to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe



every three months – click for bigger

Hi there my sweet wonderful pumpkin-pie Lulubeans! Guess what happened exactly seven years ago? YOU WERE BORN!

I started out writing quarterly missives to you on these pages, but here’s the thing: your father has trouble with time management, and frequently stays up too late to write these things. You already knew all this; one of your first scientific words was “nocturnal”, whereupon you said “it’s when something is only up at night. Like Daddo.”


at school

Speaking of science, I don’t think any snapshot of your current obsessions can escape your love of the stuff. On the weekends, when you get somewhat-free reign of the television in the early morning, I’ll walk in to you watching “How the Universe Works” or “How It’s Made” on the Science Channel.

Your head is then full, all day, of the life cycles of galaxies and, of course, how pool cues and car batteries are made. But you save most of your brain space for animals – anything captured by a National Geographic camera, or featured in your encyclopedia of dog breeds.

This has all led to a show I call “73% True”, which is my name for your running commentary of all knowledge real and invented. You will say roughly three things that are absolutely pitch-perfect fact… and then the fourth thing will be so wolfshit insane that I will spit out my food.


Example: the other night in bed, you were talking about how koalas weren’t bears, and how marsupials can put their pregnancies on pause while another baby is in the pouch. Then, after a few seconds, you said, “Daddo, can I tell you something? Did you know that dogs hibernate?”

Both your mom and I adore your love of dinosaurs so much that we openly fret about it ending, but you don’t show many signs of slowing. You just had your birthday party at the Museum of Natural History, where I could feel how much you wanted to tell the tour guide that there was no such thing as a pterodactyl (true fact). If and when your dino days do end, it’ll be because there was no more left for you to learn, without taking a college course on the Mesozoic.


in our room on the Big Island – not gonna get caught not knowing

Which is interesting in context. You love your friends, and desire to protect them, but you are famously uninterested in joining the inchoate cliques now forming in grade school. You’ll play tunnel-tag with the best of them, but your rest state is observing your class from a slightly-removed perspective.

I suspect you have misgivings about humanity as a whole; in your eyes, large groups of humans only exist to trash the planet and hurt animals. As you said to me in the bath last night, “I love art and music and math and science, but social studies? I don’t get it. Why do we have to learn about people?” It’s as if you think All The Peopleā„¢ get all the goddamn airtime all day long, why do you have to talk about them at school too?

I should mention that you have inherited my family’s musical ear, which is a blessing sandwich with curse dressing. It allows you to play pretty much anything the piano teacher gives you, as long as you’ve heard it first. Which means you’re doing it all by ear, and not reading the music. Which is awesome, but also lazy (but awesome) and lazy. In other words, my piano-playing exactly.


busy secretly hating frosting

As for your demeanor, you still float through rooms, paradoxically ethereal and loud. Despite your omnivorous appetite for facts, your dreamscape imagination life is fully online and operational – in fact, I’ve come to understand that “73% True” doesn’t mean “27% False”. In fact, is it in that 27% that anything can happen. At night, we use your menagerie of stuffed animals and have invisible pitch-black dialogues that carry us everywhere.

I’ve often talked about your instantaneous anthropomorphizing of anything and everything, going back to your hand crib of early toddlerhood. Maybe it’s your ability to turn anything into a narrative that makes the world such a breathtaking place when we’re around you.

Your mom and I have kept the heart-wrenching details of our fertility and adoption issues from you, since they’re complicated, and it’s not wise to teach you about holding on to the hope of a miracle. And besides, we have so much fun with you, every day, that the craziness of Babytown can seem ever-so-less important.


although you’re probably the best babysitter ever – with Marlena on Kauai

While we were stuck in a hotel room last week, we turned on the TV just in time for Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. The episode was about black holes, the Susskind-Hawking debate, and string theory. The show discussed how Stephen Hawking conceded his battle by admitting that information was indeed retained even if an object was swallowed by a black hole. String theorists say the information is “saved” at the edges of the universe in holographic form.

I turned to you and said, “So, Luce… I just want to tell you it’s okay to be confused. NOBODY understands string theory. You can go to another college after your first college and still not understand cosmological string theory.”

“I think it’s easy,” you said, busy misspelling “Easter” and “bunny” on your doodle pad, “A black hole’s like a copy machine that destroys the original.” I prepared to file that under Kids Say the Gosh-Durndest Things when I realized… you were right. You’d just simplified the holographic principle of black hole thermodynamics.



two pictures taken at the same time – top: Lucy, Tessa, Lucas; bottom: the picture Lucy took

All I can really say is this: you’ve allowed me to discover the world again, away from the vultures of my own childhood, this time from the awe-filled perspective of your wide-open heart. I love to sit near you as you work things out, because it gives me a contact high. Your mom and I expended so much effort to make our family bigger, going down so many blind alleys, occasionally becoming the people we swore we’d ever be. We were secretly hoping for a miracle, but the fact is, we already had one.

0 thoughts on “to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe

  1. mom

    Words rarely fail me, but in the case of our beautiful Lucy words are inadequate for how wonderful it is just to know you. Even though you told me in Hawaii that I will be “really, really old” when you graduate from college, you want me to be there. Count on it.

  2. Salem

    Note to self: Bring handkerchief to work on April 16th. My favorite love story 7 years running. Happy Birthday Lucy!

  3. monheric

    Ian – thanks for writing these. We raised two boys, and this lets me know so well how it is to be the parent of a girl.

  4. Caitlin

    Gorgeous, Ian. Lucy has an open invitation to come talk string theory with Michael, or drop by his quantum field theory class to school the grad students sometime. Happy birthday!

  5. Jane Barnes

    O Lucy, O Ian, O Tessa, This is just plain inspiring. Lucy may not remember me, but I will never forget her. She and Hank should start a college now! Love to all, Jane


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