This past weekend was the first time I've ever left my husband and baby alone together for a day while I went out of town. I was taking some work contacts from out of state to a luncheon in San Francisco, and would not return before John had to go to work, so it would also be the first time we had ever left Lillian with a sitter who wasn't immediate family.
"Everything will be fine," John told me as I wrote down a few instructions for the friend that would be watching our daughter. "Lillian loves Monique."
"But I'm going to be an hour and a half away," I said, grabbing a fifth sheet of paper to write down instructions.
"Honey, I only work ten minutes away. Everything will be fine. And please tell me that's a novel you're writing and not a note for Monique."
"This is just some emergency information."
John looked over my shoulder. "You're listing what combinations of furniture the baby is allowed to jump on?"
"Couch cushions on the floor are okay, but I don't want her jumping off the window sills onto the couch."
My husband frowned as he continued reading down the list. "Sweetheart, you don't need to tell Monique that Lillian isn't allowed to eat lotion."
Given a chance, our daughter would eat hand lotion the way other people eat ranch dressing. There is no food that Lillian would not rather have in a nice Aveeno cream sauce. Her motto is "There's always room for Jergens". I gave John a look. "It needs said."
"We'll be fine," John sighed at me, trying to push me out the door.
"I have my cell phone. I can be home within an hour and a half, traffic permitting."
"Lillian. Me. Monique. Fine."
"Tell Monique that they can watch anything they want, as long as it's not smutty, violent or the Teletubbies."
"Fine. F-I-N-E. Definition: what we will all be." John kissed me goodbye and shut the door.
An hour and a half later, I was standing outside the BART station in San Francisco, trying to convince one of my assistant editors that the bird sitting in the fountain felt it was a duck trapped in a starling's body, when my cell phone rang.
It was John. "Okay, where are you?"
Panic seized me. "I can be home in 90 minutes. What happened?"
"No, no, stay for the luncheon. We're already at Urgent Care. Lillian has already been seen. Poison control said if she doesn't start vomiting over the next two hours, there's nothing to worry about. It should take about that long for me to get in to be seen, so by the time we're ready to go, we'll know for certain that she's okay."
I squeezed my eyes shut. "Let's start at the beginning."
It went like this. After I left, Daddy put Lillian down for a nap. The side of the crib being a mere formality these days, Lillian made an escape and searched her room until she found an errant bottle of -- you guessed it -- lotion. She sat down to enjoy a leisurely combination of toddler day spa and snack-time.
John, dozing in the next room, was awakened to a ruckus. He went tearing in to find Lillian with her entire face coated with a creamy layer of lotion, a facial being presumably the diversion of choice to amuse herself between dinner courses. She was announcing to the world at the top of her lungs that putting lotion in one's eyes was, in fact, a bad idea. Scooping her up, John rushed to find a phone.
Enter the cat.
Tired and disgruntled with being kicked off the foot of the bed several times a night, the cat apparently studied old tapes of Warren Sapp sacking quarterbacks and darted under John's foot in an attempt to kill him. John survived the assault, but in an effort not to drop the baby or squish the cat, he severely injured the herniated discs in his back.
"So at what point did you set yourselves on fire?" I asked, certain that was just a part of his narrative that he had left out.
"We were going to do that later today, after we poked our eyes out running with scissors and took candy from strangers. You've got to pace yourself with these kinds of things."
Fortunately, Monique was on hand to zip right over. She called me within fifteen minutes and assured me that things were firmly under control. She also agreed to babysit the extra 38-year-old at no charge. I attended my luncheon, left the group in the hands of one of our local staffers for an evening of sight-seeing, and came home to see what was left of my family.
John was out of work for a week and would need a surgical procedure. The cat had been banished permanently to the garage. But Lillian, her eyes, and her bowels had all come through unscathed.
"I got your note about the lotion," Monique greeted me as I walked in the door,. "I read it to John, but he didn't seem to appreciate it very much. By the way, I changed Lillian's diaper and the skin on her bottom is really soft now. I think she may be on to something."
"See?" John smiled wanly from where he lay immobilized on the couch. "I told you everything would be fine."
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.