Within a few months of Ian’s birth, I left Operation Life and went to work as an EMS Instructor at Methodist Hospital, which required an hour-long commute to and from work every day. After several months of commuting, Marcia and I agreed it was time to move to the city (Indianapolis). Eventually, Marcia would also change jobs, so that neither of us would have to commute long distances; but for a while, she would commute back to Greencastle, which meant that Louise could continue to watch Ian.
One consideration, when Marcia and I chose Ian’s name, was to choose a name that couldn’t readily be distorted into some bizarre nickname. After he was born, for reasons still unknown, this didn’t pertain to us.
By the time he was a toddler, we and other close family members called him Eebs or Ebers. Don’t ask me why—or where these came from.
This continued for many years, although eventually, as he grew older, most of us stopped. Uncle Mark on the other hand, never stopped. No matter; Ian never seemed to mind, no matter how old he became.
Not long after moving to Indianapolis, we were shopping at our local mall. Unfortunately, the closest exit to the car took us past a pet store, and there in the window was a cute little puppy that immediately caught my eye. Not smart enough to move along, (One quick look couldn’t hurt, right?) we scurried in, and soon found ourselves inside the store, face-to-face with the cutest “little” Norwegian Elkhound that ever lived.
Not content to leave well enough alone, I just had to hold her, which was a big mistake. Next came the play room, where we were invited to spend a little quality time with her. When we put Ian down on the floor with her, she’d lick his face, he’d giggle, and then she’d look up to us for approval, with the sweetest, irresistible puppy dog eyes.
Before long, I began to rationalize adoption; all the while insisting that Ian needed a pet. I quietly surrendered during a momentary lapse of reason, and not long after, Abbey Rhodes Boswell was in the car, headed to her new home.
When Ian was a baby, he loved this photograph that he simply called “Face.”
This is a photo that we had mounted in a collage frame with a dozen photographs of the early months of Ian’s life. On many occasions, soon after he began walking, he’d stroll over to the wall where the frame was hung, point up to it, and exclaim “Face!” repeatedly, until we picked him up to see the picture.
This is one game which he (and we) never tired of playing.
When I see “face,” it reminds me of a previous high chair moment which occurred not too long before. Ian was just learning to take command of his little padded, soft-tip spoon; however, he occasionally needed a little encouragement. This was especially the case when the food was unappealing—which pretty much covers any vegetable that is strained or pureed and comes in a small glass jar. Encouragement to eat healthy foods usually began with camouflage, and when that failed we resorted to bargaining, bribery, and finally games.
One of my favorite games, due to its success, was the spoon-airplane game, which I guess every parent has used a time or two. Normally, this worked pretty well; however, on this particular day, not so much. As I recall, it was peas and sweet potatoes, and nothing worked. I paused to regroup, and as I was about to finish my own meal, Ian picked up his spoon, flew it around in small loops, “nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn,” then he suddenly stopped and said, “Bite!”
Looking down at the unpalatable mess on the spoon, I tried not to grimace, and said, “No thank you.” He repeated the motion, exaggerating the loops, adding a figure-eight or two; “nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn . . . Bite!” “No thank you, Daddy has his own food.” He frowned, as the airplane once again took off, climbed altitude, and circled. “nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn . . . Bite!” “No thank you.” By now, he had me pegged. Looking up, he scowled, extended his arm as far as he could reach, and snarled, “Bite!” Searching for words, and a way out, I began to shake my head, to which he immediately snapped, “BAD BOY!”
Eventually came sooner, rather than later, and Marcia did change jobs. She went to work at the Indiana Women’s Prison as a technician in the infirmary. Once she was no longer driving back to Greencastle, it was time to change sitters. Again, at the recommendation of friends, we found a nice sitter named Linda, to care for Ian.
Linda watched several children from different age groups, and the little children emulated the older kids. This contributed to Ian’s already precocious nature, particularly with regard to the special social habits—which helped with potty training. So much so, that Ian was fully potty trained by the time he was fifteen months old. This was great at home, but it got interesting when we went out to a restaurant to eat.
For a while, when I would take him to a public restroom, Ian was so proud to use the floor-level “standup facilities.” This worked well for several months; then, suddenly Ian would refuse to use these, insisting that I lift him up to the higher level “standup facilities,” demanding, “No, those are for little boys; I’m a big boy.”
Note the “My Buddy” shoes.
When it actually came down to it, choosing Ian’s name was a snap. “Selling” it to the grandparents and relatives was a whole other matter. At the time of his birth, in Indiana at least, Ian was an unusual name. The conversations went something like this:
“What’s his name?”
“How do you spell that?”
“No, it’s EE-an.” You know, like Ian Fleming.”
“Ian Fleming? . . . Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? . . . James Bond? . . . ”
Months later, it didn’t get any easier; however, once Ian learned to talk, I let him take up the fight. After hearing his name repeatedly mispronounced by otherwise educated professionals, I encouraged him to respond “correctively” when this occurred, and taught him to say “I-A-N is EE-an, you Hoosier!” This was always funny at home during “practice sessions,” and I took great pleasure in listening to Ian admonish characters in make believe.
Unfortunately for me, one day the fun suddenly stopped. When Ian was about two years old, he had an ear infection, and we went to see his ENT, Dr. House. Marcia and I were patiently seated in the waiting room, and Ian was playing nearby. When it was time to see the doctor, the unwitting receptionist made the mistake of calling “EYE-an? EYE-an Boswell?” Before I could move out of my seat, Ian marched up to the receptionist window and declared, “I-A-N is EE-an . . .”
Sometimes keeping track of family is difficult, especially when you’re a little guy; which was the case for Ian. My side of the family was not a problem, since I had lost my grandparents many years before Ian was born; he only had to deal with my parents, Mamaw and Papaw Boswell. Marcia’s family, on the other hand, was a whole different story. He had multiple sets of grandparents and great grandparents.
The great grandparents were easy enough, Grandma and Grandpa Merritt, and Grandma and Grandpa Neeley. The Grandparents, however, required a little more creativity; Marcia’s parents divorced and remarried when she was little. On her father’s side, instead of confusing things with another Merritt, Bill and Bonnie became Mamaw and Papaw Kelli—so named for Marcia’s little sister. Her mother and stepfather, Corenia, and Ray, lived near a railroad track, so Mamaw and Papaw Choo Choo seemed obvious. Unfortunately, we probably used these pseudonyms a little too long. When you’re sixteen and you refer to your grandfather as Papaw Kelli, no one thinks much about it. Mamaw Choo Choo on the other hand . . .
Once upon a time, when Ian was a baby, Marcia and I went out for a night on the town, and entrusted the care of our “baby” with a dear friend, Steve Grundy, and his friend Bert . . .