My youngest. My baby.
My little impossible baby.
I look at him now and think all this madness can be traced back to one life-changing event.
It was a beautiful spring day.
Full of promise and pollen, I was out at my in-laws with my husband and my oldest, then 2.
My little boy loved to go for rides on my father-in-law's mower, it was a magical instrument to him, a vehicle that allowed him to see first-hand the grass that was taller than he was and the whole lay of the land.
And there was and is quite a bit a land, believe me.
So much land, in fact, that my father-in-law has two mowers.
The day in question was a Tuesday, and I was nine and a half months pregnant. I was to be induced the next day.
A week before, my father-in-law said, "You need to learn how to drive one of these." He gestured toward the mowers.
Now, everyone knows that I can barely drive a car, let alone some other object with four wheels, a motor and some kind of weird stick shift.
"Sure!" There was such glee on his face, I couldn't say no. I picked the not-so-ominous orange one.
"This one is really easy to drive," he said.
He showed me the particulars, and I was off.
This is easy! Why was I petrified? This is like a moped, although I've never driven a moped, either, but still ... I drove around the yard feeling quite important. You can probably picture me, looking a lot like Moby Dick, a smug look on my bloated face. Look at me, I'm on a tractor! I can drive a tractor, ha. Everyone thought I was hell on wheels, and look at me now - soon I'll be driving a tractor all the time, then a bus ...
I took my little boy for a spin and I could see the respect in his eyes.
"Look at my mommy. She's so awesome, so uninhibited. I want to have her strength someday."
Not that a 2-year-old would think a word like "uninhibited," but you get the picture.
I drove the tractor around a tiny space of yard a couple of more times and shut the motor off. I felt like a pro, next to a NASCAR driver or something.
My husband, Max and I went home, and I kept thinking about the next time I would be in command of the orange machine, or "orange crush" as I secretly called it.
That fateful Tuesday came upon us. Nine-and-a-half months pregnant. Mounting orange crush.
"I'm ready!" I said to my father-in-law.
I took my little boy for another spin again and kept thinking about a song from "Toy Story" that was totally unrelated to what I was doing.
The baby in my tummy kicked, and I felt its respect, too.
Tomorrow, you'll be out to congratulate me on my tenacity!
I stopped orange crush and shut off the motor. I let my small passenger off. He went to join his grandpop on the other, more formidable tractor, the one with the bucket in front.
I told them I would be on orange crush driving around, if they needed me.
They went in one direction and I went in the other, unaware of what was to happen next.
I turned orange crush around and around.
This is such fun. I wish that "Toy Story" song would get out of my head. Wow, this grass is pretty tall, now how do I stop? Like this? How do I accelerate? Oh well, I'll figure it out. Where did the boys go? I can't see them anymore ... oh well, this is really cool, I'm doing fine. Do I pull this stick back to reverse? Wish I could remember. Hmmm, maybe I'll turn and go in this direction. OK, now I'm heading toward the house, I'll go up on the hill a little bit, wow, what a steep hill, I never realized what a steep hill this was before ... I better head back down this hill ... oh! it feels like I'm going to topple over, I better stop, how do you stop? I need to stop! OK, there's the pine tree ... stop ...
Well, I did stop, the pine tree helped me, thank God, and the best part? I accelerated into the pine tree. Finally figured that out.
My father-in-law came running over to me to see if I was OK. I was fine, but shaky. I apologized to him for denting his tractor.
"You'll have to apologize to her about the tree!" he said, referring to his wife and pointing to the now scarred pine.
The rest of the day, my father-in-law and my husband enjoyed each other's company and made many jokes about women drivers. And if that wasn't enough, they also made jokes about pregnant women, too. And of course, they combined them to make the jokes about pregnant women drivers. They even made a few cracks about "going into labor."
We went home that evening and I felt fine.
Well, as fine as you can feel with something pushing really hard on your bladder.
I went to bed and didn't get much sleep, I just felt really uncomfortable the whole night.
This is because of that damn tractor, now I can't get any sleep and I won't be fresh to be induced tomorrow.
So, I got up at 5 a.m. so we could be at the hospital by 7 a.m.
Long story short? I was already in labor, and by the time 5 a.m. rolled around, in some huge pain.
Darn, darn tractor. And now I have that REM song in my head.
I guess my youngest son’s demeanor, unpredictable and explosive, like that ill-fated ride on orange crush, comes honestly.