Ice Cream! | Noémie's First Birthday
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Ryan Gosling’s Luke asks Eva Mendes’ Romina during a pillow talk scene in 2012’s A Place Beyond the Pines. She just told him that her infant son Jason has never had ice cream. There’s no proper reason why. Romina just hasn’t gotten it to him yet.
“I want to do something with him that’s his first time,” Luke adds. “I want to look in his face the first time he tries ice cream. Every time he has ice cream for the rest of his life he’s going to see my fucking face.” Cut to the three of them outside of an ice cream parlor. He shovels up a spoon of the chocolate stuff and flies toward Jason’s expecting landing strip of a tongue. He tastes it, tosses it down his throat and then opens wide for more. Success. Baby’s into it!
I watched Pines a good while back. But that scene always stuck with me. It made me think about how immersed we are in familiarity. As we get older, fewer truly new experiences occur. There’s not much you can do about it either. It’s a natural part of life. By the time we’re adults, efforts to experience something new become more dramatic. The childhood thrill of climbing a tree becomes scaling a mountain. A trip to play at a neighborhood friend’s house is replaced with flights out of the country to new lands. You get it.
Ahead of becoming a dad to my first child Noémie, who turned 1 on Sept. 11, I was asked one question the most: "Are you excited?" Yes, I was. Among the many reasons why was that I’d be able to witness Noey (her nickname) experience things for the first time, to see things through her eyes. (How do you explain wind or rain to a child? I’m going to let tell her everything is magic until she can prove otherwise or understands basic science. That’s at least partially accurate, isn’t it? Snow is magic. Music is magic. Our existence is magic. Dessert is definitely magic.)
In the baby’s 12 months of of life, I’ve seen her learn to crawl, mimic a cow’s “Mooooo” sound, say “Daddy,” and dance to “Old Town Road.” They’ve all been incredible to witness. But I’ve counted down to Ice Cream Day from the beginning because from it’s such a huge marker. It means my wife and I made it 365 days without royally screwing up. It means Noey, who’s been living in a salt-less mush and infant formula world for most of her life when it comes to food, is ready for the big leagues. She’s a toddler and it’s time to shake shit up! The girl can handle a little dairy, so says the Internet and—more importantly—our doctor. The moment finally arrived on her birthday.
When my wife and I got back from work that Wednesday, we strapped Noey in her stroller, rolled down the street to Cream NoHo and scooped up the Big 3: strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. Seeing that her mini mouth was too small for a proper spoon, the cashier handed me one of those tiny sample paddles for me to serve her with. I scraped up a little strawberry and floated towards my girl.
At first she scrunched her face up—it’s cold! Then she relaxed, processing the glory. Strawberries are actually her favorite fruit. Maybe she made that connection? I don’t know; She can’t speak yet! But we got all the confirmation we needed when she smacked her hands on the table, yelled with glee, and opened her mouth wide for more. She likes ice cream! (Can’t say I was surprised, but still!)
Parenting is a trip. Even when it isn’t fun (hello, middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes), I love the job. As her personality grows, I still wonder what type of dad I’ll be once there are real challenges or push-back. In his 2018 Rap Radar interview with Elliott Wilson and Brian Miller, Will Smith used the metaphor of a gardener and a flower when talking about how his only daughter Willow changed his fathering style. The general idea is that you don’t have to force or push a kid to become anything; You simply nurture them to full bloom.
My dad said something to the same affect the afternoon my Noey was born: “You are now a custodian to one of God’s creations.” I love those mindsets. Just take care of her. I’m going to spend the rest of my life guiding Noémie towards sunshine, making sure her soil is rich, and watering her. Of course, on special days we’ll throw in some ice cream, too.