Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Abby Wet": A Tale of Mud, (Un)Preparedness, and the Making of Memories

This morning, Abby fell in the mud--not just a brief tumble into a little patch of wet dirt but a full bodied face-plant into a sopping wet puddle of brown, sticky sludge. So absolute was her plunge that she could not pick herself up; she merely wailed, in shock and in panic, as she realized the extent of her tragedy. She was covered in ooze, from her chin to her pink baby Converse: her shirt, her shorts, her diaper, her knees, her shins, her elbows, even her cheek managed to participate.

To complicate matters, our unpreparedness was absolute: we were at a newly-opened park on a bike trail we've ridden a few times, several miles from our car with nothing to clean her up or change her into. Before our bike ride, we had dutifully checked our tires, packed extra tubes, tucked toys into various pockets of the kids' trailers, applied sunscreen, and ensured an adequate supply of water and snacks. But somehow, we had neglected to bring a diaper and wipes, a staple we generally don't leave home without.

This left us in quite a pickle, as we attempted to comfort our sobbing daughter and figure out how on earth to get her back to the car in relative comfort. Fortunately, patches of her shirt were dry, so we stripped her down and used those sections of her shirt to remove the biggest splotches of mud. We were quite a sight: Josh and I in our bike shorts and helmets, Abby standing in the grass nearly naked, Ben sporting his helmet and sunglasses and asking when he could buckle into the Weehoo again. Our large audience looked on in mild amusement and relief that it wasn't their own child while we scrambled to redeem our otherwise delightful ride.

I managed to find a kind woman who gave me a diaper just one size too small for Abby, but she didn't have any wipes. Thankfully, she did offer me two small napkins, which I wet in the splash fountain when it finally turned back on. These two napkins managed to clean Abby enough that we could buckle her back into the trailer, where she enjoyed the rest of the ride in the unencumbered glory of her freshly diapered birthday suit.

I tried not to think about what the other cyclists passing us must think of our clothes-less child or the fact that her round, pale belly was unprotected by sunscreen. I tried to push the self-deprecating thoughts of our carelessness and disorganization out of my mind and tried not to have the internal debate of whether it's really necessary to bring a change of clothes on a fifteen mile bike ride. I mean, 99 times out of 100, our kids are going to get back in the car in the same attire in which they exited, right? I was only partially successful.

All the while, I pedaled, announcing the small bumps in the path so she could brace herself, slowing down so we could enjoy the field of prairie dogs darting in and out of their burrows, pointing out the wildflowers still in bloom.

When we reached our car, I got off my bike and turned to get Abby. I found her completely relaxed in the trailer--legs splayed to either side, shoulders slumped, arms resting still on the seat, eyes nearly closed. She was the picture of utter contentment.

As we drove home, she jabbered away in the back. At one point, she pointed to herself and said, "Abby wet." Josh and I laughed and confirmed that yes, she had gotten very wet. Already, the disaster was being transformed into a story, into a common history. Already, the mud was adding layers of meaning--and comedy--to the otherwise easy fun of our morning together. In the end, her misstep did not take away from our outing but added to it, turning our average bike ride into an adventure. Redemption.

But I'm certain I won't forget the diaper again.

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