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Answering the Imam’s Call

UN Chapel
The UN Church Center in Turtle Cove.
(No, really, that's what the area used to be called.)

So, unfortunately, my friend’s father died. He was a mover and shaker at the United Nations, so the memorial service was at the same place Terry and I got married, the United Nations Church Center, a non-denominational chapel.

Now that I’m a stay-at-home Dad, I have to think about what to do with Ronan if I want to go somewhere. There are three choices: 1.) Stay home; 2.) Go with Ronan strapped to my chest or in his stroller; 3.) Get Terry, Ryan or someone else to stay with him. Before coming to the memorial service, I checked with my friend to see if it was okay to bring a baby.

His first sentence was “No.” The second sentence was “Just kidding, we’d love to see him.” Assuming his second sentence to be truthful, Ronan and I bundled up in his Bjørn carrier and headed off to midtown East.

Actually, I left out an important part: Ronan had such a crabby morning I was considering not going. He cried in my arms; he cried on the floor; he cried in his playpen. A short nap didn’t help. I fed him some solid food while I considered skipping the service. Checking with my brother, he wasn’t going, he had a temp job. I knew several other friends that wanted to be there but couldn’t because of work. Then the phone rang. My friend was on the other line with a question about microphones for the video of the service. I tried to be helpful, but he ended with, “See you soon, right?” which pretty much meant I had to go. Then we bundled up and rode the subway to Grand Central and walked to the UN Chapel.

Traveling with a child always takes 30 minutes more to get ready than I think it will, and instead of arriving early, we were cutting it close to the beginning of the service. I began to panic about not finding a seat as we got closer to the chapel. Luckily I was able to get a seat in the back. Joining me on my left was the UN representative (I think) of the Salvation Army, and on my left was the UN representative (I think) of someplace. Ronan was delighted at all the new things to look at. The service began with an Imam’s prayer, and then Andrew Young — of the Carter Administration — gave the eulogy. (My friend’s Dad was really involved with the UN.) About halfway through Ronan decided he’d had enough of looking around and had to explore.

This is the crucible of parenting. While he’s not yet walking, he’s crawling, and given a ledge (like, say, a row of chairs) he will go “cruising” which is not related to gay bars, but a baby term for holding on to something while the baby walks around. Ronan loves cruising and crawling, preferring it to any system of confinement we can think of or purchase.[i]

So I was faced with a dilemma. Do I let him down, and watch him crawl/cruise away? Do I hold him and hope he doesn’t cry? Ronan, as usual, made the decision for me. He was going to cry if he wasn’t allowed to explore, so I put him down, hoping he would just sit and be content. Foolish Daddy!

Ronan sat for about 3 seconds, then took off for the exit. The Salvation Army lady stopped him, and I scooped him up. She made faces at him for the rest of Andrew Young’s speech. For the next speech, he played with her shoulder rank insignia, attempting to grab it. This provoked Daddy’s earnestly repeated but quiet “No!” followed by Salvation Army lady’s “Oh, that’s okay.” Then it was time to get on the floor again.

This time Ronan didn’t take off for the exit. Instead, he entertained himself by sticking his hands up the butts of the three people in front of me. Two were delighted by his poke enough to smile at him and get a big smile back. The third person did not smile, but her stern gaze still got a smile from Ronan anyway.  Obviously either Ronan poked her where the sun doesn’t shine or she has a heart of stone. Again, repeatedly, I would take his hands away from the people’s butts. He thought this was great fun!

For the next speech, Ronan crawled under the chairs in front of us, and had a grand time laughing at me whispering for him to come back.

For the last speech, Ronan crawled up the leg of the UN representative of someplace, who actually didn’t seem to mind.

Ronan just started clapping. After every speech, he would listen to everyone clap, then after the audience stopped, he would start — but then he couldn't hear clapping anymore, so he would stop before he really got started. A whole room full of people clapping delighted and excited him but he couldn't figure out the procedure for starting and stopping.

Finally, an hour later, the Imam came back to close the service with prayer. I can’t write or speak Arabic, but it was very heartfelt and beautiful, and everyone was moved by it, including Ronan, who yelled out the last three syllables, almost perfectly mimicking the Imam’s words. Which was a great way to end the service. Instead of wanting to melt into my seat, instead people found his sounds quite delightful (or, at least, they didn’t tell me they were pissed off by his outburst.)

Ronan and I waited for the crowds to make their way upstairs after the service. Allowed the free run of the whole row at last, he cruised down the aisle giggling with joy at finding a new place to play.

At the reception[ii], so many people, even those I didn’t know, commented on how well behaved Ronan was, and that they had no idea an infant was even in the room. For all his activity, he confined himself to poking the five people directly around us, and while they knew for sure a baby was in the room, most of the other people did not.

The only time my friend heard Ronan was when he answered the Imam’s call. I’m damn lucky to have such a great son who is so well behaved!

[i] Actually, we just converted the last open space in our apartment into a medium-sized playroom. He prefers to be outside of it.

[ii] On a side note, despite the years I spent working at an international school, I could never master the European two-cheek kiss. So with one other friend’s Mom, I kissed her cheek, then realized too late that she had her other cheek offered as well. Then, as she realized that no second kiss was forthcoming, she retracted her cheek. That’s when I realized I was supposed to kiss her a second time, and kissed her now withdrawn cheek. Then, in the receiving line, my first friend’s Mom offered her second cheek to kiss, and I totally forgot about it. So she too was left hanging without a second kiss. I’m just an ugly American, sorry!


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 28, 2008 11:35 PM.

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