I made a rookie parenting mistake. After accepting an invitation to a Thanksgiving celebration in Brooklyn, I didn’t check to see if our apartment share was truly child-friendly. Upon entering the well-appointed home, it was clear: The lovely single woman letting us stay in her apartment free of charge was trying to kill my children. It was like walking into the Temple of Doom, or that place where Indiana Jones meets that knight in Last Crusade, except all the booby traps are Swedish designed minimalist furniture.
The list of death traps starts with glass top tables where the glass isn’t affixed to the base. This allows for death from falling on top or a toddler crawling underneath and knocking the shards to rain down from above. Number two is a sharp stone countertop corner exactly at the eye height of a five-and-a-half year-old.
Numbers three through eight are as follows: a potted aloe plant at the perfect pull-down-able height, a stack of 10 large holiday card boxes leaning over the sofa like the Tower of Pisa, scalding hot radiator pipes, sharp and swallowable tchotchkes, a Peleton bike with finger grinding gears, and a self propelled treadmill for full child face-planting. (A stationary bike and a treadmill? Good for you, girl!)
But the bigger trauma to a polite house guest is to have your children damage the gracious host’s home. It’s waking a razor’s edge: Keep your kids alive and keep the house looking fantastic. Like when Indiana Jones triggered that boulder to follow him but then felt compelled to go back and set up all the skeletons to exactly how they were situated before he arrived.
Our sleeping accommodations were one California King-sized bed for our family of four. In theory, this should be enough space but my two-and-a-half year-old son sleeps perpendicularly, taking up two-and-a-half bed spaces. So, if the fatal furniture didn’t kill the kids outright, perhaps sleep-deprivation insanity or insomnia would finish them off.
That first night, as my son slept with his head on the edge of my pillow and his toes on my wife’s pillow, I felt him startle. I opened my eyes to see the dry heat of the old building gave him a nose bleed. Dual thoughts rushed to my mind. “Oh no! My son is hurt!” And, “Oh no! We’re going to get blood all over this nice woman’s lily white bed sheets.”
I picked my son up and held him over top of me to spare the bed sheets. This created a new problem, blood was now pouring down on my face, neck and chest. I called to my wife to wake up and help. In retelling this story the next day she would mention my delicate nose genetics, which I passed down to our son, implying the whole ordeal was somehow my fault. I will let this accusation pass because I was grateful for how quickly she snapped into action to assist me.
Later, as my son rocked quietly in his mother’s arms, the faucet of blood turned off, I went to the bathroom to clean myself up. When I flipped the light on I was aghast at my reflection. Dark red blood caked on my chin, down my neck and on my chest. I looked like a werewolf who just woke up after his first full moon wondering why his mouth tastes like deer meat and fur. I looked like Mike Tyson in the locker room assessing his poor life choices after biting off Evander Holyfield’s ear. I looked like a successful exorcist patient, just happy to have the devil’s bloody vomit out of my body.
The damage was minimal but embarrassing. We offered to buy the nice woman a new set of sheets. She declined stating, “My housekeeper is like a Ukrainian MacGyver… I’m sure she will get the blood out with some vinegar and a mean look.”