My friend Anna and I are standing in my kitchen. Our infant daughters lay side-by-side in their carseats atop the kitchen table. It is two o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon and they crying in concert.
It is their first playdate.
Anna’s daughter is crying because that’s what she does during eighty percent of her waking hours, for reasons unknown.
Dora is crying because it’s been approximately three minutes since I last held her, and close to seven minutes since I last dangled the yellow stuffed lion in front of her for her amusement.
We decide it is not too early for a glass of wine.
We pour cheap white wine into coffee mugs to feel less cliche, then we carry our baby carriers into the living room. The movement temporarily soothes Dora.
Through the picture window, we notice another mom strolling along the sidewalk. She wears a smiling baby on her chest like the crown jewel in a necklace. The baby clutches a large maple leaf, studying it like a drunk person. The mom seems relaxed, like someone who might still do yoga. I close my eyes and imagine her life, her attractive family drenched in lazy, natural light, every moment camera-ready.
“How is she so skinny again?” Anna asks.
“Five bucks says she adds that leaf to her baby book,” I say.
“Oh, totally. And she’ll do it tonight, while her baby sleeps.”
“Right after she initiates sex.”
“Let’s hate her.”
We clink and drink generously to that, though neither of us are hateful people. Dora stops crying the second I un-click her little seatbelt. She smiles as I lift her up and place her butterfly heartbeat against mine.
A year later, Anna would learn that her daughter is on the autism spectrum.
Our story will take longer to unravel.