Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Dangerous Bag

The Littlephant Day Bag by Swedish Designer Camilla Lundsten
Last December my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I had recently spotted a natty bag in a Scandinavian shop on Abbott Kinney, a hip shopping street in Venice, California, and directed her to the store's website. I’m drawn to graphic prints and bright colors, and the bag came in several. Plus it looked big enough to hold a laptop, which would make it useful for work trips.

What I failed to notice on the website was a description of the tote as a diaper bag. This did not, however, escape my mother. When the bag arrived I called to thank her.

“Do you have something to tell me?” she asked.

“Umm, thank you, I really like it!” I enthused, assuming my first thank you had not been a sufficiently gushing response to receiving a $215 bag.

A beat, and then: “Is there a reason you would want a diaper bag?”

“A diaper bag?” I asked, distracted as I unzipped my new purse and started removing wads of tissue paper, then a gray folded pad—must be a laptop protector, I mused to myself about what was obviously a changing pad. And then I saw it, inscribed on the bottom of the bag in a curlicue cursive script:

Maybe for you. And only you.

Or when it's not only your bag. Anymore.
Your belongings helplessly thrown together.
With the ones of a tiny human.
When your bag needs to be more than lovely.

Share the space.
In a bag from the world of Littlephant.

In a flash, that yellow crocheted bobble tied to the metal slider of the zipper with a piece of grosgrain ribbon was no longer a whimsical touch of Scandinavian design. I had been attracted to a soft toy for an infant like said infant is drawn to a set of shiny, jangly keys. Through a combination of embarrassment and horror, I snapped back into the present and explained to my mother that I had just thought it was the right shape for carrying my laptop on a plane.

For a moment, I felt empathy for my mother. The fact that I made a conscious decision not have children is not exactly news to her. I did, after all, write a book in part about just that subject. But despite it all—the blog, the book, the twitter handle—somewhere deep inside she still had an ember of hope, an ember I had unwittingly kindled with my request for a diaper bag for Christmas at the age of forty-one.

Once the shock wore off, I did in fact put my Littlephant into service as my go-to work bag. It turns out all the pockets and zipper compartments a mother needs for a day out with baby are also quite useful for cords and notebooks and pens and adapters. After a month or so of using the crocheted bobble to pull the zip open and shut, the yarn unraveled and it came away in my hand. I went to re-attach it, thought for a moment, then threw the bobble away.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Little Darlings

Nauseous in Notting Hill
I spent two days in London over Christmas, during which I stumbled across this free magazine, Little Darlings: the magazine for London mums, in a Notting Hill coffee shop. It featured riveting reading on subjects like must-have strollers and the best-dressed baby bumps around town. It reminded me of a hobbyist magazine like Runner's World, only the hobbies were kids. It left me aghast, although, in fairness, I would have been just as aghast at a magazine touting being childfree as a hobby or "lifestyle-choice." Babies, or the lack of them, are neither.

Elsewhere in England, the Lake District to be specific, I found a more humorous take on parenting. Here's a picture from a wine bar in Ambleside, where the proprietor's sentiments about unruly children have been inscribed on a timber:

Children left unattended will be fed espresso and given a puppy