Our house has been a busy place over the past few days. The ostensible reason that we moved from a cramped 2-bedroom in Crown Heights to the leisurely meadows of farther-out Flatbush was so that we had a yard for the kids to run around in, but the bare fact is, we love having sleepovers. And sleepovers are way more pleasant when you and your wife can retreat to your own room and not have some friends/acquaintances/visiting cousins from Australia/beer buddies snuggled up at your feet, ready to wake up the instant that one of you snores too loudly. Hence, our recently-packed house. Our friend Julia, who crashed for the past few days, just posted this really nice post on Zooey Deschanel’s website HelloGiggles.com. It’s called “Your Friends’ Babies Are Your Babies Too” and I’d like to (immodestly) think we had something to do with it. Just read this paragraph, and try not to squeal at the indelible cuteness that comes out. It’s totally our babies. Granted, I think that any time I read anything about babies, but there’s some firsthand knowledge on this one.
Even their sadness is cute. Don’t they know that their earth-shattering fear and discomfort over anything and everything is baseless? If I was a baby, I’d enjoy having no real worries and being hugged and comforted for freaking out every time I thought my mom disappeared when, in fact, all I did was close my eyes for a minute. They don’t even have to burp! People rub their little backs and do it for them! Then they go through this phase. Glimpses of it show up later, in toddler hood, but around the six-month mark (or whenever their vision stops being blurry), they get this Look. You’ll be holding them and having a silly old time, and suddenly they’ll give you the Look. Their eyes bore straight in yours, with this piercing gaze like they hold the key to the universe and understand how it relates to your measly little adult life.
There’s a time in one’s life where the novelty switches from “Wow! We have married & babied friends” to “Wow! We have single friends,” and I think we’ve hit it. It’s weird and disorienting — no, it’s cool — to invite people over rather than going out to a bar, not just because it saves $32-50 on babysitting, but also because it feels cool to host people in the privacy of your house. Putting a glass in front of them and knowing that your salary paid for that glass, and pouring out a cold drink, yes, I will share my plenitude with you. I always think of Abraham when I think of this — he waited outside his tent, actually eager to invite people in — and he was 99 years old and still childless, so I suppose he just had a lot of free time on his hands. I don’t know what that’s like. When Julia visited, I think I saw her twice — once when she got home at 11:30 and by some miracle I was still awake, and once when I got home at 11:00 and by some miracle she wasn’t out. But it’s those moments, those casual “hi”s, the exchanging of stories that seem familiar from long ago but have no bearing on our lives now, that make it feel like a real quality exchange of information.
ME: It was so crazy. Tonight the older kid wouldn’t go to sleep because she wanted to make sure I was in bed, too, so she ran in and tucked me in and read me a story even though she doesn’t actually know how to read and then I closed my eyes and waited for five minutes and then I had to sneak into her room. And even then she wasn’t asleep. She was putting her dinosaurs to sleep. Do dinosaurs even go to sleep!?
JULIA: This insanely cool band [insert the name of band, which I forget because I was too tired] was playing at the bar right down the street from your house. It was the best dancing I’ve seen in years. You guys should totally check it out one night. Oh, I don’t know if you’d want to bring the kids in. But it’s great.
It’s okay, Julia. Now most of my life is anthropology. A little bit that I’m writing a memoir about becoming Orthodox and trying to remember what it was like back then. Mostly that my life right now is about my kids, watching them discover things and grow into the people they’re growing into. But some of that anthropology is also having people over, watching them discover the New York that we almost forgot about. And then, sometimes, finding yourself written about by them.