Our house has a hallway that leads to a nursery. For many, this is an ordinary sentence. For us, it’s extraordinary.
We bought a house down a quiet lane from a man who doesn’t believe in hallways. He called them corridors. “I don’t believe in corridors,” he said. I have never forgotten it. I spent months that turned to years writing about this lack of a hallway to a would-have-been empty nursery.
My husband had a vision. He saw in his mind how we could turn this long narrow room with blue carpet into a hallway and a bathroom and a nursery. I had no vision. He sketched the vision with a pencil in a notebook. He designed the vision with a mouse on a computer. He stretched the vision with tape measures on the floor. “See, look, this is where you will walk down the hallway to the nursery.” Still, nothing for me. I’m an all-five-senses kind of gal. If I cannot feel it or taste it or smell it or hear it or see it then it must not exist.
Right now I am rocking my baby in his nursery as I stare down the hallway. Blue carpet swapped for red oak wooden planks. The hallway and the baby came into existence at exactly the same time. (That is a long and messy story.) This crib, this nursery, this hallway, this baby, I look around and recognize nothing.
Once, they were nothing more than a sketch of pencil in a notebook with rumpled pages and a tired spine.
Now, I can feel the heat from my baby’s cheeks as he rests on my shoulder with his mouth wide open, drooling. Is he hot or am I hot? It doesn’t matter, really, it’s all the same. His eyelids flutter. Is his neck strained too far? How far is too far?
My arm grows pins and needles from our quick nap that has turned into an hour as the winter sun fades into darkness. I have never seen so many unrecognizable shadows. My hair is falling out and my back is aching and my hands have never been fuller. Thrice daily I whisper-yell to my husband that he walks too loud and talks too loud and closes doors too loud and gets ice too loud and breathes too loud. I hear us reading books out loud to say goodnight to the bowl of mush. I look at my feet propped up on this gray glider and I wonder who carried these mom feet in here and glued them to my body.
We bought pictures of woodland animals to hang on the nursery walls. My husband put them in frames and spread them out on the floor. A rabbit, a bear, an owl, a deer, a raccoon, a fox. Our new friends are all watching me now as I rock the sleeping baby. What is the proper order of the grid of creatures? How high should we hang them on the wall? Will the baby grow to pull them down? Will he get hurt? Will he love them? Will he hate them? Will he even notice in his nursery that once wasn’t a nursery in the house that had no hallways?
The baby—my son—startles awake with rosy cheeks, crying. He’s still learning where he is.
(Aren’t we all?)
“Shh, it’s ok, baby. Mama’s right here. Welcome home.”