Sunday, February 6, 2011
by your friend and mine bobby niles
On the announcement that my wife and I were to become grandparents, my wife started nesting. You know that thing expectant mothers do, build a nursery, repaint the room, stock up on baby clothes, blankets, toys, two way listening devices, sleep enhancing mood gizmos, ozone carbon air filters and pretty much everything else you managed to somehow live without as a infant. All this with the hope the granbaby might spend a night.
Me? I grew up with a blanket and bottle, dressed in cloth diapers rough enough to strip furniture. My toys were not bought, but created, by myself from an over active imagination and the lead paint from the windowsill. Oh sure I now walk like John Wayne, and require bi-daily help from the good people at Phizer Labs, but other than that, and the facial twitches, I'm a normal well adjusted adult.
Now my wife's about the same age as me, but only 39, and came from a simpler time as well. But because she was now going to be a grandma something changed. She got it into her head that grandkids need everything! Sorry, more than everything! And what she didn't buy she got from her younger friends at work. The ones that had their husbands "bits" surgically altered. These guys job of child bearing was done. And with that the urge to jump the fence and run through the neighborhood, all now a distant fond memory.
Now the grandkid is born. She stays overnight (once) in her well appointed room. She's too young to play with all the toys she has, and grows too quick to wear all the clothes she owns. And the two way listening device? My wife never leaves her side! The one thing we are in constant use of is an old blue donated stroller, with a broken lap restraint or as we say in English...seat belt. Old Blue, as I call it, would probably put out of it's misery if it was a horse. With it's rusty broken frame and busted lap restraint (seat belt) missing two hub caps, one on the front and one on the back of alternate sides. A canopy with a torn plastic window that's yellowed, with a cigarette burn on the top by the ashtray. Things were different back when Old Blue was new.
Not only did it lack in visual appeal, it had acoustic qualities that made my Mother-in-Laws voice sound almost melodic. At any given time in a forward, reverse, lateral, up or down,....heck even if it was sitting still, one or more wheels would squeak. A squeak so shrill the neighborhood dogs would announce your presence long before anyone would see you. And when grease was applied to silence an offending wheel, half a block later another one would always start up. On a more positive note, when it rained it looked like you were magically transported around by a flowing rainbow.
Old Blue didn't need any of these modern foot brake assemblies to keep it in place. The wheels were so hard to move that you had to get a running start at it to get forward motion. I'd sweat like a coal stoker in the bowels of a freighter crossing the China Sea just to push it the distance of the food court in the mall.
While pushing and sweating and squeaking through the mall I would, with some envy, notice later models of infant mobility providers. Young parents would proudly parade their heirs about in gleaming extensions of their personal wealth. Carriages of light weight tubular aluminum riding on more wheels than a semi-trailer but, with the turning ability of a vehicle where a dime is always mentioned. I viewed these floating moving marvels like a pubescent boy walking into a Ferrari dealership. I was in total awe.
Now I could live with Old Blue but my wife after seeing the 21st Century models was of a different opinion. "A stroller is an extension of ones financial stature" she claimed. Well, be her right or wrong I was to winded to put up any kind of social statement to confirm or deny her belief. And besides it's just a stroller.
We arrived at 'Stroller and Scooter World' just after noon on a Saturday, with the firm belief we would be back at home with a pink stroller within the hour.
Greeting us at the door was customer service representative Pam. A woman around our age, with the need of a quick sale to boost her monthly sales commissions. Expertly she immediately made us feel like she was our friend. She directed us over to the lithium battery powered 'Sun City 4000 Independence Provider'. "Upon entering any situation this scooter demands respect and attention. A person such as yourself, Sir, would emulate power and confidence upon this ride. With four wheel independent suspension, gas shocks, disc-brakes, power stea........."
" Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" I interrupt "We're hear looking for a stroller for our granddaughter not a pimp mobile for a geriatric Richard Petty wannabe."
It was strange to see her face start to melt right before my very eyes. The corners of her mouth drifted downwards,along with her eyebrows. Noticeable lines appeared around the edges of her eyes as she grew another chin, which brought the number to three. The bun her hair had been expertly swept up into fell away as she unclipped a fashionable hair accessory that had given it stability. The overall effect made her look five years older and three inches shorter. Pam kicked off her high-heeled shoes, then picked them up, and then with one shoe on each hand mumbled "Follow meeee."
Stroller and Scooter World is a mega-store, with the strollers on the opposite side of the store. Opting to walk instead of getting back in the car and move it to the other end of the parking lot we followed Pam, moving at a pace that could be compared to a death march. At one point I stopped to tie my shoes, tuck in my shirt and make a text message only to loose the distance of an outstretched arm from Pam
Later that day we reached the strollers. "Do you jog?" Pam asked as we neared the strollers. Now the last time I looked down and could actually see my shoes they were in platforms, so I knew she wasn't talking to me. My wife, trying to be funny, responded that she found driving so much quicker, but Pam for some reason or other, mentioned the pros and cons of each tri-wheeled buggy as she tagged each one with her left shoe stuck on the end of her right hand. "Center pull brakes, spoke wheels, nylon netting, carbon fiber frame" she droned on in a monotone voice. As she started the details of a five year warranty 'On the Road Again' by Willie Nelson started playing from somewhere on her person. Pam reached into her blazer pocket to retrieve a phone. "Hello?" She held up a finger and mouthed the words, one moment, plug her other ear opposite the phone, walked through an 'Employes Door' and was never seen again.
Now on our own, fully assured we knew what we wanted (which wasn't a stroller to pant and puff behind, we already had one of those!) we ventured on. Ahead of us lay a line of buggies that disappeared to a small point on the horizon. This should be easy we thought, all we wanted was a pink stroller for our grand-
daughter, and with all these choices we should be out of here in no time.
"Valued customers could you please finalize all sales as it is time for our employees to rejoin their families." was what panicked us into buying one of our 12 choices on our short list, five and a half hours later. And it wasn't even pink!
Driving home with my granddaughters new brown and green stroller, tied to the roof because it wouldn't fit in the trunk, I thought back on the day. I gave a deep sigh and a strange laugh as I stopped for the light. A laugh not of this world, a laugh that might be from a person that's ......might we say a few fries short of a happy meal. Who were we to think we could possibly pick out a stroller for our granddaughter? We were but mortals!
This stroller was going to affect her life mentally, physically, socially, (and several other 'llys' to hard to spell and that you need a doctors diploma to know what they are) according to the information we gleaned from the sales tags on the strollers. Her posture in future years, how she would subconsciously react to visual motion in her formative years all would depend on this purchase. Would she become claustrophobic? Because the seating cage was too small. Would the constant vibration of the wheels over long extended walks cause child bearing issues? Good grief what's going on here!
I look at another tag that might have the price but what I find is even more information about benefits of this product and how it's competition is far lacking. A Kevlar five point harness it boasts. Astronauts and racing car drivers use five point harnesses! Do they think I'm towing the kid behind the car in the stroller? Mental and visual stimulation all with lumbar support. Spring loaded wheels that turn on a dime and give you change. Two cup holders for the care-giver on the handles and two for the baby in the seating cage. What! Will it scar them for life if they have just one cup holder? Two breasts.......one cup holder! Ahhhh!
One stroller offers this and that, the other stroller offers more of this and less of that. One stroller had a whole bunch of this last year but now has a whopping 60% more this year. I let out another giggle,who did we think we were? A pink stroller indeed! Sigmund Freud couldn't even figure out how to buy a stroller.
As I turn into the driveway I think back to a simpler time when my wife and I had our first child. All the questions and insecurities we had about raising a baby. Did we know what we were doing? Were we ready for all the responsibilities and costs of raising a child? This childs future was totally dependent on our decisions. Just like the parents of today,.....but what helped us think we could do it well were the lack of choices available to us. Today's parents are overwhelmed with the amount of choices they have to make on a daily level for each one of their children. And, with every choice comes a wealth of information, doctors reports and recommendations, scientific studies and consumer reports. Then all the questions, what's on the Internet about this product? What's in the paint? Do the plastics it's made from give off gases harmful to my baby?
Never in the history of mankind have so many had so much information about so much and understand so little. Which leaves you with the feeling that you don't know enough. How can the average parent make, a once easy decision, on a purchase like a baby bottle without weeks of study. Moms and dads are awash with information overload on the daily choices of raising their children.
If only Oprah could just recommend every choice we had to make, it would make our lives so much easier.
bobby did this
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
words and music by Bob Niles
bub-ble (bub/-l) n. a hollow globe of water or other liquid blown out with air or gas
It's no wonder my granddaughter loves bubbles so much. Imagine building a hollow globe of liquid soap, and then releasing it into a beautiful Summer day to dance but for a few moments on the whispering edges of a warm sunny breeze. To wonder at it's rainbow reflection on a surface so thin and fragile that it's viewed only but for a brief moment. Oh sure there's the occasional bubble that lives far beyond expectations. The one that floats past the tree over the fence into the neighbors yard, then it's slammed by a rouge breeze into a blue flannel shirt on old lady Griffins clothesline. You hail it as new world record holder as you dance with triumph. But this miracle is not mourned, others are produced as fast as you can breath in and out.
This small miracle that I have come to take for granted is not lost on her. She dances and laughs with each and every on she can. Each new bubble is a new friend. Each new bubble has a different character. Some bubbles are fat and heavy and sit down quick. "They don't like to dance." she giggles "They loose their breath too quick!" Some bubbles pop as soon as they're given the breath of life. "Boomers" she calls them. Most bubbles linger for awhile, dance a bit, blend in with the others and then they're gone....kind of like most our lives.
But a few bubbles become legends in song. She runs into the house (can't blow bubbles inside) and in a sing- song high-pitched soliloquy, some parts only audible to the dog, breathlessly recounts their plight.
She starts each story, and here I'm not 100% sure but the dog thinks so, with "Guess what?" Then dancing from one foot to the other she acts out the story of 'Floaty the Runaway Bubble.' "I blowed softly for like a real long time," pant pant puff (she always talks like she's just finished the one-hundred yard dash) "and then, and then I thought it was going to explode. But it didn't! It started to go up, and then it went down! And then almost clunked me on the head! And then it just flew over me!" pant puff pant pant puff, "then it almost landed in Charlottes pool! Then Scratchy chased it and almost caught it........but then it went up ( it's here you should try to imagine some sort of ballet move that looks like it might hurt because she's in that position) and just missed Daddys basketball hoop, and then guess what? (by this time the dogs howling) it popped, it just popped and disappeared!"
I watched as my granddaughter danced her story. A story that couldn't be accurately told without interpretive arm and leg movements. Her constantly moving limbs match her hazel brown eyes that move to even the slightest distraction as she pirouettes around the room. Her black bubble stained tee-shirt could easily be confused for a young girl who managed to flee the clutches of an eight, no twelve armed octopus attack. And her dirty sticky bare feet speak of bubbles that didn't get away. And, then as quick as her story started....guess what? She's gone! Some invisible rope tied around her waist had yanked her back outside. Slam! Goes the screen door. "Watch out! Oooh oooh get up there! Move over! Higher!" sings my granddaughter from the back porch as she directs another batch of new found friends.
I sit back in my leather recliner and half-heartily turn my attention back to my wide screen TV. All 105 channels of it! All available for my personal pleasure 24 hrs. a day seven days a week in HD. And I sit there, jealous of the total love and enjoyment my granddaughter has for the simplest form known to nature. The sphere. And it's a sphere in it's simplest form, made from liquid.
Why can't I love something that much? Oh I love my kids...most of them. And my grandchildren....all of them, but why can't I obtain the simplest form of pleasure, being love, from something I have or like to do. I want to L O V E to do something or have something again!
Is it because with age we can't have love without desire? If I was going to blow a bubble I would think about making it bigger than my granddaughter did. To impress her, it's what we do. It would have to go higher and further and last longer....love lost. The desire to blow a better bubble has made it a competition, but only to you, not the child. She still celebrates every bubble. Love has left the equation and desire and competition have set in. Polluted love.
Or is our now understanding of love changed? We love our spouses. That's a fancy name for husband or wife, you know the one at the other end of the couch each night. We look across at them in all their evening, ready for bed glory and remember a time not so long ago. Then you go look in the mirror and thank them for staying on. We still love them, but some of the shine is gone.
Its sad to think I'll never love something ever again as simple and purely as she loves bubbles. That kind of innocent love is rewarded to the very young. Remember to celebrate it with them, colour, blow bubbles, take walks, watch cartoons don't feel silly being a fairy princess grandpas and dads, because, that love she has for bubbles is only one tenth of the love she has for you.
Thank-you Gabriella and Charlotte
From the desk of Bob Niles