Posted by: laughs4dads | January 21, 2010

The Bigger Place

When our evolutionary ancestors first discovered the miracle of childbirth, I imagine that the second thing that was uttered by a father, right after “What the hell is that, Ooma!”, was something like, “Oh, jeez, now we need a bigger cave.”
It is a basic survival instinct to know that there are going to be times when parents  will want to put as much distance as possible between themselves and their baby, preferably a distance that includes a large body of water (an ocean, for instance).  Failing in that, the minimum necessity is a wall with a door that closes.  Tightly.

To this end, people with small houses want large ones, people with large houses want huge ones and people with huge houses move to another state and leave the baby behind with the servants.  This, I think, reflects an instinctive knowledge on the part of new parents that a Big Wheel, a pedal car, a sliding pond, a knee-high kitchenette, and 3,796 stuffed animals are going to take up a lot of room.

When Casey was born, my wife, Barbara, and I lived in a one-bedroom co-op in Greenwich Village, an area of Manhattan that is like a theme park with colorful characters in costumes and thrilling rides called “Subway to Nowhere” and “Taxi Cabs Driven By People Who Do Not Speak English and Have Only a Rudimentary Understanding of American Traffic Laws.”

Even as we installed baby implements in an area near the living room window which we comically referred to as “the nursery,” we knew we’d eventually have to move to a bigger place, probably some amount of time before Casey started dating.

So anyway, we began looking at two-bedroom apartments.  The ones in our price range universally had the word “cozy” somewhere in the real estate listing, and the definition of the word was evidently “containing rooms which two relatively slim people can occupy simultaneously, providing one is not wearing a down-filled overcoat.”  Indeed, spaces that real estate agents quaintly referred to as “bedrooms” more closely represented areas that I thought were called “closets,” and holes in the wall that agents called “closets,” were things that I thought of as “holes in the wall.”

And so, one day, my parents stayed with Casey while Barbara and I drove to Westchester where we were lead around by real estate agents to a dozen or so condominium developments.  We picked the one we liked most and bought it.

It has taken us longer to purchase a sofa.

Casey was four months old when we moved.  Our new home was a townhouse with three bedrooms and a den, an actual dining room (in Manhattan, you stand at a pre-ordained position in your living room and say “See?  Here’s the dining room”), a rear porch and an attached garage.

The best part of the new house was the sunken living room.  Okay, not sunken, just partially submerged by one step.  This meant that, for the time being, Casey, who was crawling, was effectively trapped.  The living room became a large playpen, which was fortunate, as her actual playpen had become a large holding bin for toys.  We’d put her down in the living room and leave her; there was nowhere she could go, nothing she could do except play with her toys and eat the remote control from the TV.

Until Barb called me one day at work.

“We’re in trouble,” she said.  “Casey figured out how to get up the step.”
This did not immediately end life as we knew it, because Casey, in that incredibly stupid way infants have, instantly forgot how to get up the step.  It was as though the one time she did, it was less a new ability and more a chance, random occurrence, like when a bunch of elements explode and create a universe.  We’d watch her crawl up to the step, and we’d see some sort of thought process going on, like “Gee, I think I got up on this thing before, now how the hell did I do it?”

Finally, a number of days after her initial breakthrough, she remembered how to do it.  She never attempted to put one knee up first, then the other.  Instead, she opted for the kamikazee approach, which was to launch her upper torso onto the step, then drag the rest of her after it.

Soon, she was doing this literally hundreds of times a day.

It was painful to watch.

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