Issue 52



                Skylar turned one yesterday.

                Where has the time gone?

                It doesn’t feel like a year has already slipped by.  Even when I look back on all the sleepless nights – which seemed so endless then – it feels like he was only born the day before yesterday.

                Today we celebrate his birthday. Rebecca and I do the toy store tour, willing to spend all of our income for the year on our little one.  Nothing is too good for him.  Unfortunately, most of the toys are completely substandard.  Except for the old standards, of course.

                “Look at those!” shouts Rebecca, running across the store to the display of popcorn mowers.  I’m not sure what their official name is, but that’s what we always called them.  And if the name popcorn mower doesn’t describe it to you, then you didn’t grow up with one.

                Rebecca pulls one off the shelf and begins mowing the tile floor.  “Look Skylar,” she says.  “Isn’t this fun?”  Skylar is trying to fall asleep.  However, the Pop Pop Pop gets his attention and he smiles.  “See?” says Rebecca.  “He likes it.”  She puts the mower in the cart.

                I look at my baby.  One.  I still can’t believe he is one.  And how he’s changed.  His visit to the pediatrician earlier in the morning scaled him out at 25 pounds, 4 ounces and 31 and a half inches long.  No wonder my shoulder is sore all the time.

                I feel old.

                When young people talk about dying, they forecast their deaths at somewhere between eighty and a hundred.  But I’m a man, one who likes his potato chips and bacon and who has family history of rapid bodily disintegration.  Seventy is probably more realistic for me.  And I’m just about halfway there.  Of course, when we get as old as seventy or eighty, the young people tell us that we’ve still got years under our belts.  I know.  I’ve said it myself.  And I can feel the day coming when someone will say it to me.

                “Wow!” says Rebecca as she tears across the store.  She hurries back, a treasure in hand.  “I used to have one of these.”

                “Mine was red,” I say.

                “So was mine!”  And into the cart it goes.

                Rebecca makes another sighting, but it’s a false lead.  The toy she’s looking for is Dapper Dan, a doll with buttons and zippers and pockets and ties for you to learn how to dress yourself.  Rebecca holds up the updated version, Suzy something or other.  It just doesn’t look right.  “The face is so fake,” she says.  And back on the shelf goes Suzy.

                Skylar’s head leans forward as he completely passes out.  I find it incredible that he can fall asleep in the cart seat.  He looks so uncomfortable.  I unlatch the seat strap and lift him to my aching shoulder.

                How odd to think that one-eightieth of his life has passed.  And I try not to think of my own mortality.  I never wanted to believe my father that the years would just start shooting by.  I can feel the edge of fear.  But it isn’t a fear I can easily name.  Is it a fear of dying?  A fear of not doing everything I thought I wanted to do?  A fear of having the wrong priorities and watching my dreams fade?  Or is it a fear as irrational as worrying whether or not the sun will rise tomorrow?

                We finally reach the wagons.  I can tell from the look in her eyes that Rebecca has wonderful memories of wagons, as do I.  The same wagon catches our eye, one made completely out of plastic.  One word comes to mind as soon as I look at it: indestructible.  A parent’s dream of value and quality.  Back when I was growing up, metal served this role.  Skylar’s generation has rotomolded linear polyethylene.

                The environmentalist in me cringes at the thought that this wagon will stick around in the dump for thousands of years before it finally breaks down.  I don’t need an immortal wagon; I just need it to survive a childhood.  But the wagon seems to command a strange respect that it can live for so much longer than I can.

                Rebecca sits in the wagon with Skylar who wakes up for the ride.  Their faces lights up as I pull the wagon through the store. I turn and look at them, burning the sight into my memory forever.  And as I do, I begin to remember all of the similar memories I have stored away over the last year, the hundreds, no thousands, no tens of thousands of special moments.  Suddenly a year is tremendous, and I can’t believe just how much life we squeezed into it.

                I round the corner as sharp as I can, and the wagon tips on two wheels as I almost crash into a store employee.  I smile mischievously.

                Perhaps we’ll get kicked out for having too much fun.


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