Monday, August 31, 2009

The Times and Life of Byron Emil Johnson (Junior) aka American Boy

So if you know me you know I like birthdays. Mine, my wife's, yours (yes even I'm talking to you 415). They're good opportunities for reflection and celebration. What did you do this year. We're rotating around on this ball of rock and water 365 times as it revolves around a ball of gas in an infinite sea of darkness. It actually rather absurd when you think of it. SO what did you do to make interesting, to make it pop and sizzle. For an adult that might be a hard question to answer. We get bogged down in the day to day but if you have a child in your life a year becomes a series of miracles, milestones and something else appropriate that starts with an “m” (insert your own, I can't hold your hand all night).

Last year I co-hosted BJPalooza. But a party is only a party if they're people to attend it. SO this year all I can do is give BJ the gift chronicling (a gift he won't appreciate till he is grown but c'est la vie ← LOOK FRENCH!) With that in mind I present the first two incredible years in what we hope will be an incredible life.

Since BJ's birth he has...

Been held before family and friends and dedicated to God.

Garnered more nicknames that should allowed by law (Mowgli, Captain Sugey, Mr. Kickums, Moon Man, Bam Bam, BJsquared, WeeJ, The People's Baby, Monkey, Lovebug, Ham and Cheese, Bub).

Traveled by plane, train and automobile to and through New York, Georgia, Virgina, and Maryland.

Become a patron of the arts: exploring D.C.'s Art-O-Matic, and the Brooklyn Museum.

Slept beneath the painted walls of his own muraled room.

Listened to Jazz at the Corcoran Gallery and the kalimba at the S. Dillon Ripley

Center at the Smithsonian Institute.

Shown that unlike his father and grandfather, his strength may be in music and performing arts instead of visual arts.

Hammed and Cheesed his way through his first Christmas performance

Learned all the notes (not so much the words) to Estelle's album Shine (She sings “American Boy” BJ's absolute favorite song in the entire world) and a host of other songs. I'm really most proud of his rendition of Bob Marley's Hammer. Its a simple and lesser known but BJ makes it fabulous

Been witness to the madness that is the Sakura Matsuri festival in Washington and the Maryland Renaissance Festival (next time he goes he'll be in full costume for both).

Run across the National Mall, America's front yard (and played with some strangers kite).

Decided definitely and declared definitively long before his first birthday No... I will not eat baby food any longer; has since gone on to eat truffles, escargot and most recently Lebanese olives with the pit.

Popped teeth out of his head in direct defiance to my threat that if he didn't get a tooth by the time he turned 1 he wasn't getting any cake (relax I would have given him the d@mn cake. I was just trying to inspire the boy and it worked. )

Been issued a passport at just 6 months old

Traveled to 4 countries on said passport (South Africa, France, Niger, and Benin)

Traveled to Africa (twice)

Always found kindness from strangers no matter where he traveled (more often than not in the form of some strange womens' laps)

Visited the National Zoo and the Zoo Parc in Cap Ferat, France

Proven zoos to be overrated as neither of them has allowed him
to pet Lions,
be followed by Zebras,
chase Giraffes and
splash in the Niger river a few meters downstream from 7 Hippos (all opportunities that Africa has afforded him)

Slept through a flat tire on a road parallel a game preserve

Stepped foot in the crystal clear Mediterranean sea

seen the Atlantic Ocean from BOTH sides

Watched the sun rise in Johannesburg

Watched a storm roll in over and out and watched the resulting rainbow atop the Eiffel Tower.

Strolled under the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysees and eaten crepes in the shadow of the Notre Dame Cathedral

Ridden a double decker tour bus and a pirogue (dug out canoe)

Jumped into a pool (and his mother's arms) with reckless abandon laughing and squealing all the while

Trimmed a Christmas tree

Sat on a firetruck

Begun the arduous but rewarding path to becoming a polyglot.

learned to sing the ABC song

sing Old McDonald without the aid of a See and Say (having cats in the house, a chicken coop behind the house, dogs, goats and sheep outside the gate, and cows and horses down the street alleviate such trivial technolgical crutches).

Point out with sniper like accuracy anything that he knows the name of (he can spot “Elmo” on the side corner of a diaper box on the top shelf of the closet and a picture of a “baby” on the cubicle wall in a photograph of someone at their desk).

Give the sweetest hugs and kisses (and the “Slap and Dap”: Two handed high five, two handed low five, two handed terrorist fist pound, and a hug)

drink from a glass with out spilling (most of the time)

eat with a spoon (and a fork given the right meal)

say grace at every meal (even if his parents forget)

say please, thank you, bless you, excuse me

(just tonight on his very birthday) come out his mouth with “hey cat, get on the bed” complete with a pat on the mattress with his hand.

tell his mommy and daddy "I love you"

But for all he has done, what he can't do is see you. Send him pictures, post a video on Youtube or Facebook. His adventures are great, his travels are long but we want him to always remember the face and voices that nurtured him through the first ¾ of his life. He loves to point at pictures and ask us "huh-eh-dat" or "who is that" (Honestly, tonight when I asked him if he wanted to see the wedding photo album he giggled and jumped and ran behind me). The greatest thing you could give him is the gift of you. Within two or three weeks we should have our own internet connection that is strong enough and reliable enough for us to post pictures and videos and get back on Skype.

For his birthday weekend we started by going to a choir competition Friday night. The invite came with short notice and so I went inadequately prepared into that dark night without snack or water bottle the first. For my boy. We were only supposed to be gone 2 hours. 3 hours after leaving the house BJ found himself on the lap of a woman in one of the choirs eating vanilla cookies and drinking a sachet of water. A definite "bad dad" award moment. I had good intentions; the kid loves music. So I figured what better way to start his weekend off than what was sure to be a rocking good time. And minus my lack of preparation it was. He danced, he roamed, he walk up to the band area while they practiced and banged on the keyboard and the traditional drums. During the announcement of the winners he had wandered over to the drum set and was tapping away on it. This all going to be documented on a DVD that they will be selling that I may have to buy just so I can see how poorly I mask my desire for him to come sit down. The pastor told me on more than one occasion to let him be free and feel at home. I just wanted to tell him that he didn't know my boy and that given too much freedom he'd be standing in the middle of the presentation area ushering choirs on and of the floor, directing them and giving the grand prize to himself.

Saturday we started the day with banana pancakes, and continued with a fun ride around the grocery store followed by a 3 and a half hour nap that we both took that he went into kicking and screaming (we both needed to push the reset button on our lives). We spent the evening with our friends Liz and Vinnie, who were having an Indian potluck. With only Elmo and a dump truck he behaved himself impeccably. No meltdowns, nothing broken, and no one bothered. He was charming and polite and managed to parlay that into an unheard of 11 pm bed time.

We slept over till this morning where we had a nice leisurely 7:30 wake up, watched a few episodes of his favorite cartoon Caillou on the Mac, and spoke to his Mommy by phone. Cooked a nice breakfast for our hosts and then went swimming (well walking around the pool, jumping in and splashing around). We ended the evening back at home watching Elmo's Adventures in Grouchland for the first time in two weeks. Afterward he had a little bit of a meltdown when he realized that after two late nights he was going to have to get back on schedule and go to bed at his regular bedtime.

I'm going to keep writing till Thursday, edit and Post on Friday. Whatever I have up until that point is what you will get. I have to stop waiting for there to be a pause in a story that is constantly evolving. Right now Jacki is back in Benin for a few weeks so its as good a time as any to buckle down on this here writing thing.

Oh by the by, here's a reality Check. Tuesday is September that means its been 9 months since we first told you about the move and 6 months since Jacki started this position. ¼ of a two year contract. We'll keep telling you what's going on on this side you tell us whats happening on your end.


  1. A message to you USA lubbin' non-passport holders. Ya'll know who you are. Quit being so typically Uh-Mehr-uh-Can't. You're getting territorially thrashed by a toddler. And yes, it is a competition. You can't let a two year old have a wider world view than you.

    Thanks B for the words that helped me realize how much lil man is growing. So a big public BOYAKA(!) to my Main Man B to the JR. Next time you should let him run the show. He might be a prodigy and can pay for us all to be hangers on...

  2. Byron Emil Johnson (v.1) is the greatest husband and father to walk the planet. Love you and miss you both! --j

  3. J's Wow 2yrs. Well to start I love you! I miss you & I look forward to when next we meet. Thanks for the well written update B. As an aspiring writer you amaze me with your story telling ability.(might have to ghostwrite for me) I cant believe how fast he is growing. I also can't believe its 1/4 the way till the return. Big hugs and kisses for everybody. Skype I'm on it. Aurevoir. - M.Gram

  4. I cannot believe that you forgot to mention BJ's most profound nickname that I bestowed upon him, that of "Oooonka Booonka"; a derivative of the moniker "Inky Bink" that I used to call you when you were his age!!! Anyhoo, thanks for the memories of what the love of My life is up to now. Yeah, we were all mad when you told us you were leaving (and taking my grandson with you? WTF???) but time, as it ever does, is moving swiftly, and I'll be there in January to get my own hugs and kisses. . . As long as you return him to us before he starts Pre-K (and then present me with a granddaughter) I think I can forgive you for denying me my monthly visits, because, as we all know, it's really all about ME!! Much love.

  5. Considering I remember sitting in the waiting room with warm donuts and a crew of excited almost aunts and uncles, it was nice to spend a little time thinking about the last two years. I love that he is becoming a polyglot (my favorite word in the world; #2 is deliberate) at such a young age and I hope you find a way to keep the French in his life when you are back. Will send more pictures soon - nothing's going on in SS, but I'll send pics anyway.
    - KHT

  6. Wow. That's pretty deep when you think about it. What birthdays mean to a child and what they mean to an adult once you get into the every day ins and outs. This year my birthday kind of snuck up on me but I always recall my childhood birthdays with fondness. I personally can't believe it's been two years already. Seems like yesterday you said you were going to be a Dad. Proud parents you are. Keep posting the great updates. Be safe