Sunday, October 5, 2014

Just between friends (and new dads)

Posted By on Sun, Oct 5, 2014 at 7:40 AM

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A smart man once told me, “The first baby is a life-changer. The second is a challenge. After that it’s just organized chaos.”

That man is my father. When he was my age, he already had four children gnawing on his furniture. Mom and Dad stopped after their ninth child, when there was no more furniture left.

My wife and I just welcomed our first of nine babies into the world, and I’m discovering what my dad meant when he said life-changing.

It's important to recruit the help of friends when preparing for a baby. (You will treasure a friend’s generosity when you’re running through the aisles at Babies R Us and Target, scanning items onto your baby registry.)

But if you have no friends, you can always go to the Semi Annual JBF Sale, which, ironically, stands for Just Between Friends.

When I walked in last week, I saw none of them. However, it was lively with hundreds of mothers who loved nothing more than the sight of a lost, first-time father — whose wife abandoned him at the doors in search of deals — walking around with a newborn in his arms. They were quick to get in close and rub my son’s good-smelling head. I had to keep their motherly touches at bay with casual-looking shoulder turns. (You can’t just pat a newborn’s head like that. They have a soft spot.)

Just Between Friends is a giant garage sale put on by hundreds of parents with thousands of baby and toddler items. It’s held twice a year in the enormous, 55,000-square-foot Freedom Financial Event Center — the kind of empty building that gym teachers use to make us circle numerous times for a mile-long run.

First-time parents are given first entry at JBF; the chance to run up and down the aisles without provocation, driven by fear of the veteran mom-faces assembling outside the glass doors.

Have you ever seen those annual bridal sales, where women wrestle on the ground over drastically discounted white gowns? I’ve never seen a better sleeper-hold. The JBF sale is somewhat the same. If you have decent vision, you can inch along the perimeter and scope out any deals worth dashing in for, like onesies for 50 cents apiece. I could get 20 newborn onesies for the price I pay for a single pair of David Beckham boxer briefs. (They fit about as snugly, too.)

The clothes seem brand-new; babies wear them once or twice before the buttons are stretching and stunting their growth.There are also cribs with bite marks on the rails, toys with drowned speakers, baby bike trailers in mint condition because Dad didn’t want to venture too far from home with his baby bouncing around behind him. A tire would be the more welcome type of blowout.

JBF boasts that you can get major parenting necessities at 50 percent to 90 percent off retail price — and for the most part, that’s true. Some baby purchases pop up again and again down the road, like diapers, which are a terrifying, never-ending cost. You can actually save money by diapering your baby directly into dollar bills. But if you’re a financially responsible parent — and one of the bravest — you’re putting your baby in cloth diapers. At JBF you can get a set of 12, with only a slight tint to them, for $30.

We made our time at JBF short. We got our gear and fled out the back, scurrying like ants running home with something.

David Pico spent his childhood years in the Springs. Now, as a father, he's seeing the city (and life) in a different light. Follow him on Twitter at @davidxpico.

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