Bless Your Heart, Tramp

And Other Southern Endearments

Celia Rivenbark

St. Martin's Griffin

Chapter One
A Mom Looks at Forty
Having a baby at age forty, or any age for that matter, is a whopping life-changer. We went from impetuous, “What? A new martini and cigar lounge opens tonight? We are there!” kinda folks to the couple who spends Saturday night at K&W begging our twenty-month-old to please stop spitting creamed corn on our sweatpants.
You go from buying pricey bags of mesclun greens to eating iceberg because it’s thirty-nine cents a head this week with your VIC card. Fish sticks find their way into your freezer although nobody, including the kid, can stand them.
I spent twenty-two years writing for newspapers, but my palms never got soggy and my heart never beat too fast when I was interviewing folks like Jay Leno, Nick Nolte, or Jimmy Carter. You don’t know nervous until you’re sitting in a pediatrician’s office wondering why you have to wait your stupid turn behind the football physicals when your toddler’s fever is so high she’s speaking in tongues and thinks everybody else in the room is Franklin the turtle.
You go from wearing little chocolate-colored business suits to wearing chocolate. You now wear your Regulation Issue Mommy Uniform, the one they hand you in the delivery room: leggings that are pilly on the inner thighs and whichever of your husband’s T-shirts just came out of the dryer and—hooray!—is still long enough to cover your ass.
You trade in your briefcase for a diaper bag, but because you’re what my obstetrician once called “a geriatric mom” (notice he only said that once), you do manage to take back the ten or so you got at the shower with lambs and dancing lollipops on them, and you use the cash to buy a nice, understated one from L.L. Bean. It has your monogram on it, but the letters don’t look right because, for now and maybe always, the only thing you’ll be known as is M.O.M.
And that is just fine.
You feel stupid times infinity for all the things you used to tell your friends who had children. “I’d NEVER let my children eat french fries or drink soda!” Right. That little rule got broken after the first screaming-so-loud-they’re-going-to-call-Child-Protective-Services hissy fit at Target.
Hons, I was cramming Mr. Pibb and Pringles into that baby faster than you could say “redneck mom with Sun Drop in the bottle on Aisle 7.”
And of course there was the laughably naive statement I made to a new mom friend of mine a few years ago: “I’d NEVER let my baby sleep in the bed with my husband and me.”
Technically, that still holds true around here. She doesn’t sleep in the bed with us because, by four a.m., having grown tired of being kicked in the McNuggets for hours, my husband is usually snoozing peacefully in the spare bedroom.
I used to think that nothing could beat the adrenaline rush that comes with beating the competition on a big news story.
Wrong again. A fireside chat with Saddam or Fidel couldn’t top being the first mommy in the play group to announce successful potty training.
The fresh-faced mom at the playground (who wore the Mommy Uniform favored by the twentysomethings—Gap khakis and a white T-shirt topped with an oversized Banana Republic sweater) told me that her son, Ian or Liam or Ethan, I forget which, was potty-trained at eighteen months!
I threw her perky little body to the ground and planted my knee in her chest ’til she cried for mercy.
Okay, so that only happened in one of my Ally McEat-something fantasies, but it could happen. Anything could happen. That’s the point. There aren’t any headlines or scoops anymore, and happy hour is the one when Dad comes through that front door and I can finally pee, but this is the best assignment I’ve ever had.
Copyright © 2000 by Celia Rivenbark