Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Back In Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Baby Family: October, 2008. Upton, Kentucky.

Crazy past week, certainly from my perspective, and, I'm sure, from the perspective of Stella, the Brooklyn Baby Baby.

She's six months old now, and handled our trip to Kentucky with flying colors. She loved being the center of attention for all of Randi's family and extended family, taking to them quite naturally. It was really something to see. This is almost something that I feel bad that we can't provide over here, the constant commotion and love that she thrives on. I mean, yes, we provide the constant love, but there were so many people there who were constantly in her business, coddling her, cooing to her, jostling her, and she was very happy with all of it.

The trip started on kind of a bum note for me. I was sick. Rundown physically and mentally, with very little time to recuperate before we had to get on the plane. The nights leading up to the trip I worked late to get in my last work assignments, knowing I was coming down with a cold the whole time, but there was nothing I could do about it. The work had to get done. And get done it did, which I was proud of, even if I wish I could've spent some more time on it.

As a result of the cold I avoided Stella well, like the plague, for the first several days of the trip. I also avoided Randi, but she understood why. Stella, not so much. After a few days she started to reach out for me, but I couldn't reach back. On the airplane ride itself at one point I woke from a nap to see her looking at me, waving at me. Things happen so fast at this point, sometimes I just wish I could capture time in a bottle to release these fast-moving memories slowly over time, savor them, save some for a rainy day, but of course I can't. I guess that's one reason why I blog, take pictures, and even take some home movies, although I surely should do more of the latter. I am trying to if not stop time than at least preserve some in amber, or digital amber, if such a thing exists.

Oddly enough this cold strengthened our bond. Because by the end of the cold Stella really, really wanted to be with her Dadda, and I truly felt the same. Of course by now Randi had also become sick, which was a massive bummer.

The good news, though, was that Randi rallied quickly. This was due, she said, to the fact that she's virtually eliminated dairy from her diet, so there was less mucous all around. Pleasant, I know, but it's the truth. I also recovered more quickly than I had in the past. Although I was sick for about a week it never became a full-blown chest infection as happens to me almost every year. Eventually I know it's over when I cough up something that resembles The Smog Monster (former enemy of Godzilla's by the way). But this time nothing so dramatic happened, it just kind of cleared up.

Stella, of course, also caught some of what was going around. But this too, knock on keyboard, wasn't so bad as it had been in the past. She's getting older, stronger and let's hope healthier. About three months ago we put her on Baby Zantac (sounds so cute!) the antacid, and while it cleared up her stomach problems it caused something like a sea of snot to run out of her nose. Seriously, I had never seen the like. She was draining ounces of the stuff at a time. Randi had to be on snot sucking patrol all day and night for about three days in a row. So, nothing was that easy with our little girl. But now she's looking great, sleeping, at last, decent amounts each night, and advancing at a pace that is kind of blowing me away.

The newest thing, of course, is that she is just starting the rudiments of speech. I had always planned for her to be a bilingual baby, speaking Spanish and English at the same time. Well, you can throw that one out the window. She's starting to speak English already, and her Spanish, well, let's just say that there's time for it manana. One reason, of course, that her Spanish is so bad is because neither of her parents speak it, so as a result we can't speak it to her, but I had thought--years ago, I guess--that there would be an easy way around this problem. There is not. I had imagined dropping her off in some class for infants, where she would be indoctrinated into the Romance languages, or at least one Romance language, while I do something else, I don't know quite what.

But life got in the way. But, at least she's starting to speak, as mentioned, English. True, for the most part she is simply making more and more fluid babbling sounds, but sometimes a stray word emerges here and there. And what is that stray word you ask? Dadda.

I am totally honored and blown away that this is her first word. And a bit shocked. It'll come out at random times, and I can't prompt her to say it. It just happens when it happens, as does everything with a baby this young. Yesterday, for example, she was happily bouncing up and down in her jumparoo (boy, did she miss that in Kentucky) and making a bunch of odd, but delightful noises. I wish I had it on tape, but I don't. But it was so sweet, so musical even. It was kind of high, her musings, and happy.

"Baba, do ba, babba, babba, Dadda, booby do be, bobba ..." you get the idea. But she kept on saying Dadda in the middle of this string of R2-D2ish beebs and bloops. (The happy R2 sounds, if that gives any context to my nerd-core friends out there.) And she bounced along the whole time, up and down. It was a great thing to see, and hear, as you can imagine.

Sometimes, these days, she just wants me, too. She'll be cranky, or fussy or crying or something, and I'll pick her up and walk around with her, talking to her, and she'll quiet right down. She does the same thing with Randi too, of course. And sometimes only Mom can get her to really relax, but on occasion, it's me and me alone. I love this.

I always imagine the ways I can fail as a dad, dark though such thoughts might be. And seeing Stella with Randi's family was kind of a shocker, especially when I realized that she looks pretty much a whole lot like that side, and like me very, very little. Other than the eyes, those are from me.

But this is my kid, she is already totally used to having me around. She needs me, loves me, and sometimes I am it, I am the whole megillah. Sometimes not, but sometimes yes. This is amazing, and I feel like a changed man as a result. An easy thing to say, sure, but it's how it feels.

The trip to Kentucky, anyway, ended on a high note. Randi's ten year college reunion was a blast, and I enjoyed spending time with her friends and old classmates this past Saturday night. There were two parties for us to attend. One was the traditional re-union party, which was lots of fun, but I had very little to talk about or to with anyone. Which wasn't my job, I was arm candy. But still I kind of did a lot of drink getting and the like, both for myself and for the Brooklyn Baby Mama. She looked elegant and classy in a new red dress we had picked up just for the party. I, less so, in my blue thrift store blazer, and sneakers. Kind of like Letterman, but without the set, the tie or, I guess, the talent?

Anyway, from there we moved on to a second party at a former professor's house that was just the drama crew from Centre. Now this was a party. Lots of drama people so happy to see one another, and Randi's amazing professors, Patrick and Tony were there too. These guys are inspiring. Both have to be in their late 50s, or early 60s, and they are so full of life, and passion for what they do and for their students too. We had gone to Centre two years ago, and visited both of them, and while Randi went to the restroom either time I spoke with each man one on one. They were as engaged and interested in me, as a person, as they had been when Randi was there. They just were curious about the world, curious about my life, my job. As I was with them. I then understood why Randi talked about Centre so highly, and so often.

In fact Centre recently received a top 15 ranking among all colleges from a major business financial web-site that will go unnamed. This shocked and outraged many grads from schools that were better known, but ranked much lower. (Cough, U-Penn, cough.) The feeling was that the list couldn't be any good, simply because Centre was ranked so high on it. But the rankings were composed by how students felt about their education, and their professors. And seeing the way Randi and her friends looked at their old teachers as, truly, old friends made it all come crystal clear. This is what a small, liberal arts school implies for so many. But I, for example, never had that warm feeling at my school, Wesleyan University.

I transferred into Wes, so I missed out on that all important freshman year, but, truthfully, I never felt that it, despite it's small size, was as warm as it could've been. Maybe it was me, I don't know, but I found it hard to make friends. I made friends, and great ones, like Eric Molinsky--a gentleman and a scholar--but it was hard to feel like I was part of a larger scene, part of something welcoming.

Maybe it was Wes, maybe it was me, maybe it was both. It was the early 90s, and the politically correct era was winding down, but not without a fight. As a white, straight male I guess I always felt like I had some 'splaining to do. So I did it. And for the first time in my life I felt like people looked at me as this really right-wing guy. It was kind of crazy.

Anyway, the Brooklyn Baby Baby just woke up, and now she's cooing to her mama. We have a lot of work ahead of us this morning as we're moving to a new apartment Saturday. More about that later. It's a big, big shakeup, of course. So much to do.


Holly said...

Your experience at Wesleyan reminds me a lot of my experience at Vassar. I never really had the kind of connection I had hoped for. There was just something about it that wasn't really me. In fact, I haven't gone back or really talked with many people at all since I graduated.

Centre sounds awesome!

David Serchuk said...

Hi Holly,
Good to hear from you. Yeah, I imagine those schools are a lot alike. I never grooved with it, even from my first visit, but I went anyway, believing it was academically the right fit for me. Socially I was sure I would just blend in, as I always had. I too have missed my reunions, and keep in touch with very few people. I still have some pride in the school, oddly enough, but I don't revisit my days there very often.

And, yes, Centre really was a lot of fun. Swelled Randi's head to hear me talk about her school that way, too!