I write underground.
We did it. We just got back from vacation, a trip to the folks down south. I sit now on the floor of the office of our new house. We bought a house. We own a house. I have eaten meat and cheese and started on a beer. A large fan is on. I am here to sweep the basement. My office down here has one small window. I can see flowers growing outside. Tomorrow we begin loading in the big stuff. It will be our first night in the new house. Zoe, our daughter, just turned one year old.
I’ve got a lot to do, including proofread a new story I finished about a week ago called “The Hour of Xaratarax.” It’s a sword-and-sorcery-type novella about a guy in a long-ago age, in a land that would eventually become this county, a heroic quest where he rides the subterranean rivers in a sort of floating room. As a few examples from my List of Million Things To Do, I’ve got to WD40 the garage door chain, and put socket fillers in the plugs, plus set up the Take-N-Go portable folding playpen for Zoe’s nap tomorrow while we’re back cleaning, plus get clips for the gutters from the hardware store, and put the block of wood and old carving tools Dad gave me in the shop. My new shop.
Now I’m Dad. Hard to believe it’s been a whole year already. Watching the birth of our daughter was the most intense experience of my life. I had seen “E.T.-The Extraterrestrial” the night before. We weren’t expecting her for another three weeks. When she came out, right away I thought she looked like a being from another world. It was so incredibly amazing. A somehow sudden, totally life-changing experience. She looked to me like E.T. with those benign alien eyes first taking in the world. I was the first person she saw. I was the first person who held her. I was so overcome with intense joy, I could scarcely hold back the tears.
These days Zoe stands up and says words, with her big blue perfect eyes and her lovely little laugh and her strawberry blonde curls. She’s my buddy. That’s all there is to it.
I walked around the property, checking the condition of the fence, looking for spots that a cat could get through. It looks pretty good, and it’s hard to imagine either one of our cats being able to jump the fence, but I don’t think it’s totally safe for them at all. Already I’m seeing where the barbecue will go. We sure do have ourselves a mighty fine big yard. One apple tree, one elm, two maples. Quite a few bushes all along the fence, and the house. Wild honeysuckle thick along our driveway fence. I cut down a few old laundry lines with my knife in the dark. I could hear the neighbors on the porch.
The leaping salmon chainsaw carving I did with the little chainsaw one night working for the Tribes. Would look good in front of the shop.
Ah: Zoe can hold her own sippy cup high enough so that the juice will go down. A big achievement!
Zoe took her first steps.
Yesterday we moved in most of the bigger items—bed, bureaus, hi-fi—in the 17-foot U-Haul I drove. We were in the living room last night surrounded by boxes on the floor watching “Cold Mountain” on the DVD I rented. She had taken a step or two once or twice before, but here she was strolling along a good half dozen steps. It was so weird to see this little mobile unit step around by herself. Then she looked back, saw me watching, and plopped right down. The little sweetheart. She knew she had done good.
Today we went to the pool for Zoe’s Water Babies swim class. It was hot again. The heat is fully oppressive. I look forward to autumn’s cooler weather, and can’t wait to see the turning of the leaves through Zoe’s eyes. Last year, she was a little baby witch. This year, I’ll take her trick-or-treating. Joy!
She had missed her morning nap, for no particular reason I could discern. Even so—and I say this completely objectively—at swim class she was the best baby by far. Winner, Best Water Baby. Totally well-behaved, comfortable in the water with me, just like back in the Best Western’s indoor heated pool where I took her in the water and showed her how we swim.
The other kids in the class of seven or so one year-olds were mostly not nearly as comfortable. Some were outright bawling. The four foot-deep pool has a large slide, with water spraying the inside of the spiraling tube. Well of course right away Zoe wanted to do this, as evinced by her tiny outstretched finger and smiling grunts, so I took her down the slide, first of the bunch. I held her up facing forward, myself in an upright seated position, making sure I would remain that way throughout the slide down. This I did, and Zoe was delighted. I heard some of the young women remarking how easy I made it look.
Soon thereafter, a young mother going down lost control of her upright seated position and her baby’s head hit the side of the slide. They slid into the water completely submerged, and the baby came up screaming. It was horrible to see. Fortunately the kid seemed fine. It looked worse than it was. But it was strange to me that none of the lifeguards on duty did anything. Said nothing, did nothing. Yet at the reverberating thunk had come a palpable hush throughout the large indoor pool facility, and people spoke of it afterwards.
Second time at swim class today. Zoe sat between my legs on the water slide, while I held her underneath her arms. What a ride for the kid! Water jets shoot overhead—twisting, turning—suddenly she’s hoisted up while I flounder in the water! And today she went underwater, too. The instructor, a female lifeguard, slightly olderish and so far the only capable one of the hirelings I’ve seen, held Zoe and blew into her face just before fully dunking herself and Zoe. To be sure, Zoe did swallow a bit of pool water, and I could see she would have evinced the full range of her displeasure had I not then taken her, held her, and told her what a good job she did and how proud we were of her, and then she was her normal smiling self again.
In that pool, I’m Johnny Weissmuller.
Tonight I’ll stay up late and put in another hour of writing.
This morning I cuddled with Zoe while she woke up at 6:30, then diapered her (twice), dressed her, fed her, fed the cats, did a load of laundry, washed the dishes, read to Zoe, and played with her before diapering her and putting her down to her nap at 9:00, quietly exiting the room with her asleep half an hour later. (Note: Remember to add teaspoon of wheat germ to Zoe’s cereal before adding milk.)
I’ve been thinking it would be a good idea for us to drive out to the mountains and hike the trails. We need to log in some serious nature. I’ll backpack Zoe around the pines and boulders over the river and find a nice spot with a view of the snow-capped peaks to bust out a book and read to her while we eat.
She’s so funny. She’s sitting in her play pen with her sippy cup and looking right at me. When I told her my idea she must have burped when she excitedly replied, “Yes!” because the sound came out all deep and distorted. You little weirdo! The mountains it is, then. I’ll take lots of pictures. Plus I think I’ll bring the voice recorder. We’ll see how well it picks up the sounds of the river and the wind, maybe catch some of the funny things the wee bairn has to say…