The Home Team / Two Men and a Baby (and Two Dogs)
Ah, such a good day we had planned! What a great adventure it would be! A Spring Sunday in Westport, with my son Greg, my grandson Ryan, Greg’s dog Ruckus, and my dog Kemba — all of us heading off for a hike around nearby Lake Mohegan, in Fairfield. Greg and Ryan (in his baby seat) in Greg’s SUV, me and the doggies in my Jeep Wrangler, their favorite ride.
We park in the lot nearest the cascades. I open the Jeep’s doors, and the two dogs bolt. They’ve been here a zillion times, and they know exactly where they’re going. Greg asks me for some help getting Ryan set up in his Ergobaby 360 All Carry Positions Award-Winning Ergonomic Baby Carrier, in the forward-facing position. He throws this out there as if it’s no biggie, but I’m thinking, hmm: Greg . . me . . not exactly the world’s two handiest people.
With the dogs giving me that tilty-head, how-slow-can-this-guy-move stare, and Greg giving me that quasi-patient, how-dumb-can-you-be look, I fiddle more and more nervously with the cinches and buckles and Velcro straps. What freaking sadist invented this freaking contraption?! Where the hell do Ryan’s arms go? And what about his legs?
Normally I raise the white flag on this kind of challenge early on, given my sorry track record . . . but this is my grandson waiting! And he’s being so cute and patient! I pull his legs through the only gaps I can find in the cloth torture chamber, tighten the badly twisted Velcro thingies, and tell Greg we’re good to go.
“It doesn’t feel right,” Greg says, right off the bat. (Ryan says nothing. He’s happy as a clam. The dogs, though, are still giving me the stink-eye.) I see what Greg means. Ryan’s legs look like they’re stretched into an abnormal spread-eagle position. And his whole body is contorted at a 45-degree angle relative to Greg’s. I fiddle some more.
“Let’s just get going,” Greg says.
Though Kemba and Ruckus are ecstatic that our group is finally on the move, and Ryan is, against all odds, still smiling, Greg and I are not happy. It’s clear to both of us that the harness is all messed up. And that Ryan cannot possibly be comfortable.
“Why don’t I just carry him?” Greg suggests, after we’ve traveled maybe 200 yards. I agree, and volunteer to take a turn whenever he needs a break. But pretty soon we realize Ryan’s not really content facing nothing but Greg’s chest, since he’s no longer able to see everything.
“Tell you what,” I say, knowing full well that Greg’s been thinking all along that I’m the screw-up. “Why don’t I old Ryan while you try to set him up in the harness.”
Greg pulls and pushes and fumbles . . . and throws in the towel even more quickly than I did. Between the walking and the aggravation, we’ve both worked up a sweat. “Could I have Ryan’s bottle?” Greg asks.
“I think I left it back on the hood of the Jeep,” I say. “You know, when we were first trying to get Ryan into that bleeping thing?” At this point, there’s nothing for us to do but laugh. I don’t remember which of us said it, but we were certainly both thinking it: We need Kelly with us next time. We agree that Greg will take Ryan back home to Westport, and I’ll continue on the hike with the two dogs.
At this point I’m still aggravated from the harness fiasco, but gradually the antics of the two dogs snap me into a better mood. I have to smile at their routine: Kemba swims after the stick I’ve thrown way out into the lake, fetches it, swims back . . . and then Ruckus, who’s been waiting on dry land, rips it from Kemba’s jaws and runs away.
An hour-and-a-quarter later we’ve completed our loop and are back at the Jeep. There’s a young couple in the lot, with a baby about Ryan’s age. I can’t help noticing that he’s strapped into an Ergobaby 360 All Carry Positions Award-Winning Ergonomic Baby Carrier. Nodding at the harness, I say to the guy, “Didn’t you find that thing ridiculously complicated?”
He looks over at his wife, then back at me, and says, “Not really.”
“The Home Team” appears the first Friday of every month. You can also keep up with Hank’s adventures on his blog, “Beagle Man,” on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com.