Two pairs of eyes stared intently on me, one set belonging to a large orange feline, the other to a wobbly 6-month old who has recently learned to sit up by herself. Their eyes follow the food from my plate to my mouth with great interest. Even though both cat and baby have been fed first, their greedy gaze seems to begrudge me even this meager lunch of peanut butter and cheese.
I have become the center of the universe. Each day these two creatures look to me to meet their every waking need without so much as a second thought. Feed me, clean up after me, feed me once more is their daily dance. They are the performers; I am the stagehand loaded down with my stroller, high chair and other amazing theatrical props.
As they sit before me I am keenly aware that I am the only one in the room who can speak English, let alone work a can opener. I am knowing in their eyes, the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, or New Jersey in this case. Starved for adult conversation, I deliver an ongoing monologue with them about how our day is progressing. They stare back at me, silent, wide-eyed and hoping that soon I will prepare more food.
Sometimes it’s hard to be the center of the universe. Each day demands answers to new situations in my swirling orbit and the need to make order out of chaos. I have become the ultimate planetary problem-solver. In the middle of the night mother universe figures out that her little planet is screaming because Truffles the stuffed pig has fallen into a netherlandworld known as The Land Under the Crib. At noon Mother Universe reads a baby book and realizes her little planet is moaning during bottle time because fluid from a recent cold probably remains in her tiny ears. It’s off to the pediatrician’s offices where little planets are prodded and probed and made good as new.
Mother Universe is wise to the cranky cries of her baby at 3:30 p.m., knowing a nap is needed. She knows all the things baby loves: kitty, daddy, yogurt, bitter biscuits, kisses on the tummy, silly faces, bouncy music, walks, talks, baths. She remembers all the things baby hates: meats in a jar (who wouldn’t hate those), sunlight in the eyes, bedtime, the vacuum cleaner, big noisy dogs, cutting new teeth, having the TV remote taken away. All this Mother Universe knows.
As trying as it can be at the center of the universe, there are immeasurable benefits. With each passing month the little planet learns something new, reaches another milestone, celebrates a different holiday, dreams a new baby dream; a wonderful process to behold. Mother Universe imagines the little planet taking her first steps, attending her first birthday party, drawing her first picture, carrying her first lunch box to school. The days stretch before us with the promise of wonder and joy to come.
The little planet turns her face toward Mother Universe and smiles a beaming one-toothed smile given to no one else. She holds her mother’s hand with a white knuckle grip and chortles at the sight of her mother’s face in the mirror, a face she knows better than her own. To the baby planet, Mother Universe is the great pain eliminator, giver of milk, source of heat and light, amusement park of fun and frolic, calming comforter in an endless rocking chair. They are pulled together in a bond stronger than the force of gravity, the mother and child connection.
Life at the center of the universe is constantly changing, frequently challenging, sometimes frustrating and always rewarding. There is a time when we are the young planets, cared for and nurtured, and a time when we become the universe, the givers and sustainers of life. I hold my daughter in my arms and feel the circle of life continue, thankful to be her world’s center, at least for a little while.
As for the cat, I meet all his needs, and he throws the occasional dead mole my way. I guess you take what you can get.