There are so many fun things to do with your baby in New York City in the warm and sunny summer months. Free kid concerts with rainbow balloons and complimentary fruit roll-ups. Watching Sea Lions at the Central Park Zoo. And there are so many beautiful parks. I used to take the Bean to the playground all the time to push her on the swing, and watch her amuse herself going down the slide all by herself—headfirst. She looked so cute giggling with a few black and blues. Other times, me and the Bean used to just plop down on a blanket in Union Square and have a picnic. C'mon, what's better then chomping the heads off orange goldfish crackers, eating grass and twig sandwiches, and washing it down with breast milk? Good times. But when it's 13 degrees outside, (like it was the other day), and there's icicles dangling from your nostrils, and you're not loaded like The Jefferson’s to send your kid to a million dollars a day type of Day Care, there are very few places to go. There's the bookstore on 17th Street, where that lady with the big hair and big eyes and the death stare constantly reminds me to stop Bean from pulling all of the Elmo books off the shelves, or there's the other bookstore in Murray Hill, where they let you throw books and strange toys around the store, as well as eat them. Purple Mars Mud.Yummy. I used to switch off with the bookstores to mix it up. But I’d always take my little girl for a coffee and a big cookie after our daily journey.
Then one day I heard about this cool place to bring your kids. It was called the Scandinavia House. “Hmmm, what the hell was that?” When we went there to check it out this little lady in a walker with a raspy voice snuck up on us. She looked at Bean crawling and shook her head. “No, she’s cute, big blue eyes, but she has to be able to walk or she’ll knock down the toddlers like a charging rhino.” So a few weeks later, when the Bean finally walked, more like wobbled like a drunken sailor, I dressed her up in layers. Fuzzy sweater. The sassy Marilyn Monroe pink coat we got from our neighbor. The green hat with the dragon, the Bean was attempting to put on herself. And the red snappy mittens. After I plopped her in the stroller, I zipped her up in her snuggy and we strolled on over. We had to take our shoes off before we could enter the playrooms. But before I could finish taking off my giant black combat boots with the forty-foot laces, the Bean took off down the hall like a bat out-of-hell.
Wow! My eyes blew up wide when I stepped inside. Bean, we’re not in Manhattan anymore. We were instantly transported to some all-natural magical world in Sweden. Surrounded by a spectacular surreal storybook mural, the whole place looked like a bunch of big-foot hobbits and forest creatures resided there. There were giant fake trees and a mirror pond, and little caves and huts to play in, and there were stuffed cows and sheep and pigs everywhere. And there were a lot of little kids climbing walls, and tossing balls and learning to share. But where the hell was the Bean? I stormed into the magic land and there she was. She was sitting on a cliff reading a book upside down. And she didn’t care that it was written in Swedish. The only negative thing about Scandinavia house was that—for a place designed for children—it wasn’t childproof. Not one bit. There were sharp corners everywhere and things to trip on all over the place. The toy rocks, the bumps on the floor basically said: you better slow down junior or you’re going to fall and crack your head. And fall, Bean did. Many times. But that was okay. Even with the Bean bumping her head and banging her knee, and bumping her head again, it was still the coolest, most affordable honeycomb hideout in town.
Oh, how she loved it there. She was all over the place. I found her playing house in a little house. I looked in through a cardboard window and she was eating imaginary food with an orange fork on a green plastic plate. But every time she found something she liked, and I sat down the catch my breath, she’d take off and find something else to entertain herself with. I looked up and she was now on the other side of the room on the balcony of a pop-up city skyline holding a meeting about God-knows-what with a few other diaper city kiddies. It had to do with a zebra, I think. And when I turned my head for a second, she was totally gone. I chased my stinky-diapered pet jackrabbit down the hall into another room. She went right for the Legos. She had about six yellow, red and blue Legos in her mouth by the time I got to her. I grabbed them out of her mouth before she could choke. She wasn’t that happy about that. Whaaaah! Then she tried pulling the pieces off of the six feet Viking Lego sculpture. She didn’t get too far. The lady in the walker gave us a look and we knew we’d better stop it. Next stop on the Bean’s path of destruction was the train set. Choo-choo! She loved trains. But she felt they belonged in a toy chest. So she volunteered to relocate the locomotives to a red trunk. She relocated everything. Oh, the lady in the walker loved her. Well, time flies when you’re riding red plastic sheep and wearing clogs. At the end of a great day, after I managed to yank the Bean out of fairyland and drop her back into the magic stroller, I transported us back to the frostbitten big apple. By the time we crossed 34th street, she drifted off into her own Never Never Land. As for me, I needed another cup of coffee to stay awake so I didn’t fall asleep behind the wheel.