Buying for Baby

When the Paperless Post invitation to Adam’s “meet the baby” party hit my inbox, I jumped out of my desk chair, clapped my hands together and squealed in pure joy (I rarely squeal, so you can tell how excited I was.)

When you're 30, all your friends are settling down. But I'm like, nah, I'm taking up pole dancing.
When you’re 30, all your friends are settling down. But I’m like, nah, I’m taking up pole dancing.

Unlike most women my age, when it comes to babies, I’m typically nonplussed. I don’t fully understand their appeal. Whenever my co-worker brings her infants into the office, everyone runs to see the children — the ooooohs! and ahhhhhhs! can be heard across the street. Meanwhile, I just poke my head around the corner of my nook, to say “Oh! It’s Lily!” before returning to my spread sheets or grant report. Now, if my boss brings her puppies in, that’s another story. I won’t be working until they leave for their walk.

But Adam’s baby is a different baby. He’s an important baby.

Adam and I met on my first day in college, in our orientation group. Once we swapped bios, he decided we were going to be best friends — I didn’t have a choice (we were both recruited athletes, raised in Westchester.) I was christened “Kat,” and became just about the luckiest kid on campus. Adam was my best cheerleader and biggest supporter. Like, when I say cheerleader, I mean with actual pom-poms. He has the kind of infectious “we can do anything we set our minds to! Look at what we’ve already done” attitude that I still pull out some of his pep-talks when I need a confidence boost. We all need someone like that around when we’re trying to make that tricky free-throw into adulthood.

So of course, when it came to buying his son a first gift, I wanted to make it somewhat meaningful. Adam, his gorgeous wife, and I all went to the same college. We were all athletes. It seemed fitting that my gift to them should in some way resemble our Alma’s mascot.

I needed a plush lion and I needed it stat.

Here’s what I quickly learned on my store to store safari: there is a shocking lack of diversity in infant toys. Puppies, bunnies, and monkeys. That’s it. For a child under 1-year of age, those are your plush options. From the crib we’re limiting a child’s view of the world. You can only love these three things. Loving anything else is a choking hazard (metaphorically and literally.)

“We discontinued our lion plush,” the woman at Pottery Barn Babies told me.

“Why?”

“I don’t know, I mean it hasn’t been a good year for lions… or dentists, really.”

I rolled my eyes and stomped out.

When it became clear that my mini-Roaree plan was a fail, I decided I would switch course and track down a picture-book version of Homer’s “The Iliad.” All incoming freshman to Columbia received a copy of “The Iliad” as a gift from the alumni. The first 6 books are always due by the first literature humanities class. I figured, it was never too early to give the Baby a head-start.

Isn't this the kind of story you want to read to your kid at night? I know I do. The Iliad as illustrated by Marvel...
Isn’t this the kind of story you want to read to your kid at night? I know I do. The Iliad as illustrated by Marvel…

What I also learned is that there are no picture-book versions of any of the Greek classics. I mean, surely if the Coen Brothers can make 2 cinematic adaptations about Odysseus, someone can illustrate one Little Golden Book. I may have to make a phone call to a few artists about that one day…

In short, I had to abandon all efforts for a sentimentally-inspired gift and instead, sought cute and educational. Baby got a plush puppy and a matching book — thankfully, they still make books for kids. I was worried I’d have to find a “Pat the Bunny App.” Sure the puppy doesn’t roar and the book doesn’t have any epic battles, but that’s okay. There are many birthdays ahead. I’d better start drawing…

If I were a puppy....
If I were a puppy….

Boys Don’t Have Cooties

In kindergarten, I didn’t know what a cootie was, but I never thought boys had them. As far as I could tell, a cootie was just an excuse for girls to avoid boys on the playground. This made no sense to me. Boys played better games at recess – tag, dodge ball, hide and go seek. Girls played pat-a-cake. I was terrible at pat-a-cake, but I had a mean peg for dodge ball.

I always thought girls who said "boys have cooties" were ridiculous. Boys didn't have cooties. They had penises.

“Eeeeew, no! Go away!” Lauren squealed when Michael Cagliatella asked if he could push us on the tire swing. “Boys have cooooooooties.”

I shot her an evil eye. Michael Cagliatella didn’t pull my pigtails like the other boys in class and he once offered to share his chocolate milk with me at snack time. Michael Cagliatella was different and I was smitten. The way I saw it, Lauren and her cootie problem were getting in the way of my childhood romance.

“Boys don’t have cooties,” I replied indignantly as I watched my first love skulk off to jungle gym. “Boys have penises.”

Lauren’s ears perked up. “What’s a pensises?”

The truth was I didn’t really know what a penis was or what boys did with them, but I’d been such a know-it-all — I had better follow through.

“They’re kinda like toys and fun to play with. You’re no fun.” I got off the swing and joined Michael on the monkey bars.

I can only imagine the dinner table conversation at Lauren’s house that night: “Kathleen and I had a fight. She said I was boring and that she rather play with Michael’s penis.” Lauren wasn’t allowed to have playdates at my house any more. I could tell by the sideways stares that her mother and father had painted me as a five-year old harlot that their daughter was to have nothing to do with.

Michael liked it when I was the nurse to his doctor, but I made sure he agreed to change it up -- I mean, sometimes, I liked to be in charge.

The scarlet letter didn’t really bother me because Michael became my “boyfriend.” Our favorite games were doctor-nurse play-acting. Michael liked to dress-up as a doctor and I would be his nurse. He even gave me a white hat with a red cross to wear when I came over. Michael would call the shots as we performed emergency surgery on his favorite teddy bear with the arm that fell off at least once a week.

“What should I do, Doctor? I can’t stop the bleeding?”

“Pass me the masking tape! Stat!”

“Oh, Doctor! You’re so clever!”

“Now the paper towel and the string!”

“Doctor! You saved Mr. Fuzzywuzzy’s arm. My hero!”

Even though this was Michael’s favorite scenario, I made him agree to change things up every so often – I mean, sometimes, I liked to be in charge.

Our role play abruptly ended that summer when Michael’s parents moved the family to California.  I can’t say I was heartbroken. I acknowledged that I was only 5 and that there would be plenty more boys who’d want to play doctor to my nurse in the future.

Every so often, I think about Michael Cagliatella. Does he still have those trouble-maker’s eyes? Does he still wear those striped shirts and a middle part in his hair? What would happen if we had a playdate today? Would his parents finally let me sleep over? And if they did, would he still like to see me in my nurse’s hat?