Wednesday, February 15, 2006

February 15, 2006

I’ve just put His Holiness down for the night after reading him his three favorite books; “Taxi Dog” about a New York City stray who finds the cab driver of his dreams, “Little Bear and his Friends” about a bear cub learning to make and keep friends, and “The Big Red Barn” the classic children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown.
It was a full day, we both woke late and I fixed a big American breakfast of bacon, eggs and brotchen, the last item the single concession to our new German lifestyle. It was raining heavily this morning and neither of us was in any particular hurry to get dressed and go out into it, but I can only spend so much time in the apartment so I suggested that we visit the Museum Ludwig. Now for HH the most attractive part of a trip to the Museum is the train ride, the lure of which was enough to get him out of his pajamas and into his street clothes. We stopped first at the Bagel Café, our little slice of New York City here in the heart of Belgian Quarter of Cologne. The Bagel Café is a regular part of almost every day and the formula is the same each and every time; one poppy seed bagel toasted with cream cheese, a small glass of flat water for HH and regular coffee with milk for Papa. I know this doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but we are almost always the only people in the café and the lovely woman behind the counter takes very good care of us. The two of us sit at the same table each time, and while HH rocks to the American jukebox standards playing on the PA system, he eats his bagel, the cream cheese eventually covering most of the real estate between his two ears. He is so happy eating that simple food, he smiles and laughs out loud at times, looks around the room, comments on the passing parade of cars and trucks and pedestrians moving down the street. I sit across from him and sip my coffee and do my very best to see the world as he is seeing it at that moment, to join him in his reverie. I know I am a part of it, the joy he is experiencing isn’t only about the cream cheese, although I would be fooling myself if I didn’t acknowledge that it was probably a major ingredient in his bliss.

He is changing again. I realize that children at his age are evolving rapidly but there are nevertheless recognizable stages they pass through, and HH is passing from one to the next as I punch these words onto the screen. He was deep into the “terrible twos” just a few weeks ago but now, like a light came on, he has decided that I matter, that he wants to be near me, hold my hand, cuddle with me when he takes a nap, crawl into bed with me in the morning and tonight – praise you Great Spirit – he invited me into his bath. He was having a normal bath, hair washing and nail scrubbing, squirting with numerous blue and pink plastic containers, lots of splashing and carrying on, when out of the clear blue he says, “Papa come in.” I asked him if he really wanted me to join him in his bath and he said yes he did, so I took off my clothes and got in the tub. He howled. I gave him the hand-sprayer (which here in Germany is as close to a shower as it gets) lathered up my head and face and told him to fire away. He was in heaven and I mean heaven. He rinsed me and sprayed me and laughed and splashed until I had to drain the tub for fear he would drown us both.

Early this afternoon when the rain subsided, we ventured out onto a playground nearby. A mother (I had to catch myself there I almost said “another’ mother) was there with her two children, one of whom was exactly the same age as HH. The two boys got along well albeit with a few struggles for possession of a choice green plastic shovel. The woman and I talked about schools and day-care and then she commented about how valuable it was for the children to have some place to go during a substantial stretch of each day. I looked at her more closely; she was young, with another much smaller child on her lap and I know that she probably did need a daily break from the work of child rearing, because it is work – hard work. But as we sat there on the bench and I looked out at my small son, I told her that I was in no hurry to send him off to school, that I coveted every day I had with him. I told her I had never expected to have a son, that HH was a complete surprise, and yet in the moment of his first breath, I could no longer imagine life without him in it.
And so it was today, as we walked through the Museum and HH took a second longer on one painting or sculpture as opposed to another, or lingered at a window, I was watching him, wondering who this little man might be and how could I assist him in realizing his yet unformed dreams. And so it was also tonight, as he ran down the hallway, back and forth a dozen-dozen times, imitating the speed skaters we have been watching during the recent Olympic coverage, his little hands brought up close to his chest, his upper body swishing back and forth as he re-enacts the drama of the performance he has just witnessed. Back and forth he goes, he face intense and focused on the task before him, his body tense, his feet pushing forward and backward along the slick hardwood of our home. And at the end of each lap he comes running back to me, for acknowledgement, and I give it to him, because that is the most important thing I will ever do.