I was trying to balance the open cans of beer and bloody mary mix so they didn’t spill in my diaper bag a couple weeks ago when I realized that not only did I have a good cocktail for a toast with my wife, we had a good reason to clink cups, too. We’d made it so comfortably past the point in life where we needed a diaper bag that we could put the thing to more selfish use as a wet bar.
My “diaper bag” never was a bag, really, although it held plenty of diapers once upon a time. I couldn’t bring myself to carry what’s essentially a big, ugly purse. Still, being a dad who always loved to spend as much time as I could get with my boys, I did need some way to carry all the gear babies need. My own dad handed me the solution with one of the brilliantly quirky moves that are his trademark.
He gave me a fishing vest. The gift made no sense to me at the time because I almost never fished back then, before my boys learned to talk and started asking me to take them to the neighborhood lake.
Then it caught my eye when my wife and I were starting to pack for a flight with our new baby and suddenly my dad’s brilliance just about gleamed from the closet where the vest hung. I saw that a couple of diapers fit into the back pocket like it was engineered for lumbar support by Huggies.
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In minutes, all the pockets were filled with board books, a bottle, baby snacks, toys and everything else we’d need to feed, entertain and calm a baby on an airplane. As soon as I had a pacifier hanging from a front pocket clip, we were ready to go. Better, I never had to leave home with a diaper bag again.
The daddy vest was born.
It made every trip with my first son — and later, his little brother — a fun guys’ trip. With my arms free and no giant purse flopping on my side, they were free to climb up and ride on my shoulders or grab my hand and run, pulling me hunched over behind them.
Now that it’s been quite a few years since my wife and I had to leave the house with board books and diapers, the vest doesn’t leave the closet much anymore.
Maybe for sentimental reasons more than anything, though, I still pack it when the family’s getting ready to fly to a vacation. It’s handy for boarding passes, a spare phone battery, headphones and a snack in case someone gets hungry.
This year, my wife and I were driving to the airport for our big summer vacation alone. Our kids had gone on ahead two weeks earlier to enjoy the sun and the beach with out-of-state relatives, and we were on our way to spend a week with everyone before we took them home.
When the drink cart came down the airplane aisle, my vodka and soda fit much better in the little airplane cups than my wife’s stripped down michelada did, and she was working hard to keep mostly full cans of beer and mixer from sliding off the drooping seat tray onto her lap.
Turned out two of my many vest pockets were pretty good fits for open 12-ounce cans. From the pockets I once reached into for a bottle to help our babies relax, now I was pulling supplies for my wife’s relaxing cocktail. I hope it’s a peek at what we have in store as a couple as the boys spend more and more time in the world without us.
The daddy vest is retired now, but the date vest fits pretty well.
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.