The Story About the Baby, Volume 52.

Our little girl Cordelia is now one year old. The big o-n-e. Fifty two long weeks of not turning blue.

We did the holiday up right. We took a vacation. We flew south to spend the holiday in a mobile home. In the middle of a desert. Within walking distance of the San Andreas Fault.

Of course, I’m using a very loose definition of the word “vacation.”

First, the Terrors Of Flight

First, to visit the family, we had to give Cordelia her first flight on a plane.

Well, OK, technically Cordelia flew somewhere else with my wife a few months ago. However, since I was not there, I feel that that trip a) not a problem at all, and b) doesn’t count.

So, as I was saying, Cordelia’s first flight. You ever been on one of those flights where there was this one kid who cried and cried and drove everyone nuts? And you loathed that kid’s stupid parents for not being able to control their squalling brat?

Well, fuck you. Fuck you for not being in my place. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

Flying with infants is miserable and stupid. But when you consider the alternative, namely being trapped in a house with them for month after gruesome month, we really have no choice. I hope the nice businesswoman who was sitting next to us understood that. Probably not, though, since she spent the whole flight looking like she couldn’t decide whether to kill herself or the baby.

Of course, then again, we were flying on Southwest. Anyone who flies on a bargain airline deserves what they get. A crying baby? Feh. They should have felt lucky the stewardesses weren’t spitting on them.

But anyway. Hours. Baby. Screaming.

So was it a good flight? Well, like I always say, there are two sorts of airplane flights. Flights where you fly into the ground at five hundred miles an hour, and good flights. We had the second sort. Though there were moments in there where I was really hoping for the first.

First Birthday

We had a first birthday party for Cordelia. There was cake. She got an obscenely huge pile of toys to be brought home and set next to her other obscenely huge pile of toys. It’s amazing what you can do with molded plastic these days.

A first birthday is, of course, for the parents’ benefit only. The baby is still only emerging from the pure, crystalline dopeyness of infancy into the more refined, irritating dopeyness of childhood, and she has no idea what a birthday is. All our daughter knew was that there were lots more people cluttering the room than usual, and she was having cake frosting shoved into her mouth.

Thanks to the miracle of frosting, the day worked out well for her, overall.

I know that I’m supposed to get some feeling of accomplishment from having reached this great milestone, but I don’t. I wish I did. But the thought of the toddler years ahead weighs me down. I’m given to understand that they totally suck. At least, that’s what my relatives spent the weekend telling me. Again and again and again.

But hey, at least I got cake.

The Best Thing About Spending A Baby’s First Birthday Around All Your older Relatives:

When they sit around and tell all of their “The time my baby almost died.”stories. If you’re the parent of a baby, that … is … a … blast.

“Once, I didn’t pay attention and handed little Enid a Lifesaver. She almost choked to death right there.”

“I gave little Billy a piece of ham the size of a flea’s asshole, and he almost choked to death on it. I’ll always remember the first thing he said when I got the ham out: ‘WHAT THE FUCK!?!?’ Those were the most beautiful words I ever heard.”

“My baby was almost exactly the same as yours. When I fed her some carrot baby food, just like what you’re feeding to her now, she almost choked to death. It was a miracle she survived.”

“I remember when my baby almost choked to death on nitrogen.”

Believe me. Speaking as someone with some affection for my child, and an aversion to thinking about her seemingly inevitable demise, that shit gets old real fast.

One Reason This Birthday Thrills Me

I call it “SIDS Liberation Day.”I no longer have to worry about it.

Now, when I stand over the baby and listen to make sure she’s still breathing, I’ll know for sure I’m being an idiot, instead of just suspecting it.

Baby’s First Dunking

We spent Cordelia’s first birthday in the town of Desert Hot Springs. This is a small, cozy, desert village in southern California where old people go to live in modular homes and soak in hot tubs. Since some of the hot tubs were not too warm, we took this opportunity to let Cordelia swim for the first time.

Of course, she did not actually “swim”. Instead, my wife or I submerged her to neck level in a weak, salty, warm broth with a gentle old person flavor, while the other one of us watched mistrustfully for any signs of the baby being about to drown.

Cordelia loved it, of course. And she learned a valuable lesson: don’t dip your head down and drink mineral water old people have been soaking in. The flavor is non-optimal.

Actually, we were breaking the rules bringing her into the hot tub. The posted rules clearly forbade any infant still in diapers from being in the pools. I feel this is prejudicial, however, since old people who wear diapers have free reign. And it was in a family pool, for God’s sake! Everyone knows those things are two-thirds urine anyway.

So anyway, just to make a statement, I pissed in the pool a few times myself. It’s not something I would normally do, mind you, but it was a matter of principle.

The Demonic Birthday Present

Cordelia got piles of toys, of course. The most demonic one, in my view, is a Playskool brand toy cell phone.

At first, I was not sure why on earth anyone would buy a child a toy cell phone. Then I figured it out. It’s so she has something to do while driving her toy car.

When you push one of the buttons on the phone, it rings and a little robot voice asks how you’re doing. Then, and this is the best part, the phone calls you back. It then says one of two things:

“Hi, it’s me again! You’re my best friend. Bye!”[Click.]

(To which my wife said “That’s nice! They think she’ll have a best friend.”)

“Hi, it’s me again! I love you. Bye!”[Click.]

(Cordelia is now being stalked by one of her toys. I swear I’ve been in relationships like this.)

Worryingly, Cordelia really likes her toy cell phone. Now we have to get her a pretend calling plan, a toy Palm Pilot, and a styrofoam Tablet PC. Soon, she won’t have room in her toybox for all the war toys I’m getting her.

Having Struggled Desperately To Reach One End, Are We Stupid Enough To Want Another Beginning?

At Cordelia’s birthday party, after dinner, during tequila, and before cake, my parents and grandparents stunned me by asking when we were planning to have another baby.

As I reeled in shock and horror, the elders debated how long it was best to wait before the next child. One year? (Also known as “[Insert ethnic group here] twins”.) Two years? (So we never get a chance to torment ourselves by enjoying life again.) Four years? (Giving the older sibling absolute physical power over the younger?) Forty years? (Which, speaking as the current parent of a one year old, seems optimal.)

But what gets me is that, after such a short period of time, we’re already being hounded for more offspring! I would have thought squeezing out one sprog would have bought us at least two years of grace! Now I see that I was a fool. My relatives will not be satisfied until my wife’s uterus falls out of her body and she drags it behind her like a poodle on a leash.

My grandparents did give us an excellent reason to want another child: because the first one might die. Being an only child myself, I can appreciate the harsh but sensible rationale behind this argument. There is a very real and constant pressure that comes from knowing you are your parents’ only shot at posterity.

On the other hand, you really, really can’t tell the second kid that you had it so it could be your redundancy system. But, I figure, why hide it? I’ll name the next two kids “Backup”and “Backup 2” and be done with it.

Ugh. I can’t even bear to think about it. We have a real, live girl. She’s adorable. So far, we’ve managed to keep her alive. And thinking of having another makes me very, very, very tired.

And that’s all I have to say about the last year.