Violet was driving me crazy! Never had there ever been a baby that cried so much, so loud and for so long. It seemed as though the second I turned my back on her to feed myself, or clean myself, or clean something else she was wailing as if I was the worst mother in the world. Often times, I was convinced that I MUST be the worst mother in the world, since I couldn’t keep my baby happy. Nancy and Illiana both assured me that it wouldn’t last too long, that I should give it a couple of months and she’d calm down but most days I wasn’t sure I could last another hour. I was falling apart at the seams and considered it a good day if I got out of my pyjamas before Connor arrived home from work.
For all that she screamed a scream to break glass if you weren’t paying attention to her, the second you picked her back up she was just the bounciest bundle of joy. She loved to tug on my hair or be thrown in the air. So long as she felt that she was the center of my world she seemed like a totally different child so I spent a lot of time with my baby cuddled up against me or tossed (safely) into the air above my head just to hear her musical giggle echo around the room. Such a different sound from her screams but it was the most beautiful noise I’d ever heard and I would go above and beyond just to know that my precious little Violet was happy.
I knew Connor loved her, I could tell by the way he was always up like a shot when she cried while he was sleeping, rushing over to her crib before he even knew what time it was or that he was even awake. He would sit down and cradle her until she was asleep again and then gently place her in bed hoping she wouldn’t notice. Sometimes he’d look at her with the strangest expression, a look that said ‘what do I do with this?!’ He looked desperate and helpless and it made me smile, just a little, because I knew I walked around with that look on my face most of the day. We felt like pioneers on the parenting front and just made it up along the way and tried to do the best we could.
I think that Violet was always happiest with her daddy. She somehow always seemed brighter eyed and more gleeful and I could hardly begrudge her that now could I? Even over a year since we’d become man and wife and my heart still skipped a beat when he walked into the room and seeing him with our baby had only deepened my love for him. He was so warm and gentle with both of us, always coming home from his days at work exhausted and grumpy but with a smile and a “how’re my girls doing today?” I’d get a kiss on the forehead and Violet would scream and shout if she hadn’t been picked up within 45 seconds of his arrival. I counted.
Other than Violet, who is a huge ‘other than’ in this case, life went on. Connor worked and wrote and I cleaned, cooked and I fixed our appliances whenever they demanded it. And they demanded often. I cooked with caution, when it was necessary to cook at all, since my stove still burned most of what I made. It still sparked at me the moment I took my eyes off of it and held residual heat long after it should have been cold. My sink still dripped and fountained and the shower was no better. Thank goodness for beautiful little Vi. She kept me sane with her constant needs and demands because it let me prioritize. My daughter always came first.
Connor and I did miss our privacy though. It seemed that the moment we started to get close, the moment we even thought about intimacy Violet would need to be changed or fed or just looking at her sometimes helped. If we were just lying in bed, chatting, when the subject moved from Violet she would seem to know instantly. I hadn’t heard the latest ideas for Connor’s books since she was born and I was starting to miss drifting through the stars with my love at my side and his steady voice leading our narrative. One night he talked over Vi’s cries, weaving a space monster into our story until she drowned out the sound of his voice with hers and we had no choice but to console her.
My days ran into one another. Long hour after long hour running myself frantic trying to keep myself, my baby and my home presentable. Hearing Connor’s “how’re my girls doing today?” literally lifted my mood and my spirits every afternoon because I knew that I would get a chance to breathe. By noon I was often ready for a nap and I would spend the next couple of hours waiting for him to come home to relieve the pressures of being a stay-at-home mom. I knew that most people found it an enviable position and I was grateful for it but I missed the office dearly. I missed my cubicle and my stacks of paper. I envied Connor more than I ever said. Maybe that’s why it angered me so much the day I heard “How’re my girl’s doing today?” over the phone line. Or maybe it was because he told me he wasn’t going to be home until late.
It really got under my skin how casually he brushed off not coming home to be with his wife and daughter. We spent all day waiting for him to be husband and daddy and I was starting to feel as though he thought of me and Violet as a burden. He’d been increasingly distant over the past couple of weeks and I hadn’t been able to get through to him. No matter how much I asked him to open up to me he would just swiftly change the subject or leave the room. As the hours ticked by since he’d called something strange happened – Violet grew calmer and calmer and I grew fussier and fussier, hardly the natural order of things in the house.
For the first time that night Violet went to sleep without a goodnight kiss from her father. I spent the next half hour furiously cleaning the shower. I scrubbed it until my hands were numb and the tiles were sparkling. When I finally stepped out of the room I was shocked to see my husband, Connor, fast asleep on my newly made bed. I seethed silently around the room, unwilling to risk waking Violet but mostly just wanted to yell. I was about to shake him awake to give him a piece of my mind when his eyes fluttered open and he looked at me with a sweet smile. “How’s my girl doing, on her birthday?”
I was flabbergasted. I was certain he’d forgotten and that had been the worst part of my evening even if I hadn’t admitted it to myself. He hadn’t said it when he’d left the house this morning, but he was saying it now and he was taking my hands and leading me to the back corner of our yard. I followed him through the cool dusk air watching shapes emerge from the falling shadows. I froze as he walked into the midst, tears welling in my eyes for not the first time that night. “Happy birthday, Lily. I love you so much and you’ve been a wonderful mother to our daughter and more of a wife than I deserve so I thought… Uh… I thought you deserved this?”
His guests… My guests? OUR guests started arrive before I got my breath back and when I did, I had to use it on excitedly greeting all of my friends (and extended family.) Everyone I’d met since I moved to Sunset Valley had been invited and had shown up to celebrate my birthday with me and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. It was nearly an hour later before I’d said hello to everyone and checked to make sure Violet was alright before I managed to corner Conner by the buffet table.
“You’re amazing!” I whispered in his ear, holding him close. “I was so mad at you!”
“You should trust me by now, Lil.”
“I do. I love you.”
“Love you too.”
I spent the rest of my night dancing and chatting with my family and closest friends while my grouchy angel slept the whole night through for the first night in her life. Long after people had left our improvised dance floor to tear through the food Connor and I remained, dancing and laughing with one another as if we had just met. It was magical being with him under the stars again and I couldn’t help but wonder at how lucky I was to have him. I was thinking this even before he mentioned that this was only half of my birthday present with a mysterious twinkle in his eyes. I pried and prodded but he kept it as secret as this party had been.
“… happy birthday dear Lily, happy birthday to yoooooooooooooou!” The off-tune chorus finished as I filled my lungs to blow my candles out. I wished for many more long and happy years with Connor, I wished for Violet to be genius and to see her age up well, I wished for a promotion and I wished for my dream house. I wished for health and happiness and cleanliness for everyone who had come to celebrate with me. With a quick puff I snuffed all the flames.
As my friends cheered and hollered the most uncomfortable feeling came over me. It tingled up my spine and made the tiny hairs on the back of my neck raise. I had goosebumps all up my arms and my heart was fluttering a mile a minute. My vision was filled with sparkles and I thought I could feel my bones trying to stretch. I was about to call for help but then it was over and I realized it hadn’t taken more than a few seconds and now, now I felt good. I felt, honestly, older, than I had earlier in the day. With a new-found confidence I cut into my cake and the party continued until even the youngest of us were falling asleep in our shoes.
A couple mornings later I was awakened by Violet who had been awakened by a loud knock on the door. Connor had already left for work so I could do nothing but hold my daughter close to me as two men came in and stole! my oven from me. It took them two minutes and they’d stolen my stove!! I was panicked until they rolled a new one into it’s place. It was shining and pretty and new and looked like it was supposed to and most importantly, it acted the way it was supposed to. A tag hung from the oven door, lilac in hue and scrawled with Connor’s boyish penmanship. “2 of 2. Love you.”
Once Violet started sleeping through the night our whole house fell into such an easy rhythm that both Connor and I were surprised when we looked at the calendar and realized it was Violet’s first birthday. Despite how demanding she’d been as a newborn she’d grown into quite a good natured little girl, and quite a cutie pie at that. She took after her father in the looks department, and I can’t say it disappointed me to look into her big emerald eyes. When she looked up at me from under her auburn bangs I was at her whim. I would do whatever she needed of me on the spot and all she had to do was smile or pout.
She was the apple of her daddy’s eyes. Whenever he was home she wanted to be up in his arms, especially if he had things to do. She would speak gobbledegook at him, all while waving her arms comically around her head, telling long and involved stories we couldn’t understand. Connor would respond in turn, babbling back at her until she collapsed against his shoulder in a fit of giggles. Before I knew it I was jibbering along with the two of them and it soon reached a point where Simlish was rarely heard in our house… Even when Connor and I were… uh… alone. When that happened the first (and only) time we decided that it was time to start teaching our little girl how to live outside our modest home.
When we weren’t teaching her to walk or talk or potty training her, Violet made her own interests known. She would sit in front of her little xylophone for hours and hours, though she didn’t always remember how to use it right. Three weeks after her birthday her uncle Jared had stopped by and dropped it in front of her without saying a word. He didn’t stay. Ever since then though, it’s been her favourite toy. Sometimes I would turn around to find her chewing on the stick, but most often she was figuring out what I considered to be pretty complex tunes for a one year old and she was getting better every day. Her teeth also must’ve been getting sharper because within three months I’d replaced the stick twice.
Violet was always so cheerful when Connor and I tried to teach her new things and she usually caught on quickly. From talking and going potty and playing music and getting our attention, she seemed like a little natural at everything she did, we were sure she was a little genius, but walking was more difficult. It wasn’t that she wasn’t trying or she didn’t understand, she was just the least coordinated little thing I’d ever seen. Before she could get off of her bum, she was usually falling back onto it, if she managed to get onto her feet she tended to topple over forwards and if she tried to take a step she usually tripped herself. I spent most of my time kissing her boo-boos better and calming her down.
Since she’d been copying our nonsense sounds for months, she took to talking much more quickly. I can still remember her first words. It was late at night, all of us were tired but for as frustrated as Connor was becoming with teaching her, he was sure she was close.
“Come on Violet, can you say ‘it’s late’?”
“How about ‘Daddy has to work in the morning’?”
“Dasssssssssssssssssshzapt!” followed by uproarious laughter
“I don’t know Lil, maybe it’s sleep time?”
Connor and I both froze, it had become habit to tell her it was sleep time, and follow it up with a ‘sweet dreams’ and now she was staring at us, looking proud.
“Swee dweem swee dweem swee dweeeeeeeeeeeeeeem!”
Before long, she was talking non-stop.
Dreams had been getting sweeter, I blame the moonlight. As Violet had gotten older Connor and I had realized that all three of us living, sleeping and eating in the same room wasn’t an ideal situation, and it was no longer appropriate. We wanted privacy and Vi was old enough that we didn’t need to be as close to her at all time. We’d been saving every simolean we could and had enough to start working on the house again. Violet got her own room, across from the bathroom and we built on another addition to start my dream house. I hadn’t slept this well since I had first shown up in Sunset Valley, just me with nothing but hopes, dreams and an invisible cameraperson. It wasn’t perfect yet, but it was a start.
Violet loved having her own space, her own room, and she would happily spend time in there on her own, playing with her dollhouse or plinking away on her xylophone. It had broken my heart a little bit to move some of her toys into her room but they were the safest of her toys when they were being played with but I was constantly tripping over them while trying to clean. It was so nice that she was talking and potty trained, with her lightening speed crawling she could get about very well on her own and if she needed something she knew she could just call “Mama” or “Daba” and we’d come running.
After many painstaking hours and months of trying Violet was finally getting her equilibrium under control. Getting up was still rocky but she could easily cross a couple of feet with a couple of stumbling steps. We took each day one step at a time and each step one day at a time and then she was rocketing around the house shrieking with delight as being able to see that much more of the world around her. Connor spent weeks chasing after her, pulling things we didn’t know we had out of her mouth as she grinned at him with angelic eyes.
We loved sitting around as a family, all in the same place doing our own things. Connor was still writing and he was doing well for us. He hated his job at the paper but left us every morning with a smile, happy to be helping the family, devastated that he wasn’t there to see every goofy face that Violet pulled. The evenings and weekends were when our house really came alive and our family really came together. I learned how much I had missed out on by never being a child, Violet’s toys were great… Except for the blocks, there was always one missing, to turn up literally right under my foot just as I was cleaning out the fridge or fixing the toilet.
As time went on Connor encouraged me to get out of the house a little bit more. He could keep an eye on Violet now that she didn’t immediately call for me when I left the house and he knew I was aching to hold a meeting. By the time my maternity leave had ended I’d already met my new boss Thornton Wolfe and I was ready to be promoted, I worked hard and eventually Mr. Wolfe relented and gave me what I’d been wanting for as long as I could remember. I was the CEO of a company! I was on top of the world (if not the business ladder) and everything was coming together well. I knew I still had it in me to advance further and I was looking forward to it.
A roiling stomach and craving for tuna pancakes? Again? I was both distressed and excited at the same time when I finally put the pieces together and realized that I was pregnant again. We hadn’t planned on having another child just yet, not while Violet was so young, and I was still trying to get further ahead at work so that things would be more comfortable for us when we did decide to expand. On the other hand, knowing there was another little darling growing inside me made me endlessly happy. I knew that Connor and I would manage against any odds, and this way Violet and her little brother or sister could be friends! I decided though, that I would choose the right time to tell Connor and not when there was a burglar in my yard.
Until I’d decided to tell him, I did what any woman trying to ‘hide’ her baby bump would do – I wore looser clothing and sat behind tables. I knew that I’d manage to keep it a surprise, for as wonderful a husband as Connor was he didn’t tend to notice the minute details in anything but his stories. Violet was really growing up in his footsteps and as soon as she knew how to yell “Mama stowee!” Connor had run to the bookstore and nearly cleaned out their children’s book section so that his little girl would get to have any book she wanted read to her. Her favourites were the Sprocket books and by the time the pages were tearing and worn Violet was practically reading them to me.
Some of my favourite days were the ones where Connor and Violet would join me at the park across from our house to play in the sun while I fished. I loved watching Connor toss her into the air, encouraging her laughter, and watching him chase her around and she scurried from one patch of flowers to that tree over to where there were some fruits and vegetables growing, exploring. She was bold with her daddy in pursuit, knowing that no matter how many times she tripped over herself or simply just fell that she’d be picked up and cuddled and loved. Once the shock wore off (though she was the only shocked one) she’d get put back down and would scamper away again.
Watching my husband and daughter together brought me a joy I couldn’t explain. Even when Connor nicknamed her the horrid ‘Letty’ for the sake of one of their games, I couldn’t help but find it adorable. Don’t get me wrong, readers. Violet and I were very close but she was always Daddy’s little girl and him being around was always very exciting for her. It didn’t matter to her if they played or if they chatted or if she was bounced on his knee while he wrote, she was so happy with Connor, just as happy as I was. Seeing them together and knowing that there was another little Vi safe in my stomach made me feel as though nothing could ever go wrong again.
Connor’s birthday snuck up on us next. Gratefully he was much easier to please than I and was so happy to have a picnic at dusk with the family that I think a party would have been a disappointment to him. Also, I knew better. We pushed Violet and her crib into the yard (prompting “vrooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom Daba!”) laid out our dinner and I presented Connor with his present. It was twofold: First, a desk and chair. A real desk and desk chair for him to do his writing at. No more laptops on my kitchen table!! The second was hard for me to offer because I knew just how tight money was, but I knew we could handle it and I knew it would make him happy so I asked him if he would like to quit the paper and focus on his novels full time. He was a fairly acclaimed author at this stage and I knew it would be worth it.
Finally, it was time to tell my secret. I’d been holding onto it for weeks, waiting for the right time to let Connor know that he was going to be a father again. If only I could have captured the look on his face (I hope you did invisi-camera) to save with me forever, it was priceless! He went white first, his eyes opened wide and then his mouth and then colour rushed to his cheeks and he threw himself across the blanket to give me a big hug and give his unborn child a kiss. We spent the rest of the evening talking about how we had finally built our family and how we would be supporting it if I were to be on maternity leave again and he would be working at home.
We were so caught up in our life planning that we didn’t even get to cake before it was time for Connor to experience the ‘aging up’ process. After my birthday I’d researched the feelings I had and had found out that everything from the sparkle vision to the chills was perfectly natural. I hooted and hollered as he shimmyed and shook himself in a circle, excited to be celebrating anything at all with my husband. We had our cake late and then packed up, taking a couple of trips to get all our furniture and our sleeping daughter back into the house and tucked in for the night.
Being at home with my family while expecting more family was magnificent. To be pregnant and at home (yes, sometimes barefoot) with a doting husband and a loving child was all I could ask for at this point in my life. I was surrounded by love and I had help with Violet which meant I didn’t need any help with my cleaning. Connor could write and keep an eye on Vi while I scrubbed the tiles in the bathroom and did laundry. For the first time in what felt like years my house was spotless from one day to the next. I was thrilled to be back on my schedule without worrying about constant interruptions.
There’s nothing like going into labour right in front of one’s toddler a month early to incite a full blown panic attack and since I was particularly prone to anxiety… It was close, it really was. Connor had put himself down for a nap and I was trying to tidy while Violet played around my feet when my water broke and my abdomen began to contract violently. My maternal instincts must have kicked into high gear because I managed to waddle my way into the bed room and rouse Connor and somehow I stayed as calm as I cucumber while he called me a cab and promised he and Violet would join me at the hospital as soon as they could.
They released me from hospital a week later with a premature but otherwise healthy little girl clutched tightly to my chest. I had spent the last seven days terrified that something would go wrong again, every one of them with Connor at my side, most with Violet as well but she seemed uncomfortable in the hospital. Rose. Tiny, fragile, perfect, soft Rose. After all of the fear and stress we’d gone through together it was wonderful to take her out into the fresh air, safely tuck her into her baby seat in the truck and get driven home to my house, to my family and to my bed.
Violet didn’t adjust well to having her new little sister in the house, or maybe the conditions under which she arrived. Every morning Connor, Rose who had a crib in our room, and myself would be violently woken from our sleep by a shrieking Violet. She was having nightmares and was inconsolable until she’d clung to either myself or her dad for around half an hour at which point she would fall into a shaking, restless sleep. She seemed to blame them on Rosie, saying that her little sister was going to eat her Mama and Daba, and when someone brought Rose into the same room as Violet, you could be sure that Violet would be out of the room like a shot.
Connor tried everything to change her mind, he let her play dress up and would carry her across the room if she asked. Violet had always been at least a little independent but since we’d brought home Rose she’d been clinging to Connor and I as if if she let go we’d disappear. She was always attached to one of us by the pant leg, her tiny fingers clutching tightly to the fabric. We tried to explain to her that her little sister wasn’t going to eat anyone or steal anyone but that they were going to be friends but Violet refused to listen and would just bury her face in the nearest shoulder or leg and shake her head until we stopped talking.
After a month and a half we’d read her every book we could find that might possibly help our situation and we were trying every ‘home remedy’ we came across but to no avail. She would have nothing to do with her sister. Violet knew more about where babies came from and what they were all about than any first year med student and she was more than happy to meet other babies but not Rose.
R: “Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?”
L: “I do bite my thumb, sir.”
R: “Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?”
L: “No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir.”
R: “Do you quarrel, sir?”
L: “Quarrel sir! no, sir.”
R: “If you do, sir, I am for you.”
(Romeo & Juliet 1.1, edited)
You can imagine our surprise the afternoon we walked into our bedroom to see Violet (who we thought was playing with her dolls in her room) sitting silently in front of her baby sister’s crib, staring at the tiny pink bundle within. She didn’t want to touch her or for us to take her out of the crib. She didn’t want to talk about Rose or the fact that she was sitting on the carpet and staring, she just wanted to sit and watch her sister. Before long Violet was totally at ease with Rose and if it was just the two of them in our room we could often hear Violet singing songs we hadn’t heard from her since before she began to talk to her sister.
Rose was an easy baby, compared to her sister at least. She wasn’t fussy and she wasn’t demanding of us and our time. Rosie was just the most low maintenance little one I’d ever held. It meant that she didn’t get as much of our attention as Violet had at the time, but maybe that was also because Connor and I knew what we were doing this time around. Every achey stomach or strange sleeping pattern or odd smelling diaper was far less likely to send us into a whirlwind panic about whether something was seriously wrong. Our doctor also must have appreciate it, since he hardly heard from us this time, unlike the dozen times a week we called when our first daughter was born.
As Violet grew older I was astonished by her creativity every day. The little stories she made up for her dolls were so imaginative that they could rival her fathers, and by now he was pulling in the best sellers and pumping out books at record speed. She hardly ever used ‘baby words’ any more and the only ones left from her early vocabulary were “Mama” and “Daba” which she still called us exclusively. It was always a comfort to hear her giggles coming from her room while I was working around the house or taking care of Rosie, it let me know that she was doing well. It let me know she was happy.
Life wasn’t just flying by, perfectly perfect, money was tight and our family was growing. Our appliances were getting old and they seemed to be failing more and more often and more and more catastrophically. It was just as well that I was getting better at fixing everything, even the electronics didn’t give me too much trouble anymore. We’d decided that we had to add onto the house again, Violet’s birthday was coming up and she’d need more space and Rose was getting to be old enough for us to move her our of our room. We built up this time, moving Connor’s office and putting in a room for Violet and room to expand up here too.
When Violet’s birthday rolled around again we were ready for it. We didn’t invite anyone over, since Claire had passed on Jared had become even more intolerable and we were happy celebrating as a family. I held Violet in my arms and explained to her about blowing out candles, making wishes and sparkle vision. With a grin she screwed up her eyes, presumably making a wish, took a deep breath and leaned forward to blow out the candles. She was so excited to be a big girl that she wasn’t disappointed when they didn’t go out, she tried again and again and again, not wanting any help.
All of a sudden flames were licking at our table and chairs, the smell of burning wood and cake filled the house and the heat was oppressive. Once again, my heart raced and fear grew and I thought I needed to scream and freak out but the mother in me took over. While Connor ran to find something to put out the flames I dropped my little girl on the front lawn and ran back into the burning house to retrieve Rose. Safe and sound and tucked in her bed fast asleep no more, she was wailing louder than any siren could, frightened and I was still tempted to join in.
I waited outside with the girls for what felt like hours, huddled on the front lawn as we watched the flickering lights through the windows and waited for Connor to come out. Each second he was in there tore me apart, I wanted to run in there, to save my husband, my love, my heart from the inferno but I had Violet in one arm and Rose in the other. I could do nothing but watch in terror and comfort my two crying children as I heard sirens approaching and smoke began to find it’s way through my windows.
Do I even have to ask the obvious questions?
Did the house burn down?
Did Connor make it out in time?
How long does it take to get soot out of clothing?
Is Violet’s birthday totally ruined?
I may offer answers in Chapter 5 – Homework