Showdown at l'aire de jeux
I was a former part time New Jersey Turnpike toll collector now living in a suburb west of Paris. We were at the playground in Le Pecq—on the outskirts of the Île-de-France—and I was watching my untrusted eighteen-month-old sidekick son take turns on the slide. Lukas was having fun and being good. His steps were less wobbly and he was climbing the ladders with confidence. But when he came up close I could smell what he was dragging around in his pants. Oh crap. I quick-drawled the diaper bag and looked inside. Merde! There were only two baby wipes left in the package. Feeling the watchful eyes of everyone on the playground I took a long breath and reached down deep: it was time to show all of these French moms what I was made of. The French were extremely friendly once you put in a reasonable effort to learn their language, but it was also hard being on my own so much without adding a falsely heightened sense of drama to my day. I gave my imaginary stay home daddy friend a fist bump then held my breath while gently lifting Lukas up from under his arms.
I laid the little guy down on a clean patch of green grass and inspected the damage. Yikes! It was worse than I thought. Baby wipe number one missed the mark by a mile. As I reached slowly for the last of the wipes Lukas smirked devilishly and a hush fell through the crowd. An RER train rumbled across the bridge. A stunning high-heeled woman puttered by on a cherry red Vespa, her left hand clutching a baguette.
Tuning out the distractions I channeled the wisdom gained from countless diaper changes before. I assumed a Zen like calm, aimed for the target, and came within mere millimeters of soiling my own fingers. Deftly his bottom was wiped clean. Then I wrapped up the diaper in a fresh scented baggy and put his clothes back on in record time. I gave an inspecting tug on the elastic band in his jeans—not too tight, just right—then sent him off with an encouraging pat on the backside.
Speechless, Lukas wandered towards the slide in a confused daze, not knowing what had just hit him. Taking a moment to savor the sweet victory, I considered keeping the diaper to have it bronzed. I could donate it to the Stay Home Daddy Hall of Fame! But no, word would soon spread from those who had witnessed the spectacle.
All I needed to do now was start practicing my autograph technique. The newspapers would definitely be calling and I could finally realize my lifelong dream of making a dreadful fashion blunder on the red carpet.
I was on my way.
La légende était née.
The legend was born.
published 18 February 2012