- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2002

The woman was dressed in a smartly tailored red power suit, blond hair perfectly coifed, not a hair out of place despite the strong breeze blowing down 15th Street. I was dressed in jeans, polo shirt, tennis shoes and black windbreaker, on my way to a Capitals hockey game.

Both of us were on our cell phones, waiting for the "Walk" sign. I was calling home to ask my wife, Lisa, a question. The woman apparently was talking to a colleague at her office. We exchanged glances and gave that friendly-but-distant quick smile as our conversations began.

"Lisa, do you know where those papers are that we were talking about last night?" I asked. I heard a click indicating that somebody else had picked up another phone in the house.

"Daddy, know what I did tonight?" It was 5-year-old Sean.

"No, Sean, what did you do?"

"I put my jammies on all by myself."

"You put your jammies on all by yourself? I'm very proud of you."

The woman next to me shook her head vigorously.

"No, no, Rhonda, we need those ERP reports tomorrow at the latest. Ted's coming in from Pittsburgh and he's going to want to see them first thing after the meeting. I know the server was down, but we've got to get Buzz or somebody up to work on it tonight."

Lisa was fighting a losing battle with Sean over the phone.

" downstairs and I thought the last time I saw them was "

" and after Jeremy and I took our baths we went to my room and "

"Sean, can you give the phone to mommy and let her talk, please?"

"Sure, Daddy. But first I want to tell you something "

"Daddy, I want Larry-Boy."

I groaned. Two-year-old Jeremy was grabbing the phone from Sean. Lisa was on the verge of giving up. I was struggling to remember what I had called about in the first place.

"Jeremy, I'll find Larry-Boy tomorrow," I said, forced to raise my voice over the three-party din on the other end. "Put Mommy back on the phone."

The woman next to me also was raising her voice.

"He said what? Did you tell him the quarterly projections came in 2 percent down and that was before San Diego called in? We talked about that at the meeting last week. He sure was there. I sat two seats away from him."

The light finally changed and both of us started down 15th Street toward the Farragut North Metro station.

"Jeremy, please hang up the phone."

"Daddy, I want Larry-Boy."

"Were you playing with him today?"

"No."

"Was Sean?"

"No, Daddy."

"I'll find him tomorrow."

"I want Larry-Boy now, Daddy."

"Maybe mommy knows where he is."

The woman was two steps behind me, but I could hear the frustration in her voice as she tried to talk poor Rhonda through the final preparations for this major meeting the next day. Computer problems, personnel problems, logistical problems, the two of them struggled with them all. Finally, her call ended and we reached the next intersection to wait one more time.

"I hope your kids find the toys they were looking for," she said with a smile.

"Yeah, thanks," I said. "I hope your meeting goes OK."

She shook her head and waved her hand.

"It's just business," she said. "We have these screw-ups all the time. But kids and their toys that's a problem."

I smiled. No, it wasn't really. I marveled at the fact that Jeremy, at age 2, could talk on a phone at all. Sean had major speech delays, to the point where we sought therapy for him. He didn't really begin to catch up with his vocabulary until he was 4.

Jeremy, on the other hand, was talking in complete sentences by the time he was 2. He was talking on the phone shortly after that.

I zipped up my jacket. The wind was picking up, but I was only a block away from the Metro station that would take me to my hockey game. I never did find those papers I was thinking about. Jeremy had to go to bed without his precious Larry-Boy. I never did hear the end of Sean's adventure of putting on his jammies all by himself. But both of them jabbered and jabbered on the phone until Lisa literally ripped it out of their hands.

I smiled as I boarded the Metro. Just one more Christmas gift to be thankful for. There were many of them this Christmas.

And I hope many more to come.

Mark Stewart is the stay-at-home father of two boys, Sean and Jeremy. He is a free-lance writer who lives in Maryland.


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