing of a little girl and her inexperienced mother and aunt. And while our confidence has not been completely shot down, we did come away with one painful realization. We are not the boss of anything.