Posted Sunday, August 7, 2016 at 9:08am by Darren Baker
Czech the Children- Chapter 9 - The Magic Carpet
The Magic Carpet
With Terka, it was close to madness, because despite all the toys she had, she always preferred to play with something that could be best described as equipment. Keys, video tapes, remote controls, cheese grater, broccoli steamer. I even found her playing with this heavy-duty spring once, but have no idea where she got it from. She even preferred what might be termed industrial noises over all the lullabies coming out of her crib music box. Front door slamming shut, oven door slamming shut, dial tone. Offer her a rattle or bottle of vitamins to play with and she’ll easily take the vitamins.
Finally, at about nine months old, came the biggest of the firsts: walking. You never know when it’s going to happen, you just stand them up, pull your arms back, and say, “Come on!” They may either stand there totally confused or pull a famous look of despair, maybe both before dropping back on their haunches. We didn’t exactly stage the event, but it just so happened that we were taking turns horsing around with her on the bed while the other one filmed the action.
As Neil Armstrong was ordained to be the first man to step on the moon, so Vet got the honors when she stood Terka up after one romp and said that “come on” – Poydj sem. And like that, with just the slightest of hesitations, Terka took her first steps all alone, three to be exact, right into her mother’s arms. I was the Buzz Aldrin standing by with the video camera, who caught it all on tape. For those of you wondering what tape is, that’s a whole other story.
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That was a huge week, because the other first was learning that Terka was going to be the first child. Six months down the road and a sibling would be joining her. Now while Terka was in all probability a wedding night baby, there wasn’t a scrap of planning that went into our next one, and yet we can pinpoint that date of conception as well.
We had bought a new carpet for our bedroom and wound up cutting and placing it well into the night. By the time we finished, Terka was nicely asleep and we were exhausted. You would think we went right to sleep, too, but it was just one of those things where you get your adrenaline all worked up and there’s that last bit of jolt in your system hankering to get out. Already the next morning Vet sensed there would be consequences from that last jolt. And of course, she was right. But it was no big deal really, we wanted to have the next kid before Terka turned two, and so it would be. The problem was how to tell the others.
I don’t mean our parents, whose reaction was probably typical for most new grandparents. “Are you sure you’re ready for a second one so soon?” A more delicate problem was the reaction of the “Mads,” a group of couples we hung out with on occasion. They got their name because they’re representative of the madness that grips this country when it comes to sports.
For example, see a group of people on bikes dressed up for the Tour de France? You’re in the Czech Republic. See another group ready to climb a mountain with everything except bottled oxygen? You’re in the Czech Republic. You think the best hockey players grow up on the ice lakes of Canada, Sweden and Russia? Well, don’t forget the Czech Republic. At first, I thought it was just a macho streak that ran deep in this part of the world, but you also see women sweating buckets as they ride their bikes to the top of the mountain and screaming bloody murder every time a Czech hockey player gets shoved by the other team.
I met the Mads before I knew Vet, and they already knew then that I was bananas. Literally speaking. I had been invited to spend a weekend hiking and camping in South Moravia with a large group of people, but the only food I brought along were bananas. My reasons were logical enough. I figured we would be surviving in nature the whole time, and in my mind they were filling, full of energy, and biodegradable.
The others couldn’t believe it. The only way to camp was to bring along these mini propane heaters and cook up sachets of soup. Beef, garlic, mushroom, they left a heavenly aroma over the camp. Everybody had their own tin bowl and spoon and that’s what they ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all the while I sat on my haunches peeling away and eating banana after banana. My status as a castaway was further reinforced by the language barrier that excluded me from virtually all the laughter, which I could only hope wasn’t about me.
The Mads consisted of five couples from this group of two dozen or so on the trip. They had known each other through school or sports while growing up and their ambition was to see some of nature’s wonders around the world. I became acquainted with them because these wonders included the national parks of America. Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Death Valley, Sequoia, they must be heaven on earth, they sighed, looking at me. I guess so, I told them. I’d never been there. I tried to explain that they were thousands of miles away and my family had always been content to take vacations to a nearby lake. Something must’ve gotten lost in translation, because they looked at me as if all those bananas were finally making sense to them.
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