Many years ago when my youngest child was barely two, I left the baby to be watched by his favorite people: His father, Joe, and his uncle, Jack, as I went to work teaching the youth of America.
Now Joe and Jack, have long been considered symbols of “wild, reckless abandon” by the general public, and rarely tagged as “responsible, mature adults.”
Because they are notorious punk rock legends who sell sex, drugs, violence and three chord repetitive anthems, not Activia yogurt and Depends adult briefs.
I haven’t always gotten along with the pair—One of them, in my opinion, looks like the devil and the other one, I believe, is the devil. (And no, I will not share my reasons for my beliefs or views). Which may lead you to think, right about now, What type of woman leaves a baby with Lucifer and El Diablo?
And my response would be: despite public belief and my personal quarrels with each, they both loved and very competently protected and cared for the baby until one day, they didn’t.
Dylan, aka “the baby” was toddling around the house, pudgy little feet and hands naked and free, big over-sized baby belly protruding over his diaper, long silky curls bouncing upon his shoulders; a cherubic little man.
And though he appeared to be a sweet baby, he had inherited the wild streak of his two favorite adults and I often worried that he may grow up to follow in their punk rock footsteps.
His favorite game was to sneak out of the house, strip down, stark naked, and hide in the neighbor’s bush next door. He liked to watch quietly from the shadows, with a tiny smile, I imagine, as we would run up and down the street screaming for him, horrified that we may have actually lost our child.
It took us six months to find his hiding spot. Six months of playing a game that ended with us distraught and shaken, sure that this time he was truly gone, until he would somehow magically appear, out of nowhere, a silent, fat, naked baby, standing in the middle of the grass, ruling the day.
Bad baby. Bad.
On this day though, Dylan wasn’t trying to terrorize his parents or his uncle for that matter. He was just running about, playing with his toys when he approached Joe and said, “Ow.”
According to Joe, his expression was deadpan.
He wasn’t crying.
His face in no way conveyed pain.
He just kept taking his tiny little dough ball of a finger, touching it gently to the side of his nose, and repeating the word, “Ow.” And at that point in time, Uncle Jack came into the room to see what was wrong.
For awhile, both Joe and Jack stared at the baby, unsure of what to do until one of them, or both of them, got the bright idea to look up the baby’s nose and that’s when all hell broke loose.
The baby had a large yellow, glossy wet, massive orb, stuck up inside of his nasal cavity.
They didn’t stop to ask questions.
They freaked out and called me.
I was in the middle of my teaching day, when the office rang through to my room and said, “D.D. your husband needs to talk with you. He says it’s an emergency.”
Joe came on the line.
“Is everyone alive?” I asked before he had a chance to speak.
“Yes,” he answered, his voice immediately dwarfed by the booming voice of my brother shouting somewhere in the background, “I’m sure it’s his brain!”
I tried to remain calm.
Listen to the details.
The pointing finger.
The repeated use of the word “Ow” and the protruding, glossy-wet mass of whatever was stuck up my baby’s nose.
“I think Jack’s right,” Joe whispered, as if the baby could understand him and he didn’t want to cause him concern. “I think it’s his brain.”
“BRAIN!” Jack shouted again, our family legendary in our ability to intensify any given situation by a magnitude of a hundred.
“It’s not his brain,” I said.
Joe yelled to Jack, “She doesn’t think it’s his brain.”
For a moment, there was silence on the end of the line.
“What do you want us to do?” Joe asked.
“Put the baby on the phone,” I demanded.
“She wants to talk to the baby,” Joe whispered to Jack.
“She wants to talk to the baby?” Jack repeated.
“Oh for God’s sake, put the fucking baby on the phone,” I said.
I heard Jack pick up the baby, bring him to the phone, where Dylan’s soft gurgly baby breathing, his tiny little coos, let me know that he was present and listening.
“Dylan,” I said. “Tell Mama what’s wrong.”
“Ow,” the baby whispered. “Ow.” And I could picture his little finger pointing to his tiny baby nose.
Jack carried Dylan away as I waited for Joe to come back on the line.
“It’s not his brain,” I said. “He’s obviously stuck something up his nose and you two are going to have to pull it out.”
“Pull it out?” Joe sounded as if I asked him to diaper an old man’s ass. “How do you want us to pull it out?”
“Get some tweezers,” I said. “Have Jack hold the baby down, while you pull whatever it is out of his nose.”
Joe laid down the phone and I heard a ruckus in the background as he spoke to Jack.
“She wants us to do what?” Jack said.
“Pull it out,” Joe said.
“Are you sure it’s not his brain?”
“I don’t think so.” Joe said, trying to remain calm.
A few moments later I heard the baby being held down: whiny, squirmy protests, a few baby sobs and then…
“Oh my God! Look at it!” Jack said followed by Joe shouting…
“Dude it’s a grape. Look it’s a fucking grape.” Before I heard the baby cry with annoyance as he struggled to be let go.
There was another brief silence before I heard Dylan’s fat little baby feet toddling quickly away from the scene.
Joe returned to the phone out of breath, “It was a grape.”
“Jesus,” I said, “You two fucking take the cake.” As I hung up the phone, apologized to my students for my inappropriate use of the “F” word, and then finished out my work day.
When I arrived home that evening, the boys were very excited to show me the grape which, I realized immediately, was not a grape, but one of the yellow, golden raisins I had given Dylan two days ago that he had obviously stuck up his nose.
“That’s disgusting,” Jack said. “So that thing was up there for like two days just juicing up?”
Joe looked at me as if I had been the one to cause all of this trouble.
“What?” I said, before grabbing the baby up, kicking open the front door, and walking outside to sit on the swing with him.
I listened as Jack and Joe squabbled over the size of the object they had pulled from the baby’s nose, as I gently pushed the swing back and forth with one foot, Dylan cuddled close to me, his tiny baby head nuzzled upon my shoulder, praying that he would not grow up to be anything like his Father or his Uncle Jack.
“Little fucker,” I whispered as I kissed his forehead and waited for him to fall asleep. “Bad baby. Very, very bad.”
From THE WILD WORLD OF MRS. WOOD — “Saturday Stories” about life, love, music and punk rock trouble: from the mean streets of Long Beach, California.