Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Baby Magic

I made the decision to take Sami to the CAA (College Art Association) conference with me back in December, when all he did was eat, sleep, and get his diaper changed, with brief stops to wonder at the world around him. The conference was last weekend, and by now, Sami is much more active, spending long periods of time interacting with the people around him, and even "talking" rather loudly. And while he isn't a big crier, he can, when he feels the occasion demands it, put out.
We flew into LAX on a big 757 that was pretty full. The young man sitting next to me tried to give me privacy as I breastfed, and assured me that he was used to baby stuff as he had a young nephew. When I went back to change Sami, though, I found some empty seats next to a mother of young adults, and she held Sami while I moved my things back and then we talked the rest of the way into LA.
Once there I picked up my rental car and headed through the rush hour traffic of downtown to get to my parents' house, where dinner- (one of my favorites- thanks Mom!) of hamburger pinwheels was ready. My sister and her family joined us.
Wednesday I headed down a little late to the LA Convention Center where two citizenship ceremonies were being held that day. (They up the price of parking to take advantage of the immigrants that day- doesn't seem fair!) It was interesting to see people dressed up, carrying congratulatory flowers, pushing baby strollers, buying commemorative teddy bears and making a day of it. My Mom had her ceremony there a couple of years ago. My dad did not give her flowers- in fact, they couldn't even find each other in the crowd.
But I was there for the conference. I checked in and then checked out the student and emerging professionals lounge, thinking that would be a good place to escape to when Sami was fussing. It was quiet and serious, with people huddled over their laptops and speaking only in whispers. I quickly made my escape.
The first session I went to was about Feminism in the early modern age, and the woman behind me was happy to see I'd brought a baby and offered her arms if I needed them. Had I seen her later in the conference, I would have passed the baby on right then, but the first day I had no idea how tired I'd be. This was the beginning of people loving on Sami, and me. Older women came up and told me how they'd brought their babies to conferences, and younger women told me about babies they'd left at home. One mother/scholar suggested I take Sami to hear Mary Kelly- artist of Postpartum Document- speak the next day. One woman in the exhibit hall on Thursday asked to hold him because her children were all grown up.  Several people thanked me for bringing him.
I was worried that I wouldn't see my professor at all, but ended up running into her when I got off the elevator, and then again later, and indeed, saw her many times throughout the conference.
On Wednesday night I left him with my parents so my sister and I could go to a talk about the Weegee exhibit at MOCA by the curators of the show. Then we picked him up and went out to dinner nearby.
Thursday I got up early, ready for a full day of conference. I started at a panel on Latin American art and then switched over to hear one of my professors on another one. Sami kept me busy and I went in and out off all the sessions several times. I went back to the lounge for a discussion on working and art practice and even talked about being a mother and an artist/student in response to someone else's question. Two of the panelists (profs from Texas, no less) were fathers with 4 and 6 children, and one of them talked about his wife, a sculptor, and how she worked. Afterwards he came up and asked to hold Sami because his own youngest was 15 months already. Both he and the other father came up to speak to me and show appreciation for my bringing Sami. The other dad has a two weeker at home.
I only caught bits and pieces of Mary Kelley's talk. 
At the exhibit hall Sami was cooed over and I got the chance to talk to a lot of different people. Then we headed off into rush hour traffic. Sami screamed his way up the 101 until I could do his preferred speed of 60+ miles per hour. He's kind of like that bus in the movie Speed- go below a certain speed and everything explodes. I had a delicious dinner at my sister's house and then crashed into bed, too tired to do anything.
Friday I set off a little later for the conference. As I pushed Sami toward the conference, a colorful, rotund man came up and said- does he have a ticket? I asked if artworks needed one as Sami was my biological genetic sculpture. He thought this was pretty funny and then kept telling people that Sami was a genetic experiment- not quite the same thing.
We attended several sessions- in and out again- and I thought it would be a good idea to go to the business meeting/reception in the evening. While the business part of it was not very relevant for me, the keynote speaker- with a short presentation- was very interesting. She mostly showed us a presentation with very little talking, so Sami decided he needed to add narrative. Luckly most people enjoyed that- or at least, they are the ones who came up and told me so afterwards during the champagne and cake reception. One woman even told me I was too young to have 3 kids! I told her I was too old to have this one.
Again, we got home to eat dinner and fall into bed exhausted.
Saturday morning I left Sami at home with my Mom again and only went for half a day. I got to sit through the whole panel discussion this time, but was disappointed that one of the speakers listed didn't speak. Then I went down to the exhibit hall and bought some books at the last day 50% discount, scoring a nice retrospective Cindy Sherman tome which my dad will have to ship media mail to me.  I was surprised that many people asked me- "Where's the baby!" I thought they might not recognize me without him.
My professor recommended I go to LACMA to see the surrealist women show, In Wonderland, so my sister and I took Sami down there in the late afternoon. He didn't want to stay in his stroller, so we ended up taking turns carrying him through the extensive exhibit- and once again, people looked at him instead of the art. (A nice foil to all the surrealism I guess.) We really enjoyed it- I want a catalogue so I can remember it all- K was good at this. Silvia Fein had some pieces I want to revisit.
For once I wasn't too exhausted after dinner and so we played a cut throat game of Scrabble, which my mom won.
Sunday morning we actually left for the airport a little earlier than we needed to, which was a good thing, because without warning, the entrance to the airport freeway was closed and I had to go east instead of west and do a u-turn down in Watts to get headed in the right direction. Sami slept through it all and was still sleeping when I pulled in to return the car. The woman who received it took a look at him and told me to hold on a minute and leave him in the car. She came back and announced- I'm taking you to the airport. So we loaded up the trunk again and she took us right to American. Apparently she almost never does airport direct, but can't resist a baby. (Or really, likes to help the mamas!) On the way over she told me about her 2-year-old who she got to daycare before her 6:30 shift started. She didn't want a tip, but I insisted she get something for her baby.
There were no baby specials on bag checking, but Sami did get me out of going through the scary, invasive x-ray machine without getting a pat down. Once at the gate a Vietnamese woman came over and started playing with him and then picked him up and held him for quite a while.  When they asked if anyone wanted to gate check their bags, I leapt at the chance. I'm not going to pay $25, but I don't want to carry it on the plane and risk conking Sami on the head lifting it into an overhead compartment. (Baby magic/chivalry saved him on the flight out).
The woman from Vietnam saw us again while we were waiting for H and the kids and came over to talk to Sami some more.
When the rest of the family arrived there were big smiles all around. I think Sami really missed them, and they all missed him, too. Now, if only baby magic could get my bags unpacked!

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