What’s next is what’s always next. Fold the stroller. Marvel at the mechanism. Perform feats of ingenuity to maneuver aforementioned stroller into the back of aforementioned Lexus SUV. Strap in toddler. There’s always satellite radio playing something terrible that I love. No country. Never country.
Russell has a bad habit of kicking my seat, and it’s only something he’s developed lately. Get Daddy’s Attention O’Clock. It doesn’t work, except when it does. Mostly red lights, at which I’ll turn around from my perch behind the wheel and ask my two-year-old to please stop kicking. My wife has told me he’s always to sit directly behind me–it’s some safety thing one of the pediatricians at the hospital told her–but we’ll get to a stop sign every now and then where, without saying a word, I’ll put the car in park, walk to the back seat, pick up my giggling son who thinks he’s won the battle, and slide him over to the passenger side. He makes the “hrumph” sound before I even start driving again. Today, he’s being good. Just, well, shit-smelly. Unless that’s still me.
At the playground, Russ will have rule of the roost for the next half-hour until the moms start trickling in from two destinations: One, a Tuesday pre-school mothers’ group for the school that we’re trying to get Russell into next year; and two, stroller-fitness, a walk-with-your-babies exercise group that happens in the adjacent section of the park. He doesn’t mind being early as he bolts into the woodchipped play-zone. I take a seat on the biggest bench, waiting for company.
These are the kinds of things you see when you don’t have a job besides watching your two-year-old son. You shuttle him around in your Lexus SUV–you can see that from the window, too–bought with your wife’s money. And it’s really amazing what a colossal amount of time a two-year-old can both occupy and not simultaneously; if you want to do something with yourself, it’s completely impossible, but there’s enough time between trips to the playground and the doctor and the supermarket and whatever else your wife, my wife, needs done, that boredom sets in with full, bared teeth. I wonder how the millionaire kills his time.
Skype sends me two pings at once, and before I even have time to choose, Russell comes into the office and stars pulling at the leg of my basketball shorts. He’s carrying a dinosaur that’s been decapitated by our Rhodesian Ridgeback, and I don’t know what smells worse–the slobbered-on toy, or my kid. I close out both call windows, beckoning, and scoop up Russell like a football under my arm, and he’s giggling, shrieking, shaking his white-blond bowl-cut back and forth until he lands onto the changing table. My entire living room smells like shit. The dog jumps up and snatches the dinosaur. Russell yelps. I reach up to rub my eyes, but the smell on my fingers stops me. There’s a smear of shit on one of my knuckles.
The dog is barking with the headless creature in his jaw, Russell starts crying, his bare ass in the air, and my wife’s ringtone starts playing from the recesses of my back pocket. I can hear Skype start pinging in the other room.
Every day, I watch the millionaire next door step outside in his underwear for the newspaper. He comes out in a bathrobe, a white shirt, boxers–usually some sort of blue–and slippers, bends at the hip, and retrieves the bundle like a lumberjack might gather firewood. He can do these things. He’s a millionaire. I usually see it all happening from my office window on the second floor of my house; a bird’s-eye view of former Fortune 500 CEO with a mug of Folger’s in one hand and, in the other, a carefully-selected ordinary existence in the form of a thin yellow plastic bag filled with news of a world of which he’s not a part. He tucks the paper under his arm, stands at the edge of the driveway while surveying the gated neighborhood, takes a sip from World’s Greatest Dad, and turns back into the three-story colonial.