Babies on my Back and Mommies on my Mind

I went shopping with my daughter Elizabeth on Thursday, for the first time in a long time.  When my Abby and her Rebecca were babies, we shopped together weekly.  Even after her Jacob was born we occasionally shopped together.  But Jo-Jo (aka Joseph) just turned three years old and I can only recall a couple of shopping trips with him in tow.

Now I know why.

Jo-Jo loved shopping with Grandma, but he didn’t like me searching through my coupon binder for my coupons.  He started snatching them out of my hands, laughing hysterically at my look of shock when he crumbled one up right in front of my eyes.

“I know now why you rarely use coupons,” I commented to Elizabeth on our way home, and she nodded.

How did I do it all those years, raising eight children and shopping with babies and toddlers, a couple who were just as rambunctious as our grand-son Jo-Jo?

One word.  Backpack.

I carried my babies in backpacks until they were either too big or could climb out of one, and sometimes that was three years.  I don’t know now how my back took it.

Interestingly enough, with all those years of carrying a baby or toddler in a backpack, I didn’t have any photos of myself wearing the backpack!  Today I was going through some extra photos my mother had and discovered this one she’d taken of me preparing food in her kitchen with Michael (born in 1987) on my back.

I also discovered this postcard I’d sent her the day I’d heard my very first article was being published.  Could I have been anymore excited? That article is in a frame near my desk.

Readers of my blog will also remember the strange dream I had after my mother died, the one that made little sense to me at the time.  Why was my mother fixing a bathroom? Why were my two sons inside the bathtub? Shortly after I listed my mother’s house with a realtor one of those sons called me on the phone. “Why’d you do that Mom?” he asked.

“Do what?”

“List Grandma’s house with a realtor. I wanted to buy it.”

This son is 24 years old.  He jokes around a lot and I can never figure out if he is serious or not.  He had mentioned, in passing, that he’d like to buy her house, but when two of my siblings expressed an interest, he didn’t say anything more and I hadn’t taken his earlier remarks seriously.  I was flabbergasted that he meant it.  And a little scared.  Buying a house is a huge responsibility.

“Go look at it.  Look at everything really carefully, Michael. I don’t want you to make a mistake,” I said.

And he did.  He went through the house like any prospective buyer would; checking faucets, flushing toilets, checking out the basement and walking through the yard.  He came back more determined than ever.

“I want to buy it.  I’ll have to rip out the bathtub and fix up the bathroom because I can’t imagine using it the way it is now, but otherwise I can imagine living there just fine.”

A chill went up my spine.  Rip out the bathtub? Fix up the bathroom?  Michael was in the bathtub in my dream.  A dream I’d never mentioned to him.  A dream that had made no sense to me at the time, but left me happy my mother had visited me.

I will never know if my mother visited me in that dream to tell me that it was going to be my son who would buy the house and keep it in the family. But I do know one thing.  Another picture I found today?  This one was taken in 1974 when my mother was 45 years old.

Other than the black tennis shoes (they were white in the dream), those are the clothes my mother was wearing in the dream.



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