My daughter Cecily Bryson has been the art director of The Watch, at its Ridgway office, for almost five years now. I’ve been there as a writer and editor since July. Boden came along in October 2010, and after a three-month maternity leave, Cecily and, natch, Boden are back in the office.
Here’s where an extraordinary chain of good fortune unfolded for us. To start, the newspaper’s owners are exceedingly tolerant of the babies, and dogs (and scruffy humans) who work for and with them. Seth and Marta practically raised their son Carlos in the newsroom. The paper’s production manager, Anne Reeser, has kept her son William with her in the office since soon after he was born. (The last time I was in the Telluride office, now two-year-old William was concentrating fiercely on a page of crayon art on the floor behind Anne’s computer chair. When I walked in the door, three dogs came to greet me.)
Second, there is a little-used conference room upstairs at our Ridgway office that Cecily has been able to convert to a temporary nursery. Boden’s wicker bassinette is there on the table. (Sometimes when I’m trying to get him to smile, I tell him about baby Moses and the reed basket on the Nile. This gives me a chance to work in some current events, which I know Bodie appreciates, or will someday.) On the floor is his “Baby Einstein,” a brightly colored pad with a kind of tent frame built in, from which dangle all sorts of interesting things to grab at and stick (part way) in your mouth.
A couple of weeks ago Cecily called for me to come look as Boden, lying on the Einstein pad, who had just rolled over for the first time.
Best of all for me is this chance to get close to having a baby again. Close is the operative word. I can be close, I can help, but mine is not the constant responsibility that falls to a mother, or a father. That’s the beauty of grandparenthood: You get all of the fun and very little of the child-rearing grind, the interrupted sleep, the feeding and swaddling, the worry, especially for first-time parents, that you are doing things right. Plus, I swear, when Bodie cries, I really don’t hear it. That’s not quite right; I do hear him, but it doesn’t get to me at the chemical level the way it did when my children were small and distressed.
I suppose in the olden days, when nuclear families stayed closer to home, and several generations might live under one roof, grandparents did more actual child rearing. My family, including my parents, who are still very much with it, live a kind of radical diaspora – we’re spread out all over the continent. So, this is a rare treat, to participate almost day-to-day in Bodie’s early life, to be a regular recipient of that radiant, bashful smile.
It’s not always carefree at the office; don’t get me wrong. The other day Cecily took an hour to go get her hair cut, and left me alone with Bodie. I was typing away on a story. He was sleeping when she left, but he woke up crying. Cec had instructed me to stick the pacifier back in his mouth and hope he goes back to sleep. But I couldn’t find the pacifier. Turned out it was under his head, the heaviest part of him. That couldn’t have been comfortable.
We walked around the office, his tiny hand on my shoulder, his huge blue eyes darting from newness to newness. I showed him the fax machine and the printer. He liked the spider plant sitting on my cubicle half-wall.
Then it became clear that Boden needed a diaper change. I thought sure, fine, I haven’t changed a diaper in 30 years, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it, especially now that there are no pins involved.
The desk in the conference room makes a perfect changing table. I got the dirty diaper off and a new one underneath him and was contemplating the array of powders and rash ointments when Boden pooped again. Right on the new diaper. Perfect. Another wipe, another diaper. I decided to forego the powder. All back together, clean and happy, before Cecily came back up the stairs.
“Thanks, Da,” she said, looking bright and newly trimmed. And then I watched her wrap him up tight in his blanket “like a burrito” and lay him gently back in bed. Through the glass door I could just make out her quiet singing. Not a song I recognized. Maybe she was making it up. In a minute he was back asleep, and she was back out at her computer.
Perhaps this is the luckiest thing of all: Even at the office I get to see what a good mother my baby daughter has become.