Thursday, April 19, 2007

From here to there ...

I finally got a bike. I should have done it ages ago but never got around to it. There’s a big purple child seat on the back and that’s where HH sits. We couldn’t be happier with our new mode of travel. Like most of our fellow urban bi-peds, we started traveling together using a Baby Bjorn sling, first with his tiny face pressed into my chest (with me checking him every 30 seconds for fear he was smothering) and later with him facing out to the world, arms and legs dangling free.

This was how he first got to know Manhattan; the green market at Union Square, the subways, midtown, Tartine (my favorite café in the West Village) and countless miles of the city we walked together in that first year. I had sworn to myself that the dreaded stroller would be used only in emergencies and never as the travel mode of choice, but soon the Baby Bjorn was straining at it’s seams and HH was too big to carry all the time and too small to walk very far. So each day I hauled the McLaren down the steps of the brownstone and onto planes and trains and taxis and until last week it went just about everywhere we did.

We also walk together, but a three-year-old moves at a pace that has little to do with his ability and a great deal to do with his temperament and the unpredictability of HH’s mood at any given time was just too great. Some of the great lower back pains in recent memory have come from deciding not to bring the dreaded stroller on a particular outing, only to find myself in the late afternoon with 20 kilos of HH on my shoulders, trudging home for what feels like an eternity on the sidewalks and cobblestone streets of Cologne.

The wonderful thing about the bike is that we can easily go to places that used be to a huge hassle – like the public library. One of HH’s favorite books is “Corduroy Goes to the Library.” It is on the preferred reading pile next to his bed, right beside his heavy equipment picture book and “Big Red Barn.” I explored the library alone a few weeks ago and acquired a library card for HH – he was thrilled – and we started going together to the afternoon children’s reading hour. It was such a slog getting over there however, that I was beginning to regret ever introducing him to it. With the bike it’s a breeze and yesterday after picking him up from kindergarten, we sped over to the library and sat together while a wonderful and colorful older woman read from her private collection of German children’s books. “Oh Wie Schön ist Panama”was one of the stories that was read yesterday. HH likes to sit on my lap at such events and that suited me just fine because I could look over his shoulder and read along with the story, learning new words and hearing them pronounced in proper German. We had great fun, HH eating Gummi Bears and listening intently to the stories and Papa doing the same, minus the Gummi Bears.

At the end of the day we made his favorite dinner of mushrooms and penne noodles and he went off into his room alone to speak with his animals, something his does now and then, only rarely while I’m in the room unfortunately. I took advantage of the stolen moment of quiet to work on some music and soon enough he came into the room, his arms loaded with bunnies and bears and he crawled up next to me on the sofa.

I had recently written a song for him, not a lullaby exactly, but nearly and one of the verses contains the line, “When you were still a cowboy you would ride on my knee.” When he heard that line last night he looked up at me and said, “Papa, I’m still a cowboy.” I reassured him that it was just a song and that yes, he was still a cowboy. He fell asleep like that, curled up next to me surrounded by his animals. It was a good day, with adventures and travel and time together free of struggle and strife and the new bike had a lot to do with it.

The purple seat on the back of Papa’s bike is the latest in a short string of conveyances that HH and I have used to travel since he arrived here on planet earth, and it’s probably the last one we will use together before his emerging sense of independence and desire to spend time with people his own size, send him solo. It’s a great time we’re having and never long enough for me.

Copyright German Diary 2007

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