At long last, the baby showers occurred. I say showers, not shower, because Dawn's friends and mother, all in on the planning of the party, decided it would be easier to have two showers--one for Dawn's friends and family in Philadelphia and one for Dawn's friends and my family in northern New Jersey. Of course, this meant attempting to come up with two surprise parties instead of one, which actually halves the chances of either remaining secret. Since the chance of one shower remaining secret was already very nearly zero, there was basically no way Dawn wasn't going to find out about these.
But she didn't find out from me. I did a very good job of staying totally ignorant of any baby shower plans almost right up to the date of the first one. When at last the planners wouldn't leave me in the dark, I learned as little as possible to do my job. My job, had these showers remained secret, was to get Dawn to the parties on some pretense. Since Dawn knew about them, though, my job became finding something for me to do while she was getting showered.
The first baby shower was in Philadelphia, so I chose to spend the day with my brother-in-law. We dropped Dawn off and were unfortunately sucked inside, where the estrogen in the air alone pushed my voice up a half an octave.
``We gotta go,'' I squeaked.
``I'm with you,'' my brother-in-law squeaked, and we left. About an hour outside of Philadelphia, we smashed up the car. Very manly.
But we got a lot of stuff. Granted, a lot of it wasn't anything we asked for. But it was stuff, and we needed stuff.
For some reason, a number of people saw that we had registered for the Paddington Bear bedding set and concluded from this that we had chosen Paddington Bear as our decor. Accordingly, they bought us Paddington Bear sheets, a Paddington Bear book, a Paddington Bear bib, a Paddington Bear light switch cover, a Paddington Bear lamp, a Paddington Bear clothes tree, and Paddington Bear diapers.
Neither of us are half that fond of Paddington Bear. And what in darkest Peru were we to do with a Paddington Bear clothes tree? Hang Paddington Bear clothes from it, I guess.
Aside from the Paddington Bear avalanche, we made off with a lot of booty. And booties, too. We received about three hundred pairs of socks. We were also given many other articles of baby clothing of various sizes, as one might expect. It was a good haul. And on the box for each item, Dawn's sister had neatly written who it came from, so when Dawn got home she could fill out the thank you cards: ``Dear Blank, Thank you for the lovely blankety-blank. It will go perfectly with our baby's blank. It was blank to see you. Blankety-blank, Dawn and Chris''.
Next was the New Jersey baby shower. My plan for this one was simple, as The Powers That Be were going to be using our apartment for the party: I was going to go away. In particular, I was going to go hang out with Men in a dim sum house in deepest Chinatown and eat until I exploded or Chinatown ran out of Chinese food, whichever came first.
This was not to be. Part of the Men missed the other part of the Men, so my group--all three of us--ended up getting burritos in Chelsea instead. Because Chelsea ran out of burritos long before I exploded, I ended up returning home while the tail end of the baby shower was still in progress.
As soon as I came in the door all of the assembled women looked at me and said in unison, ``What were you thinking?''
``And what,'' my wife demanded, ``is a Wee Wet Pet?''
She had me stumped. I had no idea what a Wee Wet Pet was. I admitted as much, also. As a visual aid, Dawn held up a little stuffed killer whale.
``Aha!'' I almost shouted, ``That's a Wee Wet Pet! I recognize that from the store where we registered!''
``Did you scan this when I wasn't looking?'' Dawn asked acidly.
``I scanned a lot of things,'' I allowed.
This was not my fault. When we finally did register, we did it, despite my reservations, at Toys 'R' Us KidsWorld. The way they work their baby registry is quite space aged. You are given a handheld UPC scanner. You walk through the store and anything you want added to your registry, you scan. When you're done, your scanner is plugged into a computer and your choices uploaded into the Toys 'R' Us baby registry database.
As one might imagine, this is a dangerous thing to give to someone like me. I started off very soberly, even offering to let Dawn do the scanning. She demurred and wandered on ahead of me. Then she stopped and examined an item, and I examined it with her, and we carefully weighed our options, and then we decided we wanted it, so I scanned it. We went on like this for a short while.
Then I got lax and began falling behind her, only catching up to scan anything she pointed me at. It wasn't long before I was occasionally scanning items on my own when Dawn wasn't looking. And pretty soon, I was scanning things willy-nilly like an electronic cowboy in the final shoot-em-up at the virtual OK Corral: Bam! A four hundred dollar chair! Pow! A two hundred dollar air filter! Bang! A hundred dollar thermometer! Zap! Wee Wet Pets!
By the time I had to go to the bathroom, I must have scanned the entire baby section except for the clothes. I handed Dawn the scanner and attended to Nature's call.
When I got back, I found Dawn at the end of the baby clothes section breathing heavily. She looked at me sheepishly from a small pile of booties.
``I went a little crazy with the scanner,'' she admitted. ``I didn't even look at sizes.''
``That's okay,'' I said brightly, ``The baby will need clothes of all kinds of sizes.''
My parents were good enough to buy the wonderful crib Dawn and I chose. Well, they weren't good enough to actually buy it, but they were good enough to pay for it and let us go buy it.
We went and bought the crib and the fabulous changing table we had also picked out. These things came in four huge boxes. They were so huge, in fact, we had to bring them home in two shifts.
The first thing I put together was the changing table. It took a couple of hours, maybe, of screwing and hammering. Sometime, I want to meet the guy who realized that men would be willing to put together their own furniture from pieces and still be willing to pay as much as they would for pre-assembled furniture. I want to meet him and take a screw gun to his head.
When it was done, Dawn and I stood proudly before it. The changing table was magnificent, glowing in the midnight lamplight. It stood there with its smooth white surface and easily gliding drawer.
``What should we put in the drawer?'' Dawn asked me.
``What should we put in the drawer?'' I repeated. ``How should I know what we should put in the drawer? You're the one who grew up playing with dolls. I played with tools and blocks and things. I have done my part, the man's part--I have taken nothing, and created from it a changing table. It is now your job to fill its drawer.''
She filled it with baby clothes.
I should say a word or two about baby clothes. They're not like grown-up clothes at all. For one thing, they're sized by age, so you can actually have a baby's outfit that's size 3 months. Imagine going into your local Gap and saying to the salesperson, ``I need a pair of jeans size 26 years.'' ``I'm sorry sir, I'll have to check your driver's license.''
Some baby's outfits aren't sized by age--they're sized by weight. This sounds even better. I can just see women walking into their favorite women's department and saying, ``Let me see this skirt in 190 pounds, please.'' Although, if they put scales in at the front of every store, then that might make shopping for women's clothes a lot easier. Also, manufacturers could stop making clothes that shouldn't be worn by really large people in their sizes. ``I'd like these traffic safety orange spandex shorts in 289 pounds, please.'' ``We're sorry, ma'am, but they only go up to 130.''
Another interesting thing about baby clothes is that many of them snap at the crotch. Where were these when I was dating in high school?
The best outfit of this type is the very no-nonsense onesie. (This is pronounced ``one-zee'' for those of you who live under rocks and have never heard this out loud.) I suppose it's called a onesie because it's all in one piece. Of course, it might have been invented by Dr. Bob Onesie. I don't know. Anyway, the onesie is a little short-sleeved shirt that snaps at the crotch, presumably for easy diaper access. Put a baby in a white onesie and he'll look like Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire--``Stella! Stella!''
I was going over baby clothes with my friend Joe.
``These onesies look very comfortable,'' I mused appreciatively. ``I wish I could wear clothes like this.''
``Okay,'' Joe said, ``We'll buy you a one-tonsie.''
My next manly project was putting together the crib. It turned out to be so big, I had to build it in the baby's room because it wouldn't fit through the door. Now I have to buy this house or leave the crib for the next occupants. Luckily, the hardest parts came pre-assembled, so I was left with the easy grunt work.
Shortly after I was done admiring my handiwork Dawn came in and prepared the crib for the baby's occupancy by filling it with eighty of the one hundred and twenty widdle cute stuffed animals we'd gotten at the two showers--including the Wee Wet Pets. Thus filled, there was still plenty of room for the baby--as along as the baby was born at under six inches long.
By far the strangest thing about all of this stuff, though--to me, at least--was the fact that none of it was really mine. Sure, I had carried it in and unwrapped it and put it together and arranged it and what have you, but when it came right down to it, none of this stuff belonged to me. All of this stuff made up the possessions of someone who wasn't even here yet.
The items that really made me think of this were the two lacrosse sticks and rubber ball my brother-in-law bought for the baby. He didn't care if the baby was a boy or a girl, this kid was going to play lacrosse. And so in preparation my brother-in-law got the baby a pair of kids' lacrosse sticks and a lacrosse ball.
As I was putting away all of the gifts from the shower, I paused and looked at the sticks in their packaging. They looked like fun. I considered opening them up and fooling around with them.
But I stopped. I stopped because I realized that these weren't my sticks to play with. They were the baby's. And then I looked around at all of the stuff we'd gotten--the clothes, the squeaking toys, the books, the sheets, the pacifiers, the bottles--and I was overwhelmed with the realization that someone was coming, someone who would be wearing these clothes and playing with these toys and reading these books. Someone was coming, and I had no idea who they would be or what they would like or dislike, but all of this stuff was theirs.
I put the lacrosse sticks and ball away for the baby to open when they were ready.