I had hoped to lose my baby pounds before we headed off to Germany to visit Joerg's friends and family for the first time since Annika came into our lives with all her beauty, joy, and drama. I have finally realized that this is not going to happen, so I went out today and bought two pairs of pants that actually fit me (and do not involve elastic) to prepare myself psychologically to meet people who last saw me 35 pounds ago.
Of course, the 35 pounds is not the whole story. There is also the 20 pounds I gained when I quit smoking with my lupus diagnosis 8 years ago (and which was mild enough to go into complete remission with a few years of drugs and lifestyle changes and so is a non-issue nowadays). And then there were the 15 hospital pounds that seems to come to all long-term hospital stay caregivers. There is no more sedentary lifestyle than that of the hospital parent, plus CMH in Chicago has the most glorious, huge chocolate chip cookies in the world--source of much blissful escapism on bad days. Joerg, lucky bastard, actually resumed smoking to deal with the stress of those days, but breastfeeding mommy did not have that option. Especially not breastfeeding mommy to a little girl with a fragile liver and generally precarious health. All those gains are all looking pretty big, now that I see them there in front of me, but I'm sticking with the assertion that I'm only 35 pounds above where I actually think of myself. I mean, who really goes back to 115 pounds after having two kids and passing 30? That's just crazy.
Anyway, on the way home I began reminiscing about the way I used to dress, which was 100% thrift store chic. Heavy on the thrift store and light on the chic. Let's just say that I was not afraid of color. All of which reminded me of my very favorite sartorial compliment I have ever received. When I was a senior in college I got a job as a preceptor for a teaching tour of Kenya. I had written an independent study on African philosophy and literature (huge category, I know, but that's what those undergraduate independent studies are for, right?), and also had some experience in travelling off the beaten path, and thus stumbled into the best job, ever. The semester before we were to leave, I made friends with a Kenyan exchange student, who gave me a few pointers on the upcoming trip. One day in Wal-mart, I spotted this shirt--polyester, I think, although it felt like the cheap silk some pajamas are made of--which was covered in some sort of farmer's market theme. Vegetables, fruits, hand-lettered signs. It was one BUSY piece of business. But it was only $2 (I wonder why?) and I knew I could make it work. In fact, I had been looking for something to wear over my super-comfortable black leggings, which I could not wear without a very large shirt to cover my thighs. Remember, I was a whopping 115 pounds at that time. I wore that shirt, with leggings, on the day we loaded the bus to head to the airport. My Kenyan friend was there to see us off. He took one look at me, up and down, gave me a huge smile and said, "They are going to love you over there!"
I bought lots of stuff on that trip, even bartering my tennis shoes for some soapstone statues I liked, but the stuff I loved the most was the fabric. It was cotton, with sayings written in Swahili at the bottom that said things like, "Step off, now! We both know you're not all that." And I actually wore that fabric when I returned, wrapped around me in all sorts of creative fashions that I had learned there.
So that's where my mind wandered as I returned home with my shopping bag, Khaki pants inside. That's where I am now. But, Annika and Frankie, I want you girls to know that your mama was once a Kanga