On this furlough, we’ve had the joy of staying with a family with three small children. Their busy household brought back cosy memories of our own early days in Montenegro with getting (and keeping) our little ones at the table.
Despite having five young children, we did not bring our high chair to Montenegro; it didn’t rank high enough to be brought over on our initial move, but I sorely missed it every meal time. Our two-year old would forget to stay put and just quietly wander off when seated in an ordinary chair. It amazed me how two parents, two adults with all faculties working, could be at the dinner table with four children and not realize when one slipped away. After the umpteenth time of him wandering off and my hunting him down, I thought surely someone, somewhere, had a high chair I could borrow or buy.
Our nearest neighbors, living multi-generationally as many did, had grandchildren the same ages as our youngest two, plus the woman was our daughter’s music school teacher, so we had a natural connection. We began our hunt with them.
I divined that we were not off to a good start when we had to explain what we meant by high chair. No, they didn’t have one and in fact, had never seen one in real life. I thought we must not have explained it properly because high chairs were not new technology and had been around for decades, maybe centuries. I clearly remember seeing my father’s high chair at my grandparents, and it dated from the 1930s.
No, said our neighbors, we now get what you are asking, having seen one or two in movies, but we definitely don’t use them. We hold the child on our lap to feed them: one arm to pin, the other to spoon. I imagine holding Mr. Toddler. A definite no-go. Of course, our neighbors were an older couple and perhaps out of touch with the times, so we looked to our other next-door neighbors, a young expectant couple with a toddler and and another baby on the way.
To my consternation, they confirmed the absence of high chairs. Upon inquiry, we learned that their go-to method of feeding their toddler was to chase him around house and yard (if the weather was nice). Sigh.
Since our plan of getting a high chair to corral Mr. Mealtime Wanderer did not appear in the offing, we parents put our heads together and came up with a brilliant Plan B: strapping him lightly onto his dining chair with a bungee cord. Hallelujah! It worked and meal time with all six of us present was back on track.
However, just as the two year old was coming along nicely with his table manners, the baby, Miss M, reached the age of adding solid foods to her diet. I gamely attempted the Montenegrin Way: Clutching the baby with one arm on my lap, I put her gruel out of her reach. With my other hand, I aimed the spoon of pap at her mouth, but while I had no free hands, she certainly did.
Miss M was delighted with this new game: grab the spoon, fling it about, and watch Mommy get excited. By the time the bowl was empty, I didn’t know how much food got into her, but it sure got all over me, her, the table, the floor. Baths and new outfits for all were in order. I didn’t see how I (or she!) was going to survive.
Knowing just how much we could bear, God graciously provided, at just the right time and in a surprising way.
Ever since we first started setting up our new home in Nikšić, Stan had been seeking (unsuccessfully) a suitable desk and chair for his office. But right after Project Feeding-Baby-Sanely began, Stan found out about an Italian office furniture store in the capital city. He took off one afternoon to check it out. He came back with stats and info sheets, so we could read and make an informed choice. And then he casually dropped, “Oh, by the way, they had a high chair there.”
“Wait! They carry high chairs at an office furniture store?”
“Well, no, they don’t really carry high chairs, they just had this one.”
I tried to reason out why a higher-end Italian office furniture store would have a baby high chair and failed. I asked Stan, “Did you actually see it?” “Oh, yes, I saw it.”
Next came the million dollar question: WHY DIDN’T YOU GET IT!???
“Well, the chair is pretty expensive.”
“A couple hundred.”
“A couple hundred? Dinars? Dollars? Deutsche Marks?”
“Hmmm, I’m not exactly sure. I didn’t ask.”
At this point, with the possibility of a honest-to-goodness high chair, I eagerly accompanied Stan to Podgorica the next day to buy him his desk and chair and to buy me my sanity via a high chair, a pretty fancy one, I presumed, at that price.
We pulled up and the store looked Classy. Clean. Inviting. Brightly Lit. There were little groupings of furniture displayed as if in an office. The desks and chairs sported an Italian Chic vibe. My hopes were high, and while Stan debated between one chair or another, I poked around trying to spot the high chair, but I couldn’t locate it anywhere on the show room floor.
Stan then steered me to a far, far, tucked-around-behind-the-staircase corner with a “There it is!” I looked and saw random boxes of inventory. “The chair’s still in the box.” I looked closer and yes, indeed, one of those boxes had a picture of the world’s ugliest high chair: big, ungainly, plastic, and orange (gag!).
Poof! There went all my dreams of my little girl in her fancy, stylish Italian model…. Well, all except the Italian; the high chair was made in Italy. While I never did figure out why the store carried high chairs to begin with, I discerned why this one was still there.
I asked if there was a possibility of another color? Another style? Could we order and wait for delivery? No, no, and no. This was it. The one and only. (I honestly believe it was the only high chair for purchase at that time in Montenegro. With a price tag to match its exclusivity. At this point in time, I honestly don’t remember if those hundreds were dinars or Deutsche marks, but I do know it was BY FAR the most expensive high chair we ever purchased.)
Now there are whole shops dedicated to baby goods with all the latest Italian high chairs, strollers, furniture, and fashion. Though, for all its no-frills ugliness, that high chair proved its worth over and over. The baby used it til she was six—not that she needed a high chair that long, but we had no room for a seventh person at our little dining table. And while the seat padding has long been gone, we still have that ugly duckling chair and use it when families with small children join us for a meal.
Then with Miss M. Now with Miss R.