Thursday, January 10, 2008

HH and the Control Tower

Those of you who stop in regularly know that I generally write about the smaller things in life as seen from or near the POV of my four-year-old son HH. The truth is that most of the time I am either thinking about him or feeling guilty that I don’t have more time to spend with him. He always seems to be at just the age when I can’t take my eyes off him or don’t want to. The changes come so rapidly that even though I am expecting them, they catch me by surprise.

HH is now an airline pilot. He has been one for about a month now ever since I returned from my last trip to New York with a genuine Captain’s uniform, which he hasn’t taken off for more than a day or so since he got it. The sauce stains alone are enough to send a fastidious type into convulsions, but he loves it and every morning before he goes to kindergarten we play airport.

My role is the control tower – a not too subtle image there I know. I’m responsible for telling HH about the weather over the Atlantic and advising the passengers about gate changes and when to board and what the in-flight entertainment will be. I’m sort of a cross between a control tower and an airline gate agent. HH is the pilot and his new bunk bed is the aircraft. From the top bunk he can look out his window onto the park below and into the ever-gray skies of Cologne. On his aircraft children receive special attention. All children travel first class – no exceptions. The in-flight entertainment is either Benjamin Blümchen or Thomas the Train and most of the time it’s Benjamin. The meals consist of macaroni and cheese and the ride is always bumpy – because that’s the way he likes it. The bumpier the better.

HH does travel a good deal – the two of us fly back and forth to New York together at least once a year and when he first experienced turbulence in an aircraft he looked to me and I told him to look out the window at the clouds – the better to hide the terror in my eyes – and he very simply associated the bumps with the clouds and thought nothing more about it. He laughed and enjoyed it and thought it was something of a game when I took hold of his hand and didn’t let go until the plane stopped thrashing about. He’s definitely the cooler of the two of us.

This weekend however, he was a little less cool than usual and no matter how closely I might watch over him, there are times when all a parent can do it damage control. We have been playing inside a good deal recently – what with his earache and lousy weather – so this Sunday when we were invited to accompany one of his friends to the Zoo, I said yes.

I am not a fan of Zoos. I don’t like cages of any design and remain unconvinced (no matter how often my friends argue with me) that Zoos are good for anything at all except perhaps breeding some nearly extinct creatures that man has otherwise come close to extinguishing. Even then I don’t think it’s fair to have thousands of human beings parade by the tiny, smelly enclosures day in and day out.

But enough of that – we went to the Zoo and our first stop was the Aquarium, which is in the same complex. As fish tanks go it wasn’t bad. I had packed a lunch for HH and we sat down in the tropical fish room and watched the fabulously colored creatures swim about in their boxes while we ate. Then I went in search of water. Now we are in the aquarium – a place filled with children and water – but there was not one drop of fresh water available for human consumption. There was plenty of sugar-water – four or five different flavors or it and I even bought one out of frustration but HH just turned his nose up and said – “No thank you Papa.” Imagine how lousy it must have tasted if a thirsty child in a hot, humid room with a mouth full of a peanut butter and whole wheat toast refused it. That was my first indication that this place wasn’t very well thought out.

We spent another thirty minutes or so wandering around the aquarium and then strolled over the see the monkeys in the Zoo. Upon entering their quarters the stench was so foul that HH immediately turned around a walked out. I told our friends that we were leaving and they agreed that this wasn’t a particularly good Zoo day. The children couldn’t wait to get out and started running toward the front gate. Unfortunately HH’s little friend took something of a flying leap and tripped HH, who fell face first onto the sidewalk. When I got to him the blood was flowing fast. I picked him up and sat on the ground with him in my lap and started applying pressure to the wound. I only took one look at it and immediately told the other parent with me to get some help. He came back two minutes later to tell me that the Zoo had no First Aid – not a trained person or a kit or a bandage – nothing. If I hadn’t had a bleeding child in my arms I would have started hollering bloody murder – instead I told my friend to call and ambulance. Well, some minutes later we saw the ambulance speed by in the wrong direction and I said to heck with it – or words to that effect – and jumped into the first cab that passed by. He was not too happy with the bleeding aspect of things but was otherwise HH was very brave. The cab driver was terrific and took us directly to the Children’s Hospital Emergency room where HH was treated.

I can happily report that HH is recovering very well and has resumed his post on the second level of the bunk bed – piloting his aircraft back and forth across the Atlantic. And I am in the control tower, watching over things as usual, awaiting the next bump.

Copyright 2008