She was so tiny I could hold her in the palm of my hand. Like a bag of sugar, only a thousand times sweeter.
Her favorite place to sleep was on my shoulder and that was fine with me, despite the protests of every grandma who witnessed this, her own and others not even related to us. “You’ll spoil her” was their admonition.
“That’s the idea,” was my response.
She deserved to be spoiled.
“She’s not going to sleep at night,” the grandmas chanted. But they were wrong. She slept soundly, right from day one, with me tip-toeing in to check on her every time I rolled over in bed and awoke to the startling realization that I was a dad.
She arrived on June 6. D-Day. But since we named her Greta it became G-Day to me.
A friend had said the birth of a child is a person’s “own private miracle.” Another told me, “Wait and see, you’re going to fall in love in a way you never dreamed possible.” Both were right.
I was a little afraid of her in the beginning. Never before had something so precious been entrusted to me. But love does conquer all. And what it didn’t, well, there was always those grandmas.
That little, tiny baby didn’t last long. Suddenly she was one. Wednesday was my day off then and they became “Greta days.” Just the two of us, all day long. She wore me out and I gained tremendous respect for moms who did this all the time.
I’d dress her in her Osh Kosh bibbed denim shorts and we’d build block cities that filled the entire living room. It wasn’t long before she was walking and talking and she made up a song she called “Daddy Da.” Those were the only lyrics and she’d sing them over and over as we drove along in the car. It was music to my ears.
She knew she was the boss early on and I vividly recall a day when she let me know.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw her put something in her mouth and I immediately rushed over and stuck in my index finger to retrieve whatever it was. Greta bit down on my finger with the force of a vice grip and wouldn’t let go. She stared right into my eyes which may have been forming a tear or two and held me there several seconds before setting me free.
Her point was made.
It was a Cheerio, by the way.
As smart a little tyke as she was, toilet training was just not happening. She was well past two and still enjoying the convenience of going on her terms, if you know what I mean.
I’d sit her on her little potty chair in the bathroom and plop down on the floor next to her with a stack of her favorite Little Golden Books between us. We’d read every one, some of them twice. She loved “Nancy Nurse” and Disney’s “The Rescuers.” My favorite was “Tawny, Scrawny Lion.” We’d sit there and hour or more and later, Greta would go in her pants. Maybe I went too far with the spoiling.
Many times we would “perform” the Rescuers book with Greta starring as the lead character Penny and all of her dolls and stuffed animals cast in supporting rolls. We could do that all afternoon.
VCRs had just come out and that opened new avenues of fun. Lady and the Tramp was one of her favorite movies. When the Tramp would bring Lady to the Italian restaurant and the owner would tell his assistant that the Tramp wanted a plate of spaghetti and meatballs and the assistant would say “But, Tony, dogs a dona talk,” and the owner would respond, “Well, he’s a talkin ta me,” Greta would fall on the floor in hysterical laughter.
Every. Single. Time.
If she’s reading this, she’s probably laughing right now.
She was three-and-a-half when she became a big sister. Michael arrived during the night while she slept. My parents had come to babysit and told me later they had to let her stay up past her bedtime because she was the only one who knew how to operate the remote.
I had presents for her when she awoke: a blue surgical mask (Michael was an 8-month emergency C-section), blue operating room bonnet and blue shoe covers. I made up a story called “The Night Mikey was Born” and she made me tell it over and over. She immediately claimed him as “my” baby and I put on her fanciest dress and took her to the hospital to see him.
By the time she was four I had become adept at braiding her long hair which always had one, single drop of water hanging from its tip when I picked her up at the Y. We’d get a grape soda from the machine and, as long as no one was looking, I was allowed to scoop her up in my arms and carry her to the car.
I could go on and on and — if I haven’t already — bore you all to death. So I guess I’d better stop.
The only reason I got into this is because on Thursday Greta turns 30.
At various stages of her life I used to wish I had the ability to freeze her and not let her grow a single day older. Now, as I try to comprehend how fast these 30 years have gone by, I find myself wishing I could freeze me so I could keep enjoying her another 30 or more.