Keeping up with the Cleavers
Anyone who has lived here for an extended amount of time is
probably familiar with the Durango dilemma: choosing among
recreational activities. Throw a newborn child into the mix, and
the equation becomes infinitely more complex. Not only does a small
child create a logistical quandary for the recreation-bound parent,
but an emotional one as well.
And while some may see a new child as the death knell for their
previously carefree sporting life, I made a vow not to let it stop
me. Rather, I looked at it as a new challenge. Things weren't
impossible, they just required a little more planning. In the end,
it would all pay off with a happy, well-adjusted child and a mother
who actually got to see the light of day beyond the glow of a
changing table nightlight.
After three weeks of anxiously watching the river levels rise
and looking at my neglected new boat, I decided it was time for my
first postpartum outing. Nothing strenuous, I told myself, just a
little float to clear out the cobwebs and make sure everything was
in working order.
However, thanks to last summer's drought coupled with maternal
memory malfunctioning, I was a little rustier than anticipated. Not
quite up to speed with the gear routine, I forgot a crucial piece
of gear: my skull cap.
"I just won't flip," I told myself as I slipped my helmet over
my bare head, climbed into my brand new play boat and slid into the
Of course my lack of head coverage put a practice roll out of
the question. Which was a good thing since I hadn't given any
forethought to outfitting. As I ferried out into the current, I
realized I was a little loose. Hell, there was enough room in there
to lie down and take a nap. This combined with the fact that I also
had no float bags only solidified my resolve to stay upright.
"Just a little down-river run, no playing," I told myself as I
smugly snuck the hole at Smelter, oblivious to the spanking the
river gods had in store for such callous disregard. As I eddied out
in my squirrelly boat, I came face to face with a young boater who
was trying to make his way into the hole. I tried backpaddling, but
soon found myself doing the tag-team hole ride. Knowing full well I
was doomed, I shouted out a profanity, which only served to make
the river gods angrier. The young boy's horrified look was the last
thing I saw before I went down.
I managed enough of a half-assed roll to catch a breath and see
I was headed for trouble. I fumbled underwater with my paddle,
trying to free my blade from the clutches of a hellacious eddy
line. It must have been oxygen deprivation, but I flashed to my
young son, who would be orphaned if I didn't get my act together. I
then thought of other mothers of our time June Cleaver, Carol
Brady, Mother Theresa (like I say, the brain cells were starving)
and was overcome with anxiety and guilt. Where would the Beav not
to mention an entire generation of TV viewers be if June had been
so foolhardy? Who would have served Tang on the Astro-turf if Carol
tried such a stunt? Alice? Would my child be raised by an
adrogynous hired hand in a blue maid's outfit who spent her free
time pursuing a butcher and the local bowling league trophy?
I pulled my skirt.
As I was whisked down the river, I was secure in knowing that,
although my boat was sinking to the bottom of the Animas River, my
child wouldn't grow up to own matching his-and-hers bowling
I pulled myself from the freezing water, and once the oxygen
returned to my brain, I realized the folly of my irrational
behavior. There was no good reason for it, other than a potent and
intoxicating mix of adrenaline and estrogen. Jaded but not
defeated, I was determined to reconcile my recreational pursuits
with my maternal ones. If tribal women went back to work in the
fields the same day they gave birth, I could certainly figure out
how to sneak in a little extracurricular fun now and then.
For the next outing, I employed another tactic. Using the "it
takes a village" argument, I coaxed some friends into pushing the
baby in a stroller down the river path while I floated alongside.
This way I could enjoy some play time while being assured that my
child was safe and sound. We agreed to take stops along the way to
make sure things were going smoothly. We even devised a code of
gestures with which to communicate. A tap on the head meant
everything was OK; the universal choking symbol meant all hell had
The plan worked brilliantly, with me stopping periodically to
check for the "all's-well" sign. However, we forgot to address one
important sign in our ship-to-shore language: the
sign. Seeing how I was already wet, by the time I realized it was
raining, it was too late. I looked to the shore to see one friend
frantically clutching her throat while another beat a hasty retreat
with the stroller, rain and wind pelting the cloth canopy.
By the time I pulled my boat from the river, the baby entourage
had made it to the car. One friend fumbled with the wet car seat
while another stood under a tree holding my screaming, soggy child.
From the looks of it, he was not the only one displeased with me. I
decided to save the "it takes a village" pep talk for another
So it wasn't exactly a scene from Parenting magazine, and I probably wouldn't be
winning "mother of the year." But as everyone sought refuge in the
car from the pounding rain, and I sat in my wet boating clothes
comforting my kid, the smell of musty neoprene permeating the air,
I knew no one would ever accuse me of being June Cleaver,