A lot of folks hate moving. I love it as ardently as I always adored finals. Sadomasochist I am not. There’s just something zen about sorting through a mass of stuff/ideas and organizing it all into boxes/mental compartments. With my belongings/information sorted and stowed, calm descends upon me. I would feel a smidgen more normal if I could say that this feeling of peace drives my arguably perverse enjoyment, but in truth half my pleasure comes from the journey. No longer a student, packing and unpacking give me a rush – in the form of a feeling of virtuousness – replicable only by the hard workouts for which I never find time. I suppose I’m a parent’s dream, eschewing drugs in favor of getting high by studying, organizing, and exercising. As I write I’m starting to wonder if I wouldn’t quite like being a monk. No, definitely not; monks don’t get to luxuriate in Skinny Cow chocolate truffle bars or Ke$ha songs.
Since I last posted, we moved . . . again. When we first learned of Viv’s existence, we resigned ourselves to relinquishing our Beacon Hill lease. Funny thing about most architectural features that add charm; they’re death traps. Even if I could have lugged our massive SUV of a stroller up the four flights of stairs to our front door, several unique features – including the internal spiral staircase (yes, the same one that I infamously waxed in a stab at thorough housekeeping widely and unfairly misconstrued as an attempt on Ian’s brothers’ lives after two of them tumbled down it in rapid succession), the six-story high deck that’s so far behind code that it can hardly make out code’s orange safety vest and shoe lights glinting off in the distance, and the original square nails that poke up a half-inch or so at random from the splintering floor boards they hold down – might have posed a problem. Besides, even though Ian grew up in a high-rise Manhattan apartment we both pictured respectable child-rearing taking place in a house located in a residential setting. We couldn’t imagine Ward Cleaver, Cliff Huxtable, or Danny Tanner dispensing sage advice in a single-story dwelling, much less one easily accessible by public transportation.
When we first moved to Seattle, we rented a townhouse located in Capitol Hill. Our only knowledge of the city stemmed from Amazon’s neighborhood show-and-tell, a hilarious bus ride during which two grandmothers attempted to ad-lib their way through a city tour by reading information off signs we passed – e.g., “coming up on your right you’ll see a lovely little restaurant called Umi Sushi that offers half-priced California rolls on Mondays . . . oh wait, that says Sundays” – and described the less-than-teeming, block-long International District as “just like stepping out into downtown Hong Kong.” (I’m proud to say that I resisted the urge – largely thanks to the firm pressure of Ian’s leg against mine, which slackened and returned the entire trip in order to channel our amusement and prevent us both from snickering – to stand up, grab the mike, and query “Guess who’s never been to downtown Hoooong Koooong!?!?”)
As a result, we bought into the hype exemplified by the area’s Wiki listing: “Capitol Hill is the most densely populated neighborhood in Seattle . . . . It is the center of LGBT life in Seattle and . . . a center of the city’s counterculture while also home to some of the city’s grandest mansions and many attractions.” Like Brooklyn, Capitol Hill masquerades as part of the big city. Sure, opportunities to get drunk and tattooed abound (and there’s admittedly a grocery store, a laundromat, a nails shop, a yoga studio, and a few quality restaurants), but one still has to travel a good twenty to forty minutes to enjoy the thick of things. (Let the wrath of Brooklynites rain down upon me, just like it used to when Ian and I, living in the East Village, responded to friends’ F-train invites by mockingly searching our pockets for our passports and asking, “What’s the weather like out there this time of year?”) In sick baby time, forty minutes translates to about an hour, sometimes an hour and a half. Hence our daily trips to the Capitol Hill grocery store rather than jaunts to Viv’s beloved aquarium, swim classes at the Y, or story time in the main public library.
Shortly after we decided to stay in Seattle beyond the nine-month term of our original lease (I resigned in December), we set our sights on bright lights and big buildings. Last week we settled into our brand new, single-level apartment. Trash chute and gym and elevator, oh my! We now live about two blocks from Seattle’s commercial center and five blocks from Pike’s Place Market and the aquarium. Viv and I walk and jog the streets, passing all the varieties of non-hipster I’ve been sorely missing: people of color, teenagers, the homeless, tourists, the disabled, yuppies, old folks, and plain old-fashioned characters (like the old lady who wears what I’m fairly certain is a cosmetic eye patch and draws on bright purple eyebrows each morning in varying widths and shapes). We rarely interact deeply with anyone, giving out a dollar here or directions there and receiving the occasional affirmation of Viv’s objective cuteness, but I feel a great deal less isolated. A bounce has entered my step. Perhaps it’s the nearness of a diversity of unknown souls, perhaps it’s the proximity of the Bed, Bath & Beyond. Tough to say, but me likey.
Strolling the city with a gaping grin, I find myself the grateful recipient of quite a reversal of fortune. A week before the move, Viv’s vomiting, waking, and g tube feeding drove me to such a heightened level of exhausted desperation that I tearfully pleaded with my mother-in-law not to board her flight back to New York. She turned right around, not balking in the slightest at that change fee or the second one she paid when I still couldn’t let her leave a few days later. Viv basked in her Eema’s attention while I slept and packed; whenever Viv allowed it, Judy filled whatever need arose, cooking, shopping, and packing like a college professor’s assistant, enthusiastic despite an almost complete lack of affirmation or thanks. Then Dr. Burpee prescribed medication for Viv’s constipation. After her pipes cleared, Viv stopped vomiting and started eating.
With Viv’s food still moving right along, her medical team started a wean a few days after our move. We basically chose the cold turkey, hunger-driven method, not using her g tube at all during the day and sneaking in only water in the middle of the night. Viv ate almost her full goal volume the first three days and slept wonderfully. Then her internal plumbing clogged again, she stopped eating, and we stayed up half the night trying to pump in enough water to keep her hydrated and avoid an ER trip for IV fluids. After we started a new medication, Viv’s oral intake jumped up again. For the last nine days, the only food landing in Viv’s belly passed through her lips. She’s hungry, and despite our best efforts, increasingly dehydrated. She’s slowly losing weight. Tension loaded like a large annealed steel spring, Ian and I bite our lips, steal sleep when we can, try to remain calm (the number one cause of wean failure: parents’ anxiety putting too much pressure on kids to eat), and cross our fingers. We remind ourselves that as distressing as this particular form of progress is, we’re moving right along and getting Viv closer to healthy every day.