Sunday, June 15, 2008

A father's day

It's been a full day, as most are. June weekends have been stuffed, and this one was taken over for the most part by The Boy's fifth birthday party (more about that later no doubt). Today was a little different, a time for recovering and for Q and The Boy to bring out the drawings and gifts for me that they had squirreled away in the closet. I think they enjoyed keeping the secret as much as what they kept secret, and I relished the theater of it all. My lovely wife also went to the kids when they both fell out of bed earlier than usual this morning. Now that's a Father's Day present.

Here's a story that fits this day nicely: Last weekend we went to a birthday party at some good friends of ours who used to live in our building. Their daughter was turning three, and, along with cake and too much great food, we knew there was going to be swimming (they have a pool) and a large inflatable castle water play thing that Q and The Boy would love. These friends left our building for an expansive house just north of the City, so we packed up our swimsuits and towels and car seats and set out for the rented car.

First, the car was late. We were supposed to get our car at 1:00 p.m., but the good folks at Zipcar called to say that the renter before us was running behind and would I like to cancel my reservation (at no charge) or take it late? Not going was, of course, not an option. At 1:30, then, I went down into the parking garage to retrieve the little Mazda as my lovely wife and the kids waited up on the sidewalk. I drove up and parked in the garage's opening to strap in the kids and load up generally. Now, we're more or less car-ride rookies, and odds are better than even that Q will throw up at some point during the trip. (She knows this, too, and usually claps her hand over her mouth just as I set her into her car seat.) Wouldn't you know it, Q did throw up right as I was fastening the belts, before we'd rolled an inch. Okay. So we took her out along with the bag with the beach towels, and we sacrificed one to clean her up. As we were swapping her dresses (my smart wife always packs extra everything), an SUV pulled up behind us wanting to exit the garage and honked. We scrambled back into the car and drove off, glad to be on our way.

As we were almost out of the city, Q asked for her Big Blanket and Little Blanket, which is to say she wanted her comfort blankets that she's had since, well, the dawn of her time. My wife looked to the back seat for the bag of blankets (and swimsuits and towels and flipflops and sunscreen and ...), and realized that instead of it sitting on the floor beneath Q's swinging feet it was sitting on the sidewalk just outside the parking garage in downtown Manhattan.

So we faced a choice: (1) go back for the bag and miss most if not all of the party, or (2) go on and start repairing the psychic damage suffered by a little girl whose parents left a big, irreplaceable chunk of her life on a New York street. We opted for (2), given that the bag might very well have been taken by the time we got back to the garage anyway.

To Q's credit, she (unlike my wife and I) didn't freak out. As I went into reassuring mode, my wife called the garage to ask if the attendant could walk up and check for a bag. She did get a hold of him, but he said he couldn't leave the booth for another fifteen minutes or so and that she should call back. About thirteen-and-a-half minutes later, my wife called again, and it turned out that the bag was still there (and still full of stuff) and that the attendant had it next to him in the booth. Deep, collective sighs ensued.

Could he keep it there until we brought the car back that night around 7 p.m.? Well, he told us, he couldn't say for sure — his shift ended at 4 p.m. and all bets were off after that. Sheesh. Okay, we made it to our friends' house, and as we rolled to a stop in their driveway, Q threw up again, this time all bright red juice all over her new white dress. My wife took them both into our friends' house, borrowed swimsuits for them both and left them to get wet with the other kids as she borrowed their washing machine for Q's seat cover and dresses. This was at about 2:45.

At 2:47 I got back into the car and drove the 30 city miles back to the parking garage for the bag. There was no choice, really — we couldn't risk re-losing Q's blankets. And but so I did make it back to the booth in time and back to the party (another 30 city miles) by around 4:30. I arrived in time to sing "Happy Birthday" and down two pieces of cake on a princess plate. At 5:30 we retrieved the fresh laundry and the exhausted, exhilarated children and went home with all our possessions plus two new goody bags full of wonderful stuff.

Things all worked out, then. And now I have a story to tell and a reputation with Q and The Boy: The Boy now has (another) reason to think of me as forgetful, and Q has concrete evidence of what her dad will do for her. Not a bad trade off, all in all.

Okay, so this post is getting a little long, but I want to exit with a poem by Timothy Steele that I recently ran into. It reminds me of how I've spent and spend much time these five years as a father, and the lines themselves arc and move just like Q.

The Swing
by Timothy Steele

She shrieks as she sweeps past the earth
And, rising, pumps for all she's worth;
The chains she grips almost go slack;
Then, seated skyward, she drops back.

When swept high to the rear, she sees
Below the park the harbor's quays,
Cranes, rail tracks, transit sheds, and ranks
Of broad, round, silver storage tanks.

Her father lacks such speed and sight,
Though, with a push, he launched her flight.
Now, hands in pockets, he stands by
And, for her safety, casts his eye

Over the ground, examining
The hollow underneath the swing
Where, done with aerial assault,
She'll scuff, in passing, to a halt.

Happy Father's Day, everyone.

(Note: Here's the blog header at the time of grandpa and The Boy from a few years ago

It's for you, Grandpa


1 comment:

teahouse said...

Hey, what an awesome story. I'm so glad the blankets were still there! Whew!

My sister, who's 25, still has her security blanket that was given to her at birth. It's just a handful of threads now, but she still keeps it stuffed under her pillowcase when she sleeps.