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Profile: Father Files

Published:Sunday | June 17, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Today, we begin a special series sharing stories about fathers and their children.

  • Melville Cooke and son Ayele

Entry 1, Sunday, February 19, 2012

I went shopping with Ayele for the first time two Saturdays ago. Not shopping in the sense of browsing the racks and shelves of a department store near you, hoping to find something suitably individualistic among the mass of uniform-looking garb, but shopping for the essentials of life.

You know, food.

I was close to the supermarket before it hit me that I was alone with a 10-month-old in a car seat. Not that he can't walk - heck, since he eased up from the 'commando crawl' (one leg under with thigh dragging on the ground and the other powering the forward movement) in late January, he has not been back on all fours much since. But the arms-out-for-balance, Frankenstein-mixed-with-Michelin Man-and-grinning-Ghostbusters Marshmallow Monster gait would not quite go with filling the shopping trolley.

So what did I do? What all men do when caught in a domestic crisis. Call the lady of the house. Wendy chuckled. Commiserated, I said I would work out something.

Prepping for mission

In the parking lot I did the usual things that us baby-toting fathers do - take out and set up stroller, juggle keys and kid, do a final diaper check, put kid in stroller, look around to see if any admiring lasses are tossing glances our way - and off we go into the place where there are many shelves of stuff that you do not want your kid grabbing. If you break it, you bought it. And since he can't pay, that would make it my purchase.

All this time I was trying to figure out how I was going to do shopping cart and baby stroller simultaneously. A man opened the supermarket door and held it wide for me to enter (yup, when a baby is walking you around, men treat you differently as well) and in I went. At the trolley rack, a young man who works at the supermarket gave me one respectfully and off I went.

The first thing I tried was side by side. You know, like how a motorycle rider 'tows' another with a toe on the footrest, or a skilled pedal cyclist rides one machine and steers another which is right beside him. 'Twas quite clearly a no-go. Neither trolley nor stroller had the required accuracy and nimbleness of steering. Ditch that idea.

Troublesome corners

Then I tried the articulated method, stroller in front and me in the middle as the hinge, like one of those long buses that the Jamaica Urban Transit Company operates around Kingston. It worked OK on the straight, but negotiating those tight corners around the aisles was impossible.

So I was stumped, until the obvious came to me. Park either stroller or trolley in one place (OK, just joking, leaving the stroller was never an option) and ferry the stuff. The stroller was duly parked in a not-so-busy aisle and off Yele and I went to fetch all I needed, from school snacks to 'tinnas'. At first, I was carrying the stuff in my hands or balanced on the top ledge of the stroller, then I remembered the space for the baby bag.

I was in full swing now, packing the stroller's carrying space and tootling back and forth. I had to watch out for Yele grabbing stuff though; he was fascinated by anything within reach - which included one woman's skirt. When she turned around and saw him, she melted like hog fat in a skillet. Fast and gooey.

Last fetch and carry over, I managed the articulated style just once, charting a course in which I would have to turn only twice, and made it to the cashier with some difficulty. The line was not too long and up we inched. When it was our turn, he was parked to one side and I did the necessaries, checking compulsively to make sure I had not left anything in the stroller.

Can you imagine a 10-month-old implicated for shoplifting?

He was doing some lifting of his own, grabbing hold of a shopping basket with a few items in it and heaving with remarkable ease. At the final checkout, when he was now directly in front of me, a lady was passing and stopped to beam with him. With a surge, Yele was up in the seat, arms outstretched to her, grinning.

"Yu see how him love woman arready?" the lady said approvingly.

And I, in favour, silently said, 'aye'.