Alexander Freundel Levey crawls across the family room toward The Dad Chair, named in honor of the hulk who is sitting in it.
When he sees ankles, Allie stops. He reaches up and grabs knees. He draws himself into a standing position. He drops his hands, and for a short moment that seems very long, he stands. Then he crumples to the carpet.
Then, every time, he smiles.
My son will be a year old tomorrow. It will probably be a hot day, as hot as it was last Aug. 8, when his mother and I headed for the hospital.
How well I recall that the guy on the radio was saying "hazy, hot and humid" as we pulled into the parking lot. I turned to Jane and suggested that we give the baby a name that starts with H.
She gave me a look that seemed to say, "Your brilliant ideas are about as brilliant as ever. What do you want to call the kid? Horace? Hepzibah?"
So we stuck with the names we had already chosen. And we wept together in the delivery room when Allie arrived.
I cried because my Dad would never see him, and because I already felt the power of the link between me the father and Allie the son. Jane later told me she cried because "it's so tough to be a boy, and a man."
But at age 1, Allie is proving how much fun it can be.
He has learned to sweep every magazine off a table and onto the floor, with one hand.
He has practiced giving the cat high fives, and he always giggles as she scampers away in terror.
He has figured out how to climb out of his high chair and onto the plastic tray. Amazingly, the tray has held him. It won't forever.
He has discovered the wonders of broccoli, pretzels and cantaloupe. He has also discovered that broccoli, pretzels and cantaloupe belonging to Mom or Dad taste a lot better than the portions of same sitting in front of him.
He has the art of crawling up the stairs down cold. Crawling down took longer, but he's got that now, too.
He sleeps the way every kid should sleep. The eyes glaze. The hand rubs across them once or twice. The head starts to droop. And the Mom or the Dad says, "Okay, Mr. Levey, time for bed." Without a whimper, Allie the Bean (which we have called him for no reason since he was 2 days old) allows himself to be carried up the stairs and plopped into the crib. He is usually asleep within 30 seconds.
He says "Da-da-da-da," and not much else. That is no ego trip for the guy who's typing this, because Da-da-da-da means anything Allie wants it to mean. It has indeed meant "Hi, there, paternal ancestor." But it has also meant, "Look at the cat." And, "I want a look at the book my sister is reading." And, "I want a bite of that chocolate chip ice cream cone in my Dad's hand."
He is ticklish -- gloriously, uproariously, uncontrollably ticklish. And he has learned to read in Dad's face that a tickle fit is about to start. Dad will approach with a wicked look in his eye and his fingers extended toward Allie's tummy. Just the approach is enough to set off the giggle factory.
He is a wonderful companion for his sister Emily, who is almost five years older. She doesn't always think so, of course. Many is the time that Jane and I have been two rooms away, only to hear Emily shriek: "Get him away! He's breaking my castle!" This is followed by the rumble of blocks cascading down around the ankles of both kids, which is followed in turn by Allie's laughter and Emily's tears, which is followed in turn by hugs of both kids, which is followed in turn by Mom or Dad (usually Mom) putting away the blocks so that peace will temporarily return.
And if I do say so myself, Allie is gorgeous.
He has slate-blue eyes, light brown hair and a serious, almost purposeful, expression. But he also has a 100-watt grin, and when it spreads, it envelops his whole face. He doesn't look like either parent, really. But when he smiles, it doesn't matter.
It is tempting to leap to conclusions about this young fellow.
For example, the juices of this old athlete got a jolt when Jane bought Allie a miniature basketball set -- and he wanted to dunk the orange plastic ball by the hour.
For example, Allie sways to music, whenever we play it around him, regardless of what kind.
For example, Allie seems captivated by books -- and not just by picture books.
But he doesn't have to grow up to be a sports star, or a concert pianist, or a scholar. Honest, Your Honor, I have no preconceived goals for this boy, and neither does his mother. I hope only that he will never lose the giggle, the curiosity or the slate-blue eyes.
Two other hopes.
That he have a happy birthday tomorrow.
And that he read this some day so he'll know what a magic first year this has been.