Yesterday my husband was changing the bun when he said, "It was just about a year ago exactly that we were standing here and I asked your Mom a very important question." I racked my brain. We were already married, so that wasn't it. It wasn't a question about the bun, or at least not that I could remember. And then he reminded me: it was a question about WWII.
A year ago at this time our house was reminiscent of a war zone. The bun was barely a month old, and I wasn't yet comfortable changing diapers. My boobs had misbehaved terribly and even a month into our adventure they were loaded for bear but firing indiscriminately. The house was a wreck since neither of us realized that we could set the baby down to put away the dishes. I hadn't gotten out of my pajamas in weeks. We were living primarily on take-out that my husband got and we were both suffering from massive French cheese intake. My body still resembled a hit-and-run victim and walking was strenuous.
It was here amongst the anarchy in our house and the overwhelming stress that he told me a story.
"When I was studying international relations in college," he began, "I had this professor who told us about the conference at Yalta during the Second World War." My husband was pulling the bun's diaper off and working more efficiently than I ever had. "At the conference, where Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt decided the fate of post-war Europe, Roosevelt suggested getting the input of Pope Pius the XII." He expertly wiped the bun's bum and fastened the new diaper while I listened attentively.
My husband grabbed one of the little footless nightgowns that made changing diapers a snap but that I hated because they had to be pulled over the bun's little floppy head. "Stalin sneered. 'Where does the Pope keep his armies?' * asked Stalin, implying that the Pope could offer little in the way of military assistance and thus would be of no use to the Allies." He pulled the gown deftly over the bun's fragile noggin. "Roosevelt sat silently until the room was crackling with tension."
He gently pulled the bun's hand through the cuff of the gown. "After careful consideration, Roosevelt replied, 'In his sleevies!'" **
It was the dumbest joke I had ever heard.
I laughed so hard my stomach hurt and tears swelled down my face. I laughed for ten minutes at least. Later, when I changed the bun and looked at the gown with its sleevies dangling loosely around the bun's tiny hands I laughed again. I laughed for days because of that joke, sometimes in the middle of nowhere, sometimes out of complete silence.
Because of the timing and my husband's dead-pan delivery, it broke through the stress that had been preying on us since the bun was born. New parenthood is not for the faint of heart and we had forgotten how easy-going we usually were. Pulled as taut as drums those first few weeks, the dumbest joke I had ever heard broke the spell.
"That was a glorious moment in my life entertaining your Mom," he said to the bun as he pulled his one-year-old army through his sleevie. The bun suffered the indignity just barely; he didn't care where his army went.
But I know where they go: the same place the Pope puts his.
*The story that my husband recounted is true, except for the phrasing of the question. What Stalin actually asked was "How many divisions has the Pope?" The implication was the same.
**I couldn't actually remember the Yalta story until my husband retold it tonight; all I could remember was the punch line. That he knows about who said what to whom at Yalta, then spontaneously improvised history to make a joke, and finally dead-panned it while pulling the bun's army through his sleevie is a testament to my husband's enormous brain.
I find that extremely sexy.