Column: Nightmare on Dover Street By SUSAN PARKER

Tuesday September 27, 2005

Last weekend I took care of my 3 1/2-year-old nephew, Bryce. It was party, party, party for 49 hours straight. We went to three parks and several places of business. We threw a small tantrum in Ross Dress for Less, and we forgot (several times) how to share while playing with Clyiesha, Maynard, and Lil’ Bobby. But all in all we had a pretty good time.  

While in my care Bryce ate three bowls of sugar-coated cereal, (Apple Jacks and Trix), six glasses of apple juice, one glass of whole milk, two bananas, some green and red grapes, 22 jellybeans, three mini Tootsie Rolls, one mini Tootsie Roll Pop, one Coffee Nip, one bite of a peanut butter and jelly (strawberry) sandwich, one small nibble on a grilled cheese (sharp cheddar on white bread) sandwich (cut diagonally for esthetic purposes), unknown quantities of micro-waved popcorn, two slices of watermelon, half a bottle of orange juice, a serving of Fenton’s homemade lemon ice cream, a small bag of Cheetos courtesy of our housemate, Willie, and one slice of Cheeseboard sundried tomato, black olive, and goat cheese gourmet pizza.  

Bryce crashed a birthday party taking place up the street. He jumped and somersaulted for awhile inside a large plastic cage-like structure that boasted a blow-up Dora doll attached to the entryway. The birthday girl gave him two gummy candies individually wrapped and shaped to look like a mouth with teeth and a hamburger with pickles, and an extraordinarily generous piece of yellow birthday cake covered in white icing. We came home and looked for snails in the garden. We neglected to take a nap, but we did enjoy a bubble bath accompanied by two floating rubber duckies. 

At 2 a.m. Sunday morning Bryce woke up screaming. I thought he was having a bad dream, but as the crying, kicking, and clawing continued I wondered if he might be having a seizure, or if his head hurt, or if he needed to have his stomach pumped. He did not open his eyes and he didn’t shed any tears, but no amount of comforting could ease his pain. I called his parents. 

They said he often had this kind of nightmare after an extremely busy day. Try to wake him up they said, but his eyes remained closed and I couldn’t stop him from howling.  

Fearing we would wake the next door neighbors and the people across the street, I coaxed Bryce into my car, strapped him into his car seat, and took him for a cruise around the hood.  

It was scary driving up and down familiar streets at 2:30 in the morning without a driver’s license. I learned which bars stay open past the mandated 2 a.m. closing time, and which fellow citizens keep their television sets on despite the hour. I saw three enormous raccoons brazenly hanging out in the middle of Dover Street, and a man with a shopping cart collecting bottles and cans.  

My nephew finally fell asleep. I drove home and carried him upstairs. He woke up and asked for a banana. I peeled it for him and he ate it, then he fell asleep on the couch in my bedroom. I covered him with a blanket, lay down on the floor next to the sofa and tried to sleep. In the morning, Bryce rolled off the couch and snuggled next to me. He whispered into my ear “pee, poop, pee, poop,” over and over, and giggled hysterically when I finally opened my eyes. I suppose these are the dirtiest words he knows, and he wanted to get my attention. I responded with the scholarly phrase “dirty underwear” and I thought he might die laughing.  

As I stated in the beginning, it was one big party at our house last weekend. You should have been there.›