We went down to one of Charlie's favorite spots, Sinatra Park on the Hoboken waterfront, across from New York City. He had gone to the zoo with my parents and looked with interest at an elk, a penguin, a pig ("a really clean one," my mom emphasized). I got home from work and, with Charlie, my dad and my mom, drove right back on the same route to meet up with Jim in Hoboken.
"You," said my dad, "are driving like everyone else in New Jersey," when I (like everyone else, in particular the car behind me) failed to slow down at the yellow stoplight (like my dad does).
"No," said Charlie, as we drove down Kennedy Boulevard. I suspected that he was thinking we were going to stop at my office as we had on Monday, and Charlie wanted no more of boring errands to buy a parking permit. "We're not going to Mom's office. We're going to get Dad," I said. We met up with Jim near the train station and went to a restaurant, where Charlie grabbed the cup of herb-tinged sauce for my sandwich and ate some fries and a burger methodically. "Gong Gong black car," he said with a nervous face. "Grandma Grandpa house." He grabbed my dad's hand and then my mom's and looked like he was trying to solve a puzzle in his head.
My parents had made plans to spend the weekend in the city; in the past, they have stayed with us for about two weeks at a time and then flown back to California. "Gong Gong and Po Po are coming back on Monday," Jim explained to Charlie. At Sinatra Park, I followed Charlie as he walked ahead, running his hand atop the iron fence. He found the ramp extending right down to the river, which was rolling and lapping on the cobblestones. Charlie had delightedly run up and down this ramp back in July and now a metal gate was blocking him. He ran around a bit and took off his shoes, and was just starting to sneak past the gate when Jim called him back and gently held his shoulders.
"Those waves are looking bigger tonight, pal," said Jim. Charlie gnashed his teeth and yanked back his head and twisted in Jim's grip, and was gradually walked away from the ramp and the park. He grabbed my parents' hands and started grinning. "He's growing up," said Jim to me. "No head bonks since that telephone pole."
I'm maybe 5 feet tall; Charlie is 4 feet and something past my shoulder, and his new size 3 shoes are an inch or two short of mine. Charlie was a big baby--8 pounds and 3 ounces, and 21 1/2 inches long--and his legs just seem to get lankier and, I suppose, one day he'll be wearing those size 13 sneakers. I can still carry him, his feet dangling past my knees. "You've got to carry him as long as you can," my mom had advised when Charlie was a baby. "When you were little, everyone told me not to carry you too much or you'd be spoiled, and then you girls were too big."
These days, more and more, my big boy Charlie has been managing on his own two feet, to get to where he needs to be.