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03/21/2005

Passing the Torch

Back when Julie and I were first thinking about leaving Manhattan, we helped install plumbing in the house a couple of ex-urbanite friends were building for themselves in the backwoods of Maine. Along with us came the propane torch that had been sitting in my mother's basement for 20 years.

I was watching over Julie's shoulder as she sweated a joint somewhere in the half-built attic when the torch's main seal sprang a leak and flames started spitting from the junction between torch and propane tank. Without a second's hesitation, she handed the potential bomb to me, I blew the fire out, and we took the torch down to the front yard to fizz its way peacefully into oblivion.

Handing Charlie off sometimes seems a lot like that (maybe with a little less shrapnel risk). One of us will hand the other a compact shrieking bundle of fury: "Here. You deal with this." I feel bad when I do that to Julie. When she does it to me, I feel a little terrified but mostly useful.

When else should we hand him off? In Baby Utopia, one of us could put him down to sleep and the other one could pick him up when he wakes again happy and ready to eat. Or drop him in the baby gym for takeover when he's bored with his rattles and squeakers and music stars. And a pony.

But c'mon, who would want to stop hanging out with Charlie when he's being sweet instead of pissy? Or dare to move him when he's just started to go to sleep after a half hour's vocal exercises? Or in the middle of a bottle that he's slurping down without arching and yelling his fool head off?

We don't mean to pass him back and forth like a ticking bomb or a hot potato. That's just the way it tends to work out for now. And a good thing he won't remember.

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