Thursday, November 16, 2006

Between here and there ...

His Holiness is between things at the moment. He’s between using the potty and using a diaper, between being a “big boy” and being a “little boy” and between being German and being American. All of this puts Papa in an odd and often anxious posture. I know – and I keep telling myself this as I wash five pairs of pants a day and go through a fortune in Pampers pull-ups – that I will all too soon being looking back on these days with tears in my eyes. But hell, I have tears in my eyes now! He gets that look on his face, that tightening of the muscles around his eyes, a sort of dull look where his face gets all long and his head drops, and I know a “stinker” is imminent. Ninety-nine percent of the time I am too late and the trip to one of three potty seats I’ve bought – that’s right three; a red one, a white one and a blue one – usually ends in a ceremonial dumping of the contents of his diaper (or underpants) and nothing more. He is a little better with “number 1” but even then there seems to be no way of gauging things. Yesterday after a particularly riotous three hours of soiling, I was changing him yet again and stopped to check, to make sure that he didn’t need to use the potty and he agreed, nodded his head and not thirty seconds after the pull-up was in place I could see his eyes clouding over and smelled the telling smell as the hot liquid filled the 25 cent per pair disposable (as in my remaining assets) diapers. He looked me straight in the eye and lied. I didn’t think he was capable of such outright dishonesty. He must have known what was coming, he must have been waiting for the security of that diaper before letting go, and yet he stood there all certain and calm, assuring me that everything was cool. What a schemer!

The “big boy” – “little boy” thing is a little less messy but nonetheless problematic. When he wants to be carried he’s a little boy, when he wants to run and get into trouble he’s a big boy. It’s about that simple. Today, after kindergarten and music school and three pairs of pants and a handful of German bread products, he announces to me that he is a big boy. I will remind him of this tomorrow morning when, about five minutes after we leave the house for kindergarten he will place himself in my path and demand to be carried the rest of the way to school. I don’t mind it really, it’s an excuse to hold him for a few minutes and smell the smell of “clean little boy in the morning” – which is pretty great – but he is approaching forty pounds and as much as I love him (and I do love him a ton) I’m just not strong enough to haul him around in my arms for more than two or three blocks.

The real conflict comes in the afternoon however; the painful (for one of us anyway) and dreaded climb up the stairs of our apartment building. Now a brief word about German apartment buildings. In Germany, what you or I or most any other person on the planet would call the first floor is actually not the first floor. I don’t know what it is called because I haven’t gotten that far in my German lessons yet. All I know is that when I rented this apartment it was billed as being on the “third floor” so on my first day here I went to the third floor and saw some names taped to the front door of the apartment I assumed was mine and I commenced to scratch them off with the keys I had in my pocket. A short time later the landlord called my name from my new apartment on the floor above. I immediately started spitting on the sign I had just been defacing in an attempt to restore the names of the rightful tenants. I don’t know what it is about spit but it seems to right a great many wrongs and cover a great many tracks.

So each afternoon HH and I resume this conflict of wills over whether he will walk up the steps unaided or if he will be a “little boy” once again and need to be carried up the stairs by Papa. I am a bit ashamed to say that as we approach the building each day I have usually concocted some sort of bribe to convince him to walk up the stairs, food is usually the bait, although it might be something else, like the promise of a train ride later in the day or my assurance that he will not have to take a nap if he can demonstrate to me that he is not too tired to walk up by himself. He has begun to get wise to these particular tricks so I will have to come up with some new ones next week.

The German – American thing just goes on and on. He speaks like a native and continues to functions as my side-kick and interpreter. This was a good week for me – I was told more than once that I had a good German accent but at the same time there was a wonderful opportunity that nearly came my way, and landed just out of my reach because my German language skills were not good enough. I’m not going to whine about it but it was a great gig and I would have given at least a tooth, and maybe two to have it. Too bad I couldn’t convince them to let me bring HH along to translate.

More anon …