The anticipation and waiting to become a dad was long and harrowing. Perhaps that uncertainty fueled my eventual appreciation and drove me to be a better dad. I could rant on about every golden moment of fatherhood...but for the sake of brevity, let's concentrate on two things: motion and the Philadelphia Zoo.
At a young age, we discovered that our son Andrew was not too keen on motion. An infant swing has universal appeal. The motion lulls the baby to sleep and enables its caregiver to leave them alone to tend to other matters. Unfortunately, the universality of this phenomena did NOT happen at my house! My son's screaming while in the swing was so acute that even the least ingenious person could see he had a big problem with motion.
For his second birthday, we bought a rocking horse. It was already assembled when we led him into the dining room. Andrew ran up to it, hugged the head and clearly said, "Greatest!" It didn't take him long to figure out how to get in the saddle...but the springs on that horse NEVER were tested...he logged about an eighth of a mile actually riding it...ever.
He was about three when the Downtown Absecon Business Association threw a block party on New Jersey Avenue. The Post Office participated and provided a pony ride in their parking lot. The single loop...with me on one side and a pony handler on the other...was at the break-neck speed of a half-inch per hour. Still, it was so torturous to my guy that the few agonized and tearful photos we got, weren't keepers.
In front of our supermarket they had a mechanical rocking horse. He liked to climb on it...but the mere mention of putting in a quarter would instinctively bring out his famous terror-filled line, "No-no, no quarter!"
The beginning of the end to his motion difficulties happened on Father's Day 1998...Andrew was four and a half. While mom pumped cards in Atlantic City, he and I had a father-son excursion to the Philadelphia Zoo.
CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO HEAR THE MUSIC TO; ARAM KHACHATURIAN'S, "SABRE DANCE." ITS THE ONLY PIECE I EVER HEARD PLAYED DURING THIS ACT.
Besides his appreciation to see live penguins, wart hogs and 20 kinds of monkeys, he held a giant cockroach in his hand, warmed-up nicely to the petting zoo, patiently listened to a zoo keeper's lecture on armadillos and did a craft to take home.
ANDREW WAS FASCINATED AS WE LOOKED DOWN AT OUR ARMADILLO AS HE TRIED TO EXCAVATE A TUNNEL FROM HIS PEN TO FREEDOM.
Anyone can take their kid to the zoo and SAY that they rode the camel. I wanted proof to chronicle forever...good or bad...this amazing development. I surveyed the crowd and selected a grandfatherly-type man with his family. I hoped that I could trust him with my $800.00 palm-corder while we were helplessly strapped in. This gentleman not only undertook this responsibility but made our victory lap into a cherished high-quality video. Even better, Andrew loved the experience and promised to go on the elephant ride on our next visit.
When we got back into our area, to complete the day, I had one more ace up my sleeve. We went to BEST BUY. But got there at 6:01PM...they had just closed. I lied to get in by saying my scion just needed the toilet. Once inside, I bought my first computer...I had no idea it would take an hour. Amid the harsh stares of the workers who were held-up, I accomplished my mission...to the surprise of my wife. Thus completing my favorite Father's Day. The only thing that got in the way of perfection was Andrew's new Mets cap not making it back home.
Beyond the camel ride, the whole videotape of that day is a treasure and I invite you all to come by and watch it...assuming that someone remembers how to use a VCR.