Smartmom and Hepcat drove out to Ditmas Park last Saturday night to hear Bad Teeth, Teen Spirit’s band, at Vox Pop.
Teen Spirit doesn’t usually allow Smartmom and Hepcat to come to his shows. When he plays at edgy loft music spaces like Shea Stadium in Bushwick, they don’t get the “you are cordially invited” treatment from their boy.
But they were welcome to attend the Vox Pop show because Smartmom frequents the cafe/bookstore/performance space on Cortelyou Road and she even knows the manager, Debi Ryan. In a way, Teen Spirit knew he was stuck. He had to invite good old mom and dad.
Smartmom enjoyed Mother Courage, a band that has an appealing folk/punk vibe with literate and achingly melodic songs. Sitting behind her, Smartmom noticed a man in his late 30s. He was holding a baby, an unbelievably cute 17-month-old. Smartmom couldn’t help but wonder what he and the baby were doing out at a music club so late at night, but then she heard the baby’s dad explain to a friend that “she’s been sleeping all day.”
At one point, the man whispered to Smartmom, “You’re a mom, right?”
“Yeah,” she said. She guessed it was pretty obvious.
“I need to go to the bathroom,” he said. “Would you mind holding my baby? She’s getting sleepy and she really needs a woman.”
“Sure,” Smartmom said. She was glad to donate her womanlyness to this small child.
Smartmom took the baby, and she immediately melted into her arms. It had been years since Smartmom held a baby. None of her friends have babies anymore. They’re all too old, and their kids are old, too.
Ducky, her 5-year-old niece, was probably the last baby that Smartmom got to snuggle in her arms. Before that, it was the Oh So Feisty One, who got too big to hold about 10 years ago, and Teen Spirit, who hasn’t been a baby since 1994.
But holding a baby is like riding a bicycle: you never forget how to do it. Smartmom rocked Baby Vox the way she used to hold her own kids. Standing, she moved side to side, from one foot to another. This is Smartmom’s patented baby-holding stance, and one that babies seem to love.
Smartmom covered the baby’s ears with her hands because Large Lady played really loud noise/punk. It had been years since any of them had been babies, and now they were big and loud rock ’n’ rollers. In comparison, the baby in her arms was warm and quiet with jet black hair, pale skin and a doughy, attentive face. Smartmom breathed in and out the succulent smell of baby. Big kids don’t smell nearly as good.
Smartmom held the baby through three loud punk/noise songs. She wondered what was taking Baby Vox’s dad so long and at one point, she started to fantasize that he would never return and she’d get to keep the baby.
At 51, Smartmom could be a baby mama again. She could spend her days wheeling the baby up and down Seventh Avenue, but this time not in a cheap umbrella stroller, but in a fancy Bugaboo. Smartmom would take Baby Vox to Music for Aardvarks and get to sing the “Hello” song once again.
Smartmom could tell that Hepcat was smitten with Baby Vox, too. She imagined that the baby could sleep in their bed until Teen Spirit moves out to go to college. Then they could turn Teen Spirit’s room into the baby’s room.
Smartmom fantasized about forming another baby group like the one she had when OSFO was 1. She’d invite other moms over to her apartment every Thursday morning and they’d have a gabathon while the kids ran wild.
In the midst of her baby fantasy, Baby Vox’s dad finally returned from the bathroom. But he had another request to make of Smartmom. He put two fingers to his mouth pantomiming a cigarette asked if she’d mind holding the baby while he went out for a smoke.
“Sure,” she said. “Not a problem at all.”
The baby seemed incredibly comfortable with Smartmom. Unfortunately, Baby Vox’s dad was standing in front of the café so delicately removing the baby from the café was out of the question. Actually it was a terrible — no, a disgusting idea. Besides Baby Vox’s mother was probably just having dinner with friends, taking the night off, seeing “Avatar” or something. Then again, maybe her parents were divorced and this was dad’s weekend.
Smartmom didn’t have a clue.
When Baby Vox spotted her dad smoking through the front door glass she waved at him enthusiastically. Smartmom was jealous. She could tell that Baby Vox was incredibly attached to her nice daddy. It would be downright mean to take her away from him.
Baby Vox’s dad finally came back. Cigarette and bathroom break over, he wanted Baby Vox back in his arms again. But first, he thanked Smartmom profusely. He reached for Baby Vox and Smartmom surrendered the small child to her father. In an instant, he put on her pink down jacket and told Baby Vox to say goodbye to her “new friend.”
Smartmom’s arms felt barren, cold. She was sad without that luscious-smelling infant against her chest.
Before she could even grieve the absence of Baby Vox, Bad Teeth was on stage, launching into their haunting opening song, “Raised by Wolves” (a Smartmom reference? Let’s hope not!). The crowd went wild. Teen Spirit, on vocals and guitar, and the band delivered a high-energy set featuring their hard driving, raw, well written and unapologetically catchy songs.
Smartmom moved front and center to watch her son in his true element: on stage, delivering powerful music to a crowd of throbbing fans. She was in awe. Pride swelled through her.
Where does he get all that energy? Where does he get all that talent?
Hepcat ran around Vox Pop taking pictures of his boy and his band. Smartmom didn’t care that she was the oldest person in the room. She didn’t care that it was obvious that she was someone’s mom.
She sang along at the top of her lungs as her son led the crowd in a sing-along:
We are all worthless, but at least we’re not alone.
Who needs the smell of sweet baby’s breath when you have a talented son like Teen Spirit?