We walk into the coffee shop and the first thing Declan says is “Oh no, brown guy.”
Let’s see if this story is going where you think it is going.
Declan and I go to the same shop most mornings and order the same thing and sit at the same table and, largely, talk about the same things. Over. And over. For awhile it was planes in the sky. Then it was the cars passing by. Now it’s one visitor in particular: the UPS truck.
It arrives about 10:30 every morning. The driver delivers some packages to the businesses, and then 10 minutes later, he drives off. Declan is obsessed with this. Early on, I made the mistake of narrating the action. “Hey look–brown truck, brown boxes, and the driver is wearing brown clothes! Brown shirt, brown shorts. So much brown!”
And then… “This guy must really love brown. He’s a brown guy!”
Of course this last phrase is the thing Declan latched onto. So now, whenever we go to the coffee shop (which is always) Declan asks about the brown guy (who is white, by the way). And by “asks” I mean he squeaks “BROWN GUY” repeatedly at maximum volume with an upward inflection indicating either a question or an early adaptation of the Valley girl speaking style. Also, he points. When the truck leaves, Declan excitedly squeals “GOODBYE, BROWN GUY!” This is, shall we say, awkward. Especially considering that he can correctly enunciate probably 1 out of every 20 words he knows, and brown and guy happen to be two of them.
Which is how I ended up in the unfortunate position of carrying my child toward the coffee shop, of him having observed to his chagrin that “brown guy” had not yet arrived, of noticing upon our entrance a person who had a skin complexion that could be described as “brown,” of experiencing a sense of foreboding, of anticipating the high-pitched squeaky voice, of turning toward Declan to redirect his brain, of seeing his mouth open, of hearing the Valley girl sing innocently but clear as a bell “OH NO, BROWN GUY,” of wincing, of considering a quick apology, of deciding to just keep walking, of seeing an employee from a neighboring shop look back mouth agape, of considering an explanation to her, of deciding again to just keep walking.
Eventually the gentle coaching on social graces will sink in. For now, just keep walking. And laughing.
That night Declan had trouble sleeping so I shuffled down the darkened hallway, opened the door to his room, and bent down to pick him up. I couldn’t see much, but I could tell he was in a strange position. Instead of lying the length of the bed, he’d turned his body 90 degrees so that his head and feet were touching the crib bars on each side. No wonder he was crying. Not a lot of room to stretch.
Anyway, I picked him up with both hands and moved him toward my right shoulder. With a gentle nudge, I adjusted my hands. And that’s when I noticed. His feet were next to my face. His face was down by my knees. He was upside down.
So what’d I do? Flipped him around, put him back in the crib, and just kept walking. Like it ain’t no thang.