Austin Alexander Domke, you’ll turn 2 tomorrow. As part of my gift to you, consider this your first thank-you note from your Noni Doni.
Thank you for our weekly visits, starting when you were just a few weeks old. Remember that first time we were alone together? I felt a combination of heart-pounding elation and mind-numbing terror.
It was as if I’d forgotten everything I’d known about babies, even though I’d had three children, one of whom is your dad. You went easy on me. You slept the whole time. While you slept, I stared. And wept, and took your photo – 125 pictures, to be exact. Not because I needed that many, but because none seemed to truly capture the whole essence of your magnificent adorableness.
Thank you for allowing me to hold you while you slept, at least for those first few months, even though I had a perfectly comfortable porta-crib on standby for you. As long as I’m confessing, I’ll admit I took the opportunity whenever possible to smell your breath when you yawned. And your neck, too. OK, and your feet. But that’s all.
Thank you for your patience as I relearned how to handle disposable diapers and finally figured out how to apply a diaper that wouldn’t leave you looking like an infant gangster with your crack showing and the crotch of your diaper sagging near your knees.
Thank you forgiving me the time when you were just learning to walk and you fell headfirst against a sharp-cornered coffee table, just inches within reach of your Noni and my friend – both grandmothers – yet we weren’t quick enough to catch you. You went home that day with a bruise and a gash that still haunts me.
Thank you for your love of animals and art projects and books, and for being content to sit on my lap and humor me by naming animals and making their sounds.
Thank you for the way you say “yes” so clearly. My mother, a stickler for enunciation, would have loved that about you. And because of how well you say so many words (like “Noni”), I will overlook other less-stellar pronunciations, such as the way you inexplicably say “ape” for elephant, and your x-rated version of “fox” that makes me laugh every time.
Which reminds me, thank you for not repeating a certain swear word when I slipped up (once … maybe twice) and said it in front of you.
Thank you not balking at my purchase of thrift-store clothes for you, even though your father said one outfit made you look like you belonged on “Dumb and Dumber” just because I’d dressed you in a red long-sleeved turtleneck onesie under a pair of ankle-hugging elastic-waist sweat pants adorned with green frogs and rocket ships.
Thank you for giving me a valid reason to put up a table-top Christmas tree last year, even though I’d vowed to skip the holidays, and for being so enthusiastic about my squirrel and bird ornaments, which only makes me look forward to getting them out again this year.
Thank you for only spraying me once, of all the times I’ve changed your diaper.
Thank you for being named Austin, and not “Gunner” as your parents mentioned as one name possibility before you were born.
Thank you for being such a tech-savvy baby who talks on Skype with your Uncle Joe and Aunt Marie from the Czech Republic each week, and for acting as if it’s the most natural thing in the world for your uncle to read you a book from a computer monitor screen transmitted from the other side of the world, rather than in person.
Thank you for reminding me that it’s probably not a good idea to let you hold my phone, even for just a few seconds, because your little fingers fly like the wind and in the time it takes someone to say “fox” you have the ability to change the language settings to Japanese and the text system to something that transforms all my punctuation to Greek symbols. I do not remember the last time I sent a text with a question mark. How are you. Where shall we meet. When does your plane land.
Thank you for being so gentle with fragile things, like my stacks of dishes within your easy reach, and for being OK with just having permission to open the one cupboard in my kitchen that’s yours, and for knowing that Austin’s shelf is the one with all the metal fondue pots and stainless tea pots. Some people said it couldn’t be done, and you proved them wrong.
Thank you for being such a great eater. You have no idea how much joy it brings me to feed you. (Duly noted about your having an issue with last week’s gingerbread-man-shaped French toast. I should have anticipated that you’d have a problem with the beheading and amputations.)
Thank you for enduring all the times I’ve videotaped you, which provides me with, as my younger sister puts it, untold hours of “granny porn” to watch later, when I’m missing you.
Thank you for being such a delightful first baby for your parents that they decided to try for a second child, who’ll be here in the spring.
Finally, thank you for being born at a time when I’d just about given up on males. You thawed my frozen heart and allowed me to experience the thrill of new love again.
Because of you, I will have plenty of room in my heart for the new baby. Who knows, there might even be space for some nice special grownup guy who might come along, too.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Today I’m thinking of just you. And wonder of wonders, you’re 2! Happy birthday, little Austin. You’ll always be my favorite first grandchild.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.