So we decide to go on our first real family outing. I think it was our first. It was a weekday so that means Tracy took the day off. It must have been a special occasion of some type, but currently it escapes me. Stop the presses, my dutiful wife just reminded me it was Frank’s first birthday. Yeah, seems like I should have remembered that. Anyway we decide to make a weekend of the whole thing starting off with a trip to the zoo. Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold the phone a second. My diluted memory is coming back, thanks to a photo album I did of the event on Facebook. Frank was actually only 19 weeks old, so it would have been the end of September, not his first birthday which is in May. It was the weekend I retired and Tracy went back to work from maternity leave. Yeah seems like ol` mommy should have remembered that. Well we’ll just keep that between us, no need to gloat to Tracy that I remembered and she did not.
No matter, we press on. Our “garb” makes more sense now. No way I would have been wearing a long sleeve sweatshirt in May; end of September, early October probably. But its East Tennessee and the weather gets “ah mite bit squirrely” as they say round these parts. That would account for the garb Frank had on. And before I describe it let me just say Frank followed the runners code of dress ten degrees lighter than the temperature. In other words if it’s 30 out, dress like it’s 40 because you’ll eventually heat up. The problem in this case is Frank was not going to be doing any running and we dressed him like it was 60 and it was probably closer to 48 in the early morning hours at the zoo. Well too late to do anything about that now. I covered him with my sweatshirt I think. Not too bad a mess up for first timers until we run into a group of friends in front of the bear cave. Seems they have this little zoo get together club one a week I believe. Now we feel like dopes and we can taste the judgement raining down upon us. They weren’t judging us in the slightest but we felt stupid and frankly probably deserved a little judgment at that point. I mean for all we knew Frank was going to have hypothermia before we made it to the monkey cage. That would have been a real downer too because the highlight of any zoo trip for me is always the olympic style feces tossing that goes on in the monkey cage.
We did in fact make it to the monkey cage. Too cold for the feces toss. Can’t have the gorillas pull a hammy or blow an achilles while they’re tossing their excrement. Crap! Although I will risk a fire bombing by PETA to say that seeing a gorilla blow a hammy in the middle of a heave might have been too funny for words. Oh well. It finally warmed up and we ran into the group of friends, all moms by the way, near the little zoo eatery. We were pleased to show them that not only was Frank still alive, but the same color he was when they saw him 15 degrees ago. On a side note I thought it was odd to put a hamburger/hotdog/BBQ joint right along the path of the animal cages. I mean the cheetah habitat was to the right of this joint, the zebras a little further down. You would think the animals wouldn’t take kindly to the smell of burning animal flesh all day. Apparently they didn’t care so we sat down and muckeled some burgers. I guess cows are not respected by the animals of the Serengeti.
All in all it was a lovely day. Frank survived and we headed for the gate. We stopped for the obligatory bathroom break for Tracy. As I was sitting on the bench fixated on Frank I noticed some mud on his shoe. That was really odd because at 19 weeks he couldn’t have walked or even stood up, not to mention the fact that we never took him out of the stroller. The real odd part was the mud was on the top of his shoe near his sock, not on the bottom where you would expect to find mud, that is if he could have walked in the first place. So no, the bell is not ringing for me yet. Tracy walks up and I asked her where could he have gotten mud from. She say’s what mud? I said the mud on his shoe and as I point I can now see the mud on the side of his leg and in the stoller seat. I’m like, dammit where is all this mud coming from? Tracy looks at me with that penetrating look that says, your smart enough to fix military airplanes for ten years and you can’t see that our son has just emptied his bowels all over the stroller!?!?
Yeah, alright now I see it’s not mud, but it looked like mud. Even the “mud” that got on my hands still looked like mud to me. It wasn’t until the smell overtook us that it became clear there was not one drop of mud anywhere. It was all Frank. Funny thing among a host of funny things, Frank was not the least bit concerned. He had not a care in the world. So we hotfoot it back to the car. Yes the car. This was October of 09. We didn’t get the mini-van/shuttle Frankerprise until April the following year. We’re going into hazmat mode in the back seat of my Grand Prix. In case you were wondering, it ain’t built for that. Plus we were woefully underprepared.
I have no idea what were were thinking, but we only had 3 diapers and a small amount of wipes. The diapers became an issue because the back seat was quickly becoming contaminated and Tracy threw me some diapers. Wrong answer, diapers 1 and 2 now contaminated beyond usage. I mean it was like this stuff was just multiplying. “Mud” was everywhere and the wipes inventory was reaching a critical state. Just as I wiped some up, there was twice as much as before. I had to make a command decision. The back seat was becoming uninhabitable. We were about to lose the whole shooting match if we didn’t do an emergency egress. I picked up Frank, stuffed the clean diaper in my pocket and moved to the trunk lid of my car. We were in full view of the public in the zoo parking lot but at least I could breath and see the sky; two things I was almost positive I would never be able to do again. Frank, the kid is a trooper. He was quiet for the most part, probably dumbfounded by what he was witnessing. At one point it seemed like he laughed a little bit. Not a jolly, 19 week old type laugh. It was more of a subtle, sarcastic, “God why do you hate me” laugh. Now I have to set up a potty triage on the trunk of my car.
The little mat that you put down on a public restroom changing table, yeah that was annihilated inside of 3 seconds. But a quick lesson for the young kids – the reusable shopping bags all the tree huggers use at the grocery store – they double nicely as a diaper changing station and, when torn in small pieces are surprisingly absorbent. So we might have to max out on the diasper rash ointment to save Frank’s bottom, but those shopping bags really cleaned up the area. It was a shame though. The 4 grocery bags that bit the dust were actually a gift from my little sister. When she heard I used those at The Kroger she sent me 4 bags with the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies logos on them. Good soliders all.
Somehow we managed to finally get cleaned up. We did have a onsie that survived the avalanche. So Frank rode home in style. We tightened up his diaper bag after that little adventure. I also put a few packs of wipes in the car as well, just in case. We learned some valuable lessons that day. Not the least of which was, if your kid can’t walk, then that can’t be mud.
Originally born and raised in Mays Landing NJ with my 5 sisters and 2 brothers, I now live in Knoxville TN with my wife Tracy, our 4yr old, Frank and his 1 yr old sister Anne Marie. This blog is named for Frank and was Tracy’s idea. So it is truly a family affair.
I’ve had the privilege of serving for 22yrs in the United States Air Force, first as an aircraft electrician, then as an instructor at the Noncommissioned Officers Academy in Knoxville, TN. In that time I received an associates degree in Mathematics from ACC, a community college in South Jersey, and a bachelors degree in History from the University of Maryland’s distance learning program. Aside from my formal education, I was educated by some great people in the military. There are so many, too many to name but W. Clark Allen, Tim Donovan, Joe Zane, and George Wessler are the 4 guys who got the ball rolling. They taught a 20yr old, know-it-all it’s not enough to strive to be good at your job, you have to be dependable, reliable, and trustworthy as a person, be someone others can and want to count on, and when the red phone rings answer only with; “yes sir I’m on my way.” In other words, as Clark would always say “Vinny, it’s time to grow up.” To that foundation all others have added on. Well guys, I hope I’ve been worthy of your efforts.