Sometimes when I break for awhile, it’s hard to know where to pick up the story. Should I just focus on highlights, things that made me happy? The continuing story of my kids, and what life is like with them lately? Should I just paint this moment and be done? I’m really not sure.
We went to TCAF last weekend. I’ve been anxious and sad this month and last, and the idea of TCAF seemed fraught with potential disappointment. It takes an awful lot of effort and gear to provision us through a single day out; a weekend seemed monstrous. Perhaps it would be more virtuous to stay home, help Maggie practice sitting, feed her mush and take her on long walks. The weekend before last I gave up on the Spring Knitters Frolic, another crowded once-a-year event that I usually look forward to. I was pretty sure that giving up TCAF would be a mistake. But Mason has been sick for days and Blake is not thrilled about anything lately and I’ve already mentioned the gear issue with Miss Maggie. Hard to figure out what, if anything, would help.
We did go, though. We took Blake on Saturday, and he was much better to be around than in previous years, mostly because I dreamed up a TCAF Rule: once you buy it, it goes away until you leave. Then I only had to keep him from stopping to read the displays, rather than the displays and the books he’d bought, and the books I bought… Of course, he wanted to leave after a few hours, and we forced him to stay on while Mason had a chance to browse. We had been separated for hours while Mason went to buy Hillside tickets, and I had forgotten my phone in the rush of getting out of the car with all the gear, a crying baby and a kid who had to go to the washroom; there was no way other than luck for the two of us to find each other. But we did, and we didn’t lose each other for the rest of the day, so that was something. And I saw all kinds of people I knew, from Dav to Cody to Jim.
The next day I had recovered from lack of sleep and total stress, and was willing to try it again. So off we went, just the three of us this time and no long separations to make it complicated. It was much better, much more relaxed. We were able to browse without worrying about losing a kid, and say hi without being hustled along by that same kid. Mason was really sick, so we tried to take it easy on the second day: just visit people we’d missed and catch some panels so that we could sit down.
In this vein, we went to a panel of Chip Zdarsky and Kate Beaton. Our arrival on Saturday, though early, was not early enough to be admitted to the Beaton signing line, so this was my one official opportunity to see her. (My unofficial opportunity came on Saturday when I was browsing the Topataco tables and she wandered by behind the table. I only looked up when I realized that someone was talking about babies, and realized it was Kate, so I tried to talk normally and not geek out. After all, I was the one with the baby.)
On Sunday I wasn’t as apprehensive. For one thing, there were more than a hundred people in the room with us, and for another thing there was free water. I may have learned little in my spotty career in university journalism, but I did learn to take advantage of free things on side tables, so while Mason unloaded Maggie on me and went to find the bathroom, I poured myself a glass of delicious water. We had found two aisle seats, as close as we were going to get while also providing an escape route if Maggie started to squawk. I was a little too keyed up to sit down, so I leaned against the wall, drinking my water and playing with Maggie. I thought about going up to say hi to Chip, since the last time we met was the first night I knew I was pregnant, but I chickened out. Maybe he wouldn’t recognize me without the nauseous haze of the first trimester. Maybe he had suffered a massive mac n’ cheese amnesia about that night. Who knew? Best to stay in the aisle, dancing with the baby.
The panel was charming, and I enjoyed it enormously. To be honest, I hadn’t expected Chip to be much of an interviewer: I knew he was funny and friendly but I thought that was it. But I liked the drift of his questions, which were intelligent and keen mixed with a good dose of smartassery. I learned things. Nadine came by to ask if the chair was taken, and we both realized a second later that we knew each other, so yes, it was taken by her from then on. Maggie was a terrific baby: funny and sweet and flirty with the people around us, and quieting quickly when I had to feed her half-way through. Sometimes she can just be the very best companion in the world because she’s such a joy that she smoothes over all of the quotidian bother of being in the world. Being with her makes me incredibly happy because I find her delightful, but I also get to bask in the admiration of others. It’s the best.
So of course, when questions were solicited and I happened to have one, I stood up with her and made my way to the front. “Hey, it’s the baby!” said Chip, and Kate said, “I saw that baby come in.” Chip also promised not to punch her, although I forget exactly why he felt it necessary to make that promise. They also referred to Maggie when we had returned to our seat: someone had asked about Wuthering Heights and Kate said her favourite moment was Heathcliffe regretting catching a baby, after which she and Chip felt they needed to apologize to my baby for mentioning such a scary idea. Basically, I found a way to make the panel all about my baby and I’m not even sorry.
Afterwards I did have the courage to go up and talk to Chip, and even get Kate to sign Maggie’s copy of Nursery Rhyme comics. I’m glad Kate Beaton likes my baby, but it’s really gilding the lily. I like Maggie enough for everyone already.
What have I learned from this TCAF? I learned that I miss people, and I want to spend more time in hangouts. I learned that Maggie is the source of all happiness, ever. And I learned that, despite feeling like everything was just too hard to begin with and having it confirmed on Saturday morning when I was hauling two kids and roughly a thousand pounds of gear with no way of getting in touch with my main support or my friends, TCAF is worth it.