Pure Guesswork: Milo Unbound

Between a sagging economy and the increased use of handheld technology, the last few years have not been the Golden Age of Publishing. Rather than further dismiss the industry – my industry – I am here to offer some hope. Help is not just on the way. Help is here, and it likes to eat toast, doesn’t wear hats and is living in my house.


This help’s name is Milo.


My 20-month-old enjoys everything about the printed page. He decorates the floor with newspaper. He can’t get enough of leafing through magazines and catalogs. And he loves books. He loves chewing on them. He loves tearing out pages. He loves pulling them off shelves. And sometimes he actually loves reading the same middle section over and over again.


I suppose that literacy in any form is not the worst interest, so I don’t discourage his tendencies. Recently, for a change of scenery, my wife, Jenny, and I took Milo for his first visit to a bookstore. I don’t necessarily need the credit, but I’ll say that it was my idea. I’ll also say that it was a great idea – until we actually walked into the place and I realized what I had wrought upon us.


We were now in an entire building of bookshelves, fully stocked, much of the product within his reach and 99 percent of it not constructed of paperboard. Milo wouldn’t even have to break a sweat to do $6,000 in damages.


The books, though, were just the appetizer of unforeseen challenges. What is now ridiculously obvious in hindsight was that there were other people in the store. More than that, there were other kids in the store. Milo is home with us during the day. He goes to the park and is a capable supermarket assistant shopper, but he sees most of the world rolling by. He really doesn’t know what to do with other children. More than that, I don’t know what to do with other children.


I knew enough to put on a confident face, but I was pretty much winging it. Milo went for the books. That was an initial scare, but it turned out to be fairly easy to distract him, especially since a community crayon bucket was enticingly nearby.  With a mother who would like to sanitize sterile gauze, this was a dream offering to contend with, but it was a moderate obstacle at best.


Milo was also going up to people. He was looking kids in the eye, reaching out a finger to touch them. He was walking up to adults. He patted a couple on the backside. Apologies were given, though in truth, it was somewhat adorable, just probably not something to be encouraged in the future.


And then kids were coming up to him. One girl got into his personal space, and there was a potential showdown related to a sticker. The girl seemed sweet, but I was wary. She could have been using her cuteness to lull others into a false sense of security. They do that kind of thing. I also didn’t know the etiquette. I was ultimately a responsible adult in the children’s section, but I was Milo’s father and I didn’t know if body-blocking her would have been within my rights. (I refrained. The kids worked things out.)


Besides, my boy had no time for tussling. He was free, awake and there was a shelf in the cooking section that looked way too organized.


Steve Calechman is a freelance writer, stand-up comedian and first-time dad in Salem. Email him at

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26 Jul 2013

By Steve Calechman