November 16, 2018
I tiptoed into the kitchen of the rental house in Gearhart, a coastal town in Oregon where we were staying for the week.
Our kitchen back home in Portland was being remodeled, so we’d booked this rental while they painted. The house was all dim lights and creaky floors, and I walked the steps into the kitchen and grabbed a mug featuring a Marilyn Monroe cat. It was exactly what it sounds like: a picture of a cat in the famous Monroe pose, pushing down on its skirt. I poured coffee into the mug. Drank it slowly.
Our daughter woke and I played with her while my husband Jon cooked french toast. He was working remotely this week, but he’d taken today off. I built a tower of blocks, and our daughter crawled and knocked it over. I knew someday she’d grow up, but I tried not to think of it. She knocked the tower over again.
After breakfast we went to the beach, where our dog Rain danced the sort of doggy-dance only dogs do, bounding and twirling and chasing.
The Oregon coast is usually rainy, but this week was surprisingly nice. Cool and sunny. A day of fat seagulls and blue skies.
It was mid-November and our goal for the day was to find a Christmas ornament. Jon and I have done this every year. From our very first Christmas together, just a few months after we started dating. We have six ornaments so far.
We dropped Rain back off at the house, and then we drove to the Seaside aquarium. We’d never been to the aquarium even though we’d visited Seaside many times. It’s where Jon and I sat on the beach together a few years ago when he asked, “Will you marry me?”
Inside the locally owned, one-room aquarium, the family ahead of us bought food to feed the harbor seals and we watched as the seals swam and splashed.
“Look,” I said to my daughter, pointing to the seals. She stared wide-eyed.
Around the corner from the seals was the body of Victor, the 28 pound lobster. The story was this: years ago a drunk man had broken into the aquarium and stolen him. When caught by police, he dropped Victor and ran. Victor later died from his injuries; the community still mourned. Jon and I read it, and then we were silent.
“We eat lobster though,” I said eventually.
On our way out, Jon paused at the child coloring station. He’s often more serious, so I was surprised.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Coloring a picture.”
“For her,” he said, pointing to our daughter. “I figured we could bring it home, frame it, and put it in her nursery.”
He’s a great father.
I have no idea where that picture went.
We left the aquarium and drove back to the rental house, where I put our daughter down for a nap. I took a picture of the Marilyn Monroe cat mug and posted it on Facebook with the caption “Mug at the beach house. I don’t think I’m going to be ok unless I own this mug.“ Then I worked, researching and sending a few queries and an invoice. After that I Googled where to buy the mug, but all I could find was a picture of it on Pinterest.
Before I knew it, she was awake again. So much revolves around a baby’s naptime.
It was lunchtime, so we drove to Pelican Brewery in nearby Cannon Beach. We had burgers and we shared a beer tasting, and then we went back to Seaside.
Jon is from Massachusetts and he always says Seaside reminds him of Cape Cod. It’s the general vibe, he says. Taffy and ice-cream shops, the weathered shingles and brightly colored storefronts, the almost-placeless feel of the town. He says it doesn’t matter where you are in the US: a beach town feels like a beach town.
I knew there was a Christmas store in Seaside; I’d walked by it a few days prior. As we walked down the street I tried to pretend to be confident about where the shop was.
My daughter was strapped to me in the Ergo carrier, facing out, swinging her legs. “She looks like she might fly away,” a man passing by said.
We entered the shop and wandered the aisles bursting with Christmas decor—plastic trees and tinsel and toy houses with tiny chimneys. The air smelled like evergreen and pinecones. And then we found it: a baby bottle ornament. It was the perfect ornament for this year, the year our daughter was born.
Two years ago, I’d started my period a few days before Christmas. I was already so sad about not being pregnant. I didn’t yet know I wouldn’t become pregnant until the following August and that it would take fifteen months total. Once the doctor accidentally sent an internal message to me in an online portal with the word: Infertility. We were sent for diagnostic tests. But the following month, I was pregnant.
We were so lucky.
“This one,” I said to my husband, pointing to the bottle ornament. I squeezed my daughter’s foot.
The cashier was a guy in his mid-twenties. I wondered how we looked to him.
“Here for vacation?” he asked.
“Where you from?”
“Portland,” we said in unison, like a sitcom couple. I felt disappointed I couldn’t tell him somewhere more exciting.
Before I knew it we were in a long conversation about snowboarding, and skiing, and how he wants to move to Bend, Oregon. We paid and drove back to Gearhart.
For dinner that evening, we ate vegetables. We cooked bell peppers and mushrooms and had it alongside a spinach salad with tomatoes and snap peas. We were so full, so tired.. At 7 p.m. I nursed my daughter and put her to bed. I worked some more, and then fell asleep.