Uppermost House: Admiring the diaper changer


By S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

My wife and I invited a young married couple over for supper a couple of months ago. They were close friends and thus had no need to knock. When we heard them click open the door from the garage and come thumping into the mudroom, we stopped fussing about in the kitchen and scurried out to greet them, smiling broadly, arms outstretched.

Having produced between them a tiny person earlier in the year, the couple arrived heavy laden, not only with the 14 pounds of new daughter, but also with all the trappings that accompany such a small and living gift. When they finally took off their coats and sat down, our living room looked like an explosion at Babies“R”Us.

There was the car seat, a bassinet, another seat-like thing with built-in entertainment in the form of spinning plastic whoozits attached to a curved overhead armature, a duffle bag spilling multi-colored and extremely small items of clothing, a satchel containing all the bodily-intake and bodily-output supplies, storage bags for nuclear waste, and several other assorted containers filled with various and sundry sewn, extruded, and battery-driven products, some of which made noises or blinked brightly if shaken — all said paraphernalia and tackle lugged in from the truck in order to protect, soothe, entertain, and comfort the aforementioned small person, she who now sat semi-reclined and staring at us as if to say, Here I am, now what?

I caught my wife’s eye, gave a darting glance around the room, and then a quick eyebrow raise, as if to say, They’re only staying for supper, right? and she me gave back a little reassuring nod and left to mash potatoes.

And so the evening went fine, filled with good food and funny stories and the many inevitable interruptions from the smallest and cutest member of the entourage, the one referred to as Miss Blueberry Eyes. I spent a lot of time crawling around on the floor.

As the pleasant hours crept, by I found myself quietly and closely watching the husband and father of this new family. I had known him a long time and it fascinated me to see him flesh out his new and tender roles. An engineer by trade, he had a quick mind tuned for higher math, organizing things, and planning. He was strategic, clever, fun-loving, and perhaps a little nuts — the kind of a guy who might hand you a homemade remote control device and say, I’ve done all the calculations, and we’re far enough away so we won’t get hit by anything; go ahead and push the little red button. And then cover his ears and giggle.

Always independent, he had navigated the treacherous shoals of the teen and college years well, and a big company snatched him up just weeks after getting his degree. He rose quickly through the ranks of his chosen profession, often out-competing much older people, and achieved a level of responsibility and trust that was well beyond his years. Frugal and sensible, he was financially secure and stable, cleaned his gutters and changed his oil regularly, and planned smartly for the future.

But the thing that struck me most on this evening was the tender way the young man engaged his wife and daughter. Some men, when their focus shifts so quickly from just me, to both of us, to all of us, feel unsettled and unsure, perhaps even a bit trapped. But here was a man clearly freed by responsibility, liberated by commitment, fulfilled by the cherished dependency of his young family. I watched his eyes move from his daughter to his wife and back again, could see the strength, feel the devotion, sense the wonder and the resolve and the will and the overwhelming love.

And so I sat there on the floor, watching him hold two little crossed feet in the intertwined fingers of one hand while the other hand reached for a baby wipe, and I admired him. And I had the same thought I’d had so many times over all the years: When I grow up, I want to be just like my son.

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