On May 3rd, I went to a baby shower for Heather, a friend who is a transplanted Rhode Islander and a distant cousin of my husband Doug. It had been many years since I’d been to a baby shower. At 67, the only two women I know who are pregnant are Heather, the honoree, and our daughter Amy. Both of them are in their late 30’s.
The shower was held on a gorgeous sunny day (extremely rare in Juneau) at a tiny boutique called “Fiddlehead and Ferns”, located on the back side of the bowling alley and adjacent to the Federal Building’s big parking lot. I had no idea it was there, but the young moms at the shower knew all about it. The walls were filled from floor to ceiling with baby paraphernalia, breast feeding products, books, and art.
As the room began to fill with women’s laughter, hugs, and comments about the amazing sunshine we’ve been enjoying, I found an empty chair in the small circle of eight women. Jason, Heather’s husband, stationed himself with a camera and his iPhone where he could get the best photos of his wife. Rofino, their Cuban neighbor and a strikingly handsome young man, was also a guest.
Unlike baby showers when I was pregnant in the 1970s, there were no games. After introductions, we watched Heather unwrap her gifts. I gave her a couple of onesies and a bib with a map of Rhode Island on them that were a fun surprise. Heather, who still has a distinctive R.I. accent, loved them. (They are available for all states at Café Press.com.) After the gifts were unwrapped, and Heather patiently educated me about one of the nursing bras that I think also magically increased the flow of breast milk, one of the hostesses put on a CD. A distinctly Middle Eastern song filled the tiny room. Two belly dancers from the Daughters of the New Moon troupe in Juneau strode in wearing full Arabian Nights attire and dancing in time with the music. Their hips swayed and their zills (finger cymbals) provided an accent to each roll of their hips. Clapping her hands and laughing, Heather was obviously surprised.
The two women introduced themselves and handed out scarf belts covered with coins and showed us how to tie them low on our hips and use them to make music. The older dancer told Heather how belly dancing had strengthened her own pelvic floor muscles and helped her with labor right up to delivery. After some rudimentary lessons in how to roll and shake our hips, they invited us to go outside to the Federal Building parking lot and learn the belly dancing basics. That is how I found myself in the biggest stretch of concrete in Juneau on a hot sunny day learning the art of moving one’s hips while keeping one’s core steady, and that brings me to the point of my story: We need to use the equivalent of Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent”, a novel about the tent in which women of Jacob’s tribe stayed in when menstruating or giving birth, for baby showers in the United States of America.
Instead of learning the art of rotating my hips from the vantage point of a concrete curb in a parking lot, I imagined us far away in a Lawrence of Arabia landscape. Our spacious Women’s Tent was surrounded by swaying palm trees and a circle of smaller tents. There was an aqua blue lagoon a few steps away. The tent floor was covered with vibrant Middle Eastern rugs. Tapestries hung from the inside walls creating a kaleidoscope of luscious colors. Weaving in and out gracefully, our bare feet moved across the carpets in time with the music. As a Crone, I wore a long shimmering silk gown of purple with a rose belt covered with coins, or if I rejected years of conditioning, I could wear with pride exactly what the younger women wore. Back to my vision, the young women wore their skirts and jangling belts low on their hips. Their tops were decorated with gold bangles and beads that accented their cleavage. Most had belly button piercings visible just above the coin belts, which were actually skillfully played musical instruments. Camels were tethered outside making their strange gargling sound. (Google it!)
Then the lesson was over. We untied our belts, gave them one last shake, returned them to the real belly dancers, and slowly walked back into Fiddlehead and Ferns. I was happy, but tired and hot. I needed a good long nap. Heather was absolutely radiant.