You know when you have been invited to about 15 baby showers in two years, No? Well consider yourself lucky. When you have had the pleasure of having new invitations flood your mailbox every couple of months announcing the latest bundle of joy that is going to end up costing you a bundle of cash, you start to get baby gift jaded. (Seriously though, why did they never tell you in college that you better start a 401K annnnnd save money for all of your friends’ major life decisions?!)
Well, I had definitely become jaded. I was already on a Gymboree mailing list and was a regular fixture at Babies-R-Us for a while. I soon realized how marketing was out of control on these baby items, things every mom swore they needed but never used. If I was going to spend money on a gift it better be for something they actually used.
Shower after shower I heard new mothers comparing what their precious terror used and what everyone HAD to have. Do you know what a Sophie giraffe is? I do. What about a sleep sack? What about non suffocating blankets? Okay that last one is probably a good idea, but I still have mixed feelings on the fact that every stroller has cup holders.
As I get invited to my latest shower it is for a friend who isn’t all goo-goo-gaga over every baby product on the market. This new baby’s nursery I could live in, which I probably have while staying with them in Chicago. This is also not your typical baby shower. My friend has a mother-in-law that runs with a group of women who we have dubbed, “the ladies” and take party planning very seriously, baby showers included. My friend had given me fair warning that this was not going to be a tea and crumpets (I don’t know what those are still) and watch me open gifts type of shower.
“I hope people do not think I asked for this type of shower Kelly, I mean it is really above and beyond what any baby shower should be.”
“What are we talking here? A large guest list? A fancy hotel?”
“No, let’s just say, the theme is Cirque de Bebe”
“Excuse me?,” I said trying not to let the amusement show all over my face, I was already getting so excited for the circus that was about to take place, literally.
“Yeah, there are 90 women invited and I heard a mention of Cirque de Solis dancers.”
“What?! At your shower, professional dancers?” Thoughts of the Bridesmaids bridal shower came to mind and I secretly hope for a giant cookie sabotage and maybe instead of a golden retriever puppy we would be given little monkeys as party favors and I prayed to God they would be wearing clothes.
“Yes, it was supposed to all be a surprise but they told me that much.”
So knowing what kind of shower I was going to be attending and the fact that my friend’s anxiety could possible be approaching an all time high, I wanted to get her something more unique than nipple pads and more sustainable than organic diapers.
I had seen the baby’s nursery in person and I knew what a good job she had done putting it together, I thought maybe I should get her a chest to use as storage for things, babies require a lot of “things.”
My google search was alive and I came across nerdy toy chests, expensive toy chests, but nothing grandiose. Then I saw a blog where a girl had made a toy chest. My wheels started turning, if this chick on the internet could make a chest than so could I! I mean she provided the shopping list and step-by-step instructions. My father, being a self proclaimed handy man, had a plethora of tools so this idea seemed less and less far-fetched.
I brought my plan to my dad and let him look it over. “Do you think I can do this?” His answer to everything is yes and he volunteered to help. I met him at Home Depot with my list in hand. Being new to the carpentry business a few things surprised me, first large pieces of plywood are much heavier than they appear, the kids who work there are about as helpful as a blind person directing traffic and they have hand saws you can use to cut trim that look like they were taken from my middle school shop class (seriously, it took so much effort to cut that trim that my arms were on fire when I left the store). Thank goodness for my dad who knew his way around the place to help pick out the supplies I needed.
Walking out with a cart I thought how most real carpenters probably do not drive hatch back hybrids, I thought for a moment if I was going to get serious, maybe I would need a truck. For now, I loaded the stuff into my dad’s slightly larger sedan and watched him drive off while trying not to let a piece of trim stab him in the face.
Sunday, our workday, decided to be glorious and warm. I had a good feeling my box was going to actually turn out okay. We drug the table saw and jig saw outside and started to measure. I was scared to death to rip by first piece (that is real carpentry lingo). I was scared it would shift and I would ruin it but low and behold it went through that blade as smooth as silk.
My dad helped me with all the tools as we clipped and glued the pieces together before we could nail them. A nail gun is pretty awesome, my dad was like wait until you try the ‘bammer” I thought he had made up a pet name for his nail gun, but it was seriously called the bammer and it was awesome as promised.
Step by step we went through to make this box, each one a new adventure for me, I learned so much, like my arms aren’t strong enough to use a jigsaw to cut arches, any mistake made with wood can be fixed and the internet girl who said this toy chest would only take 6 hours was a liar.
Eight hours later it was built, ready to be sanded and painted. I was spent, my arms were exhausted and I need to break from building.
The next night when putting on the paint I admired the chest I had created and I do not toot my own horn often but this chest was toot worthy. It was painted and the baby’s name was added from letters my mother found for me at Hobby Lobby. I think she was just excited I had given her another excuse to go back there. The chest was complete. The real test came when I went to see if this thing was going to fit into my small roller-skate of a car, it did, thank god. I do not think Amtrak would have been too impressed if I showed up with a chest in tow looking for a ride to Chicago.
I was pretty excited for the weekend, not only to present this handmade monstrosity but also to experience what this shower of the century was going to entail. I was, though, a little bummed that the invitation came by mail and was not delivered by a man on stilts, but I let that slide.
I was on the highway from St. Louis by 8:00 am. I hit my first piece of construction traffic right in downtown, but by 9:00 I was moving, losing one hour wasn’t too bad. I called my friend at 12:30 letting her know I was about 40 miles out, I would see her in an hour, I thought. I arrived at her house at 5:00pm. About 10 mins after the call I hit a stand still traffic, I put the roller-skate in park and waited and waited. I got news that they had closed the highway due to flooding and they we rerouting everyone through town to another highway to where we were passed the flooding. Over 4 hours of traffic later I was at her house, it should never take 9 hours to get to Chicago.
Upon arrival she and her husband took the weary traveler to eat and then it was time for the big unveiling. We carried the chest into her home and she thought it was great.
“Where did you find this?”
“Open the card.” The card had a montage of pictures of me building the chest. I made my dad capture every moment, I mean there is a real a possibility that my debut as a carpenter could very well be simultaneous with my retirement.
She was in shock and awe, as was I. I still couldn’t believe I pulled it off. We, her husband and my friend’s boyfriend carried it up to the baby’s room and it fit quite perfectly.
After 9 hours in the car I thought I needed a drink but it turns out I just needed to go to bed. Did I mention I had my separation anxiety ridden Yorkie with me? I did, she was quite a good road trip companion, slept the entire way and didn’t even try to entertain me while we were sitting in stand still traffic.
The guest of honor had 7 girls sleeping at her house that weekend, I opted to stay at my other Chicago friend’s house and to stay sane, that is a lot of girl talk about babies for one weekend.
The morning of the shower we had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t put much thought into planning a Cirque de Bebe appropriate outfit (what is that even?) And just hoped no one was offended that I wore colored skinny jeans and boots. I mean I built something, I decided, I deserved to be casual.
Upon arrival at Carnivale, this crazy loudly painted and decorated restaurant in Chicago we were greeted with Champagne, Mojitos, Sangria and feathers, lots of feathers. The restaurant itself was stimulation enough without the added decorations, but it wouldn’t be the shower of the century without added decorations of sequined napkin holders, personalized place settings and large feathered centerpieces now would it?
We were shown to our tables and treated to a “warm up act” before the real performance would begin. Our three-course lunch was served so there wasn’t a hunger pang in sight for the grand show. Interpretive dancing, ribbons, flips, a girl being able to hold herself in positions in mid air that I couldn’t do on the ground if my life was being threatened. This girl even inserted herself head first into a human sized balloon, I had ever seen anything like it.
There was an intermission where we were treated with homemade cotton candy. One girl couldn’t get over the fact that she was at a baby shower that actually had an intermission.
“I know, right. It is like the bridal shower Helen threw in Bridesmaids.”
“Well then Kelly, you are the one upper, whittling a gift out of freaking wood!.”
My “mom” friends made themselves very comfortable at the bar drinking Mojitos like we were on a college Spring Break in Puerta Vallarta
Needless to say, I will never attend another baby shower quite like that one ever again and truthfully I hope to be retired soon from the baby shower circuit.
But I learned that by me building that chest that anything is possible. Just like Ice Cube says, “you can do it, put your back into it.”