You started walking about a month ago. At first, you could only make it five or six steps before losing your footing—before dropping, a bit violently, into a sitting position on the floor. This surprising turn of events never seemed to upset you, although it scared the hell out of me a few times. (I wonder if this is why grown-ups like theme park rides: a rollercoaster may help us remember the long-ago rush of learning how to walk.) Anyway, your balance has improved slowly, day by day, and now you can go a dozen steps or more in a row. You’re getting quicker. You march back and forth in our Brooklyn apartment, seeing very little of interest aside from your haggard and astonished parents. You seem delighted by your own motion.
I’m supposed to be writing a sports column right now. But your headlong bipedalism is as amazing to me as anything I’ve seen from a pro athlete in the last few weeks. So in the wake of the NBA and NHL finals, both of which were decided very much to my liking, I am writing down a brief record—something we can look back on later—mixing together your most audacious acts of toddler athleticism with recent pro sports highlights.
This morning, you picked up an empty baby shampoo bottle as you went walking around the apartment—this bottle is one of your favorite toys right now for some reason—and you held it like a roaming quarterback holds a football when he breaks out of the pocket, looking downfield for an open receiver. Except you put the shampoo bottle in your mouth, you kept tasting it. You kneeled down to pick up a white ribbon with your other hand—kneeling without falling, that’s new—and you shook the limp ribbon as though you expected it to make some kind of sound.
The basketball player Dirk Nowitzki, a very tall German man, just helped the Dallas Mavericks win the NBA championship. Nowitzki’s key highlights were his driving end-of-game lay-ups—he elevated above his defenders and managed to score even though the people trying to stop him were notorious bad-asses. (You will learn as you go through life that it can be great fun to root against notorious bad-asses.)
At breakfast you were holding a couple of the silvery measuring spoons that you like to carry around. You put half a blueberry in the teaspoon, then squeezed another half-blueberry next to the first one. You’re beginning to understand what a spoon is for: we use them at the table when we eat. But you don’t fully comprehend the mechanics of spoons yet. Soon you picked the blueberry pieces out of the teaspoon and jammed both berry-halves into your mouth with your fingers. As you chewed, you stuck your hand in your mother’s water glass.
This guy in Major League Soccer scored an unbelievable circus-stunt goal the other day. He didn’t even really look at the goal as he shot the ball. As your father, I feel guilty that I waste time watching soccer highlights, but I watch them anyway. I care about our national soccer culture. This concern has been a horrendous waste of time and a great source of pleasure throughout my adult life.
When you walk, you keep your feet spread way apart, a very wide stance. Once you figure out a narrower stance you’re going to be sprinting around, here one moment, gone the next.
The Boston Bruins just won the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 39 years. The star of the championship series was the Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas, who was astounding at every turn. Thomas sank into that extrasensory groove that hockey goalies are sometimes blessed with, as though the hockey puck, from their perspective, is as big and slow as a chocolate cake.
You’ve been bossing around the big red ball. Your mother has an inflatable exercise ball that is about as tall as you are; Mom uses the ball to stretch out, strengthen her back and help her balance—she lies across the ball in our big room like a shipwreck victim floating on a scrap of wood. But you, you shove this ball around, give the gigantic faceless globe your sternest looks, push it with your hand so that it rolls away from you, then chase after it and push it some more. Because our apartment’s floors slope unpredictably in some places (and because you can’t push very hard yet), the ball often pauses in mid-roll and then starts moving back in your direction. The first few times this happened, you were terrified. Now you stand your ground—a little scared still, I think, but determined. You hold your hand up as the red ball bears down. You push back.
Crawling is so stable, four on the floor, perfectly functional—some speedy version of crawling works for gorillas, why not for us? The more I see you totter around, on the edge of crashing every third step, the more I appreciate the messed-up miracle of momentum that we learn to take for granted.
Now you’re asleep. Almost all the picture books we read to you end with sleeping; the protagonist, puppy or wombat or whatever, winds up closing his or her eyes and snoring on the last page. I wonder if these images of sleep make an impression on you. My guess is you’re on your feet even in your dreams.