Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Smallwood fire truck ... Posted by Picasa

Today it snowed ...

January 25, 2006

It snowed today in Köln, really snowed and stuck to the ground, which is rare in these parts. Later, after the sun had set, the rain came unnoticed and washed all the white away, but not before His Holiness had seen it all and laughed out loud and sat down with his colors and drew a sort of ski slope then ran back and forth in the hall imitating the high altitude ski jumpers he sees now and then on Saturday afternoon television. We don’t watch much TV here, even though it’s the medium in which Papa earns his daily bread, but now and then on weekends I weaken and push the big red button that revives the silver box in the corner of the room and we watch sports or German Elmo or maybe a James Bond film. But today life was all about the world outside. Early in the day we stopped at a beauty parlor on our block and HH got his first German haircut from the only person I have yet to see in a beauty salon here in Köln that has anything resembling a reasonable head of hair. I may have commented on this before but if I have it bears repeating; Cologne has more hair salons per square mile than any city I have ever visited in my long life of travel and exploration. It also has without question (although I have not been to Tokyo) the worst hair on the planet. So, it was a wonderful and convenient surprise to find the lovely and well coiffed woman who cut HH’s hair today and made him feel so comfortable that at the end of the cut I had to pull him kicking and screaming from the shop with a promise of exotic travel as a plain and simple bribe.
Nothing excites HH like a good train ride so after his haircut we set off for Rudolfplatz and the Tram. It doesn’t matter to HH where we go only that we take a long time getting there. As nutty as he may be one moment before the promise of a train ride, after that promise is delivered he becomes a perfect example of a 2.4-year-old gentleman. Picture him standing on the platform, little legs spread wide in a stance that must somehow resemble something I do when I wait – he rocks ever so gently back and forth and looks up to me for clarification when a tram or bus approaches the platform. I lean down and tell him no, this isn’t our train or yes, we are getting on now, whatever the case may be and he responds accordingly. We enter the train and he sits upright in his seat, his sprouts shooting out straight into the air, years from reaching the floor, or even bending. And then he settles in, he looks around and takes in his environment. Are there any Oma-types or better yet a young professional woman or mother with whom he can share his observations? He loves to narrate his trips and a ready, attentive and preferably female fellow passenger makes his journey all the more exciting. But even without an audience, HH observes and comments on every element of the urban crust. Each construction crane, taxicab, passing train, colorful station, bridge, church, tall building, even the track beds catch his eye and are cause for remark. And the sky, how he loves to comment on the light. He notices every gradation of change from early morning to dreary middle European late afternoon.
When he was very young, that would be six months ago, we would walk each afternoon to the volunteer fire station in the Hamlet where we spend summers, in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Outside the firehouse is an old 1955 fire truck, the classic item, all round and red and not so big that a child of two can’t take it all in. It sits in a large field just across the road from the station and HH loved nothing better than to visit each day and crawl up into the front seat and drive. The firefighters are trying to raise money to restore the truck and they have a small sign on one side telling those interested where to send funds. I checked with them early on to see if it was ok for us to poke around the old engine and they cheerfully gave us permission to explore it at will. It was during these late summer afternoons that HH first became acquainted with sunset, and the change in light from day to night. As the sun fell lower in the sky, the street light in front of the firehouse came on. That was our signal to begin our return journey home, before the darkness came. You need to know here that in the Hamlet of Smallwood, just about the only streetlight is the one in front of the firehouse, otherwise after sunset the community is totally dark, cold black dark … and there are bears out there … so one wants to be close to home when the final rays of red-gold leave the sky. Since that time HH has been acutely aware of the light in the sky and this morning, as the day began brightly then clouded over, he told me all about it … I wasn’t really paying that much attention, but he noticed and pointed it out to me. I know better than to disregard something this little man says to me. Time and time again he makes observations about some fact or another which at first I simply pass off as an idle comment only to realize that yes, I have just missed the turn for home, or yes, there is a small animal just there in the bush, or an airplane passing or so many other things this keen observer of the world takes in.So today when he awoke from his afternoon nap to find the landscape of Cologne covered with snow he was joyous and leapt into his chair at the dinner table and scratched out his version of a ski slope. It blew my mind I must tell you … I thought I was really paying attention, I thought I knew just about where he was on the developmental scale and then he does something like he did this afternoon and I realize he is moving faster than I had ever imagined … He isn’t a wunderkind, he’s just a normal, curious little boy, but I’ve never done this before so it’s all amazing to me, and just a bit sad, because I don’t want miss even a moment of it, I know I’ll never get another chance.