3) GROWING UP COLD
The day-to-day routine at the Hernandez residence fell into a dull routine. Both Raul and Sylvia would take turns attending to any cry from Raphael’s bed. Sometimes, this would cause neither one of them getting any sleep during the night.
Raul would get into the bathroom by 5:00 A.M. to shower, shave and other functions. He would cook a quick breakfast for Sylvia while she took care of her bathroom needs. As a general rule, Raphael would be up and awake; bouncing in his crib or crying if he needed changing.
Natasha would show up at the precise time of 7:15 A.M. every morning and begin her day. Raul and Sylvia always was out of the house by 7:30 A.M. .
“You haff goot days at work,” Natasha mentioned as the Hernandez couple left the house.
“Now, we deal with you, little Raphael.”
Raphael seemed to get used to being left by himself with Natasha; even though he didn’t like the situation. The minute she entered the room he cried, aware of what awful action would come.
“Oh now Raphael,” Natasha said, “you must be haware crying isn’t going to get you anywhere. We must take the poop out huf your diapers and clean you up.”
Natasha didn’t use the bed to change Raphael because she would create a mess to clean up. Instead, she put him down on an ironing board. Raphael hated this because the cold steel contrasted radically from the warmth of his bed.
Through his crying and wiggling about, as if to escape some medieval torture system, Natasha went about changing him. On the dresser next to where the ironing board stood, Natasha set out a bucket of cold water, a towel, a washcloth and a new set of diapers. When Natasha went to work cleaning up Raphael, he screamed even louder because of the cold water.
“I use cold water,” she told him, “because eet will not chap the skin as much as warm water. You haff life easy here in America. Where I grew up in the Ukraine, I got changed in a snowbank.”
This chattering from Natasha lent no kind of soothing effect on Raphael. He still cried out until at long last, Natasha toweled him off and dressed him. The whole ordeal lasted about fifteen minutes, but to Raphael, diaper change time took a lifetime.
“Now I put you back to bed,” his torture queen explained. “I feex a goot bottle for you until lunchtime, OK?”
She laid him back into his crib and went to the kitchen to warm a bottle from the refrigerator. Natasha never raised kids before, and therefore remained clueless how warm the formula needed to be. From watching her soap operas, she learned the standard procedure to test the temperature seemed to shake a few drops out on your wrist. By never having done the task before, and with no concept on the correct temperature, she merely guessed and hoped she got the temperature right. Therefore, daily , Raphael usually suffered through ‘bottle-fed’ cold formula.
“Here we go Raphael,” Natasha told him, as she returned crib side. “A bottle for breakfast and I feex you lunch in about 3 hours. You sleep now.”
At lunchtime, Natasha always warmed (in her opinion) Raphael’s lunch. Some days this comprised a mixture of carrots and beans and other days, a mixture of fruit. Even though Sylvia always kept the fridge stocked with a wide selection of baby food, meat did not appear on the menu Natasha served.
After lunch, Raphael suffered another cold bottle before his nap. Around 2:00 P.M., Sylvia would return from her part-time job at the Rescue Mission and take over. If Raphael still slept, she would leave him alone but if he stood wide awake in his crib, the legendary hugs, kisses and coddling would start.
“I theenk you spoil Raphael too much.” Natasha stated with authority. “vee haff a cold world outside and the sooner he learn, the better.”
“Oh Natasha,” Sylvia replied, “He’s a little boy. There will be plenty of time for lessons when he gets older. Raul and I want to give him all the love we can because we are not around enough of the time.”
“I steel theenk you spoil him.”
“Well Natasha,” Sylvia argued, “he’s my boy to spoil. We can’t afford to buy all the luxury things he deserves now and so all I can do is to smother him with love. Eventually, he will learn the world is cold but for now, I want to give him only warmth.”
Natasha understood, but disagreed. She never birthed her own kids; therefore she thought her method of strict regimentation would be the correct policy. However, she realized Sylvia already decided, and Natasha couldn’t change her.
At least while anyone might see her