Two intense work weeks sucked time away from the family. We played cribbage less. We ate fewer pesto, tomato, hummus sandwiches together. Our once promising garden produced three dozen roma tomatoes, four basil plants, and countless three foot high weeds that looked something like wheat stalks.
And my wife sent me a text message, “Z Rolled Over!!! I got it on video!”
So this is the first that I missed. I came home that night and saw the second time he rolled over. He went up on his hands, gave a half-smile with his eyes, his head leaned just to the left, and he plopped over like Silverstein’s Missing Piece. Kris and Zach smiled and cooed at each other like it was the first time. I smiled and cooed a little too. But we all knew better. The second time isn’t as special.
My weight was poorly distributed when I was three-and-a-half. My head, made heavier by eighth-inch-thick black rimmed glasses and a California Angels hat, was fifty-six percent of my total body weight. Add poor coordination, incessantly untied shoes, and an innate desire to run everywhere; and it’s no wonder that on six out of seven days, my jeans ended with a combination of grass and dog poop stains. On the seventh day, I wore shorts.
I couldn’t control the size of my head nor my coordination, but after an especially hard day of falling, I marched in the house and declared, “Mom, I need to learn to tie my shoes! No legos for me until I can tie them!”
She looked at my shoes and saw that I had tucked the laces into them by my ankles. “It looks like that works,” I said, “but I’m so fast when I run that the laces come out and I trip on them!”
We set to work. I walked on the ends of my laces so much that I left them stringy and frayed. Mom licked her fingertips and twirled the ends of the laces until they were fit for tying. She had no special rhyme about bunnies going over logs or loops and swoops. She started with the basics. “First, you make the ‘X’. Then two loops. Then you cross the loops and pull them through.”
I learned the ‘X’ within half an hour and figured I’d be back at my legos by dinnertime. But the loops got me. I could make one, but couldn’t hold it together while I tried to make the second one. After two days, I could make two loops, but they were different sizes. I worked for a week getting the loops just right. Any time I wanted to play with the legos, I sat down, tied my ‘X’ and practiced making loops.
Each evening, I’d show mom my progress and she would work with me on getting better. Once the loops were the right size, I had to spin them and pull the one that was in my right hand through to the other side. Tongue out, I worked intently for most of a day, taking my shoes to mom when they’d get knotted.
One evening, about a month removed from any lego play, I went to show mom my progress. I knelt down, licked my fingertips, held the laces, and methodically went through the steps: The ‘X’, the loops, the switching of the hands, and the pulling through. Mom screamed before I realized I had done it correctly. I looked at my shoe and there it was. Tied.
I jumped up and down, loosening the laces. I looked down to see that it had come untied. But I knew how to tie it again. I ran down the hall to show dad, falling just once.
“Dad,” I said, “look at this!”
I knelt, and, with confidence, tied the shoe. Dad smiled and said, “Good job.” Mom smiled and I smiled. But we all knew that this was the second time and, while exciting, was nothing like the first time.
I walked to my room and pulled out the legos.