Legends of the Fall
Contributed by: Joe
Our warning came when the baby’s face turned beet red.
We stood Amelia up in her blue whale baby bath, the familiar rinsing position before wrapping her in a towel and beginning the bedtime ritual: new diaper, pajamas, two stories and lights out. The whale came with a fist-size, open-mouth plastic orange whale with holes in the bottom, the better to rinse you with, my dear, and a blue rubber floating hippopotamus . The hippo has a summer sky blue body and a winter pale blue face. Beady little black eyes and nostrils. Small hippo ears and feet and a curly bas-relief tail. A wide smile. A Made in China tattoo under its chin.
And that night, Amelia changed the hippo’s name forever.
We had been using the whale for months, first in our one-bedroom walkup apartment with the feral cat-feeding woman downstairs, that night in our two-bedroom bungalow with the porch, the wonderful L-shaped porch, a porch made for Jacksonville summer nights sipping homemade margaritas while swatting the mosquitoes away. The whale was a damn sight better than our washing method before it arrived, which consisted of us infrequently washing Amelia (we’re sorry, sweetheart, really. We’re rookies at this baby thing.) on her changing table with disposable soap pads. Ever the trooper, she tried rinsing herself naturally a few times. Not complete idiots, Miss L and I thanked her for her efforts and washed her bits again.
Jacksonville, where Miss L had her favorite job ever, writing about food and food issues and restaurant news and all things eating. Jacksonville, where I went to a job fair at the University of North Florida that had job-seekers from 17 to 70, at least 300 in line ahead of me before the doors even opened at 10 a.m. and more than that when I left an hour later.
The absolute abomination of a job market notwithstanding, Jacksonville was a half-hour from the Atlantic and 45 minutes from our favorite beach halfway between the gated mansions at Ponte Vedra and America’s first city, St. Augustine.
In the summer, the heat and humidity was a living thing. In the winter, we were in Midwest expat heaven, and we walked with Amelia, first in a sling, later in a stroller, to the St. Johns River scant blocks away from our homes. Before we put her in daycare, I watched Amelia every day while Miss L kept us solvent. Amelia and I would go for walks in the afternoon heat, sometimes to my favorite Irish pub where the Guinness was on tap and the patio misters were on high. To say we sweated would be putting it mildly. I needed a shower, and the baby most definitely needed a bath.
So, compared to the changing table method, the whale was a damn big step up in class—and bath frequency.
Amelia had a great time in the whale. Scooping up water with the rinsing whale. Splashing—especially splashing—water onto the dark granite countertop and hardwood floor and all over whoever was giving her the bath. Smacking the hippo around and laughing. Reaching for the electric outlet on the counter. You know, the usual baby bath time things.
And then one night, it happened.
Her face went red. Her brows pinched together, and she crinkled her nose. She gave a little baby grunt. Miss L and I looked at each other, realization dawning on our faces.
Plop. Another grunt. Plop. Two little nuggets, the size of robin’s eggs, splashed in the water, narrowly missing the floating bath toy. Oh, baby. We laughed, amused in spite of ourselves.
As the ripples subsided, he sat there with an Eeyore smile on his pale blue plastic face, the nuggets his only companions. And thus, the legend was born.