Monthly Archives: April 2005

ready for your close-up, Mr. Roper

4/28/05

Lucy was asked to guest-lecture at NYU yesterday, so we took her on her first trip to Manhattan. She found Broadway at rush hour to be dazzling, and it returned the favor:

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We were invited by Cindy Chupack, the head writer for “Sex and the City” and author of the Between Boyfriends Book, who is teaching a class in the television department on How to Succeed in TV Writing. She should know, she’s one of the best.

Quick aside note to my friends from high school: Cindy was recently engaged to Ian Wallach, whose brother is Corey Wallach – who starred alongside all of us in Norfolk Academy’s production of “Camelot.” He was Lancelot, I was King Pellinore. The world is small, but unknowable, yes?

Anyway, Lucy fell asleep during the first few minutes of class (just like I always did) so we had to take over and tell our jaunty tales of life in the TV industry. It’s amazing how many little pieces of advice you can dole out, and equally amazing how useless they all are unless you know somebody who can get you a meeting. Still, there are about five major potholes to avoid, and I thought we represented them well.

Cindy reminds me a little of Jill McCorkle, one of my favorite teachers in the world. At Carolina, Jill would give us a quick rundown of things to eschew in our writing, but she always summed things up by saying that we could do whatever we wanted as long as it was original, exciting, and good. She taught by positive feedback only, and gave us a sense of the possible, rather than bumming us out with faint praise and crochety reality. I will always be indebted to her for that. Cindy seems to share that quality.

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The class was psyched we brought our 14-day-old to school (although our pediatrician wouldn’t be) and I think we showed them that there is Life After Baby, which is something I never believed when I was 21.

Lucy didn’t get to say anything in class, but boy was she full of opinions when we got home. Yeesh!

tension is unbearable, I hope it lasts

4/27/05

One day in 1987, Chip, Jon and I were exiting our Manor to the Machine: The Economic Shaping of Medieval Europe class, and we all agreed that we were attending college at the most boring time in history. We’d heard stories of the 1960s (which is why Greenlaw Hall at UNC has barricades for the National Guard) and then the drugged out/kegs-in-the-dorm days of the 1970s, and we knew, even while we were in the moment, that our particular history was going to be regarded as dreadfully dull.

Even in high school, years before, the general feeling was the “History” was something that happened to someone else. The biggest two events of the time were the Challenger explosion and Chernobyl (and I guess Iran-Contra, but if you’re digging that far, you’ve already lost me).

We tried our best to liven things up in the end of the Reagan era (and the beginning of Bush I) by throwing parties at the Lodge that harkened back to the days of bacchanalia, but Chapel Hill was drifting off into the sunset days of its old village charm. I don’t even remember if I voted in 1988, even though it was the first time I could.

I mention this because we were discussing the Rodney King riots in the car today, and remembering what a bizarre shift this country took. I guess the real change happened in late ’89 when the Berlin Wall fell, but by the time Nirvana came out with “Nevermind,” things began to really speed up in our lives.

This is a brief outline of the Chapel Hill/World at Large itinerary:

1989 – Berlin wall falls

1992 – Rodney King riots paralyze L.A.

1993 – O.J. Simpson “Trial of the Century”

1993 – Chapel Hill band scene goes nationwide

1993 – Grateful Dead plays two shows at Dean Dome

1993 – Intimate Bookshop burns down, three other places as well on the same night

1993 – National Champions! (had to throw that in there)

1994 – “Generation X” hoopla in full swing

1994 – Wendell Williamson kills two in gun rampage on Henderson Street

1996 – Dot-com mania takes over Research Triangle Park

1999 – Y2K hysteria

2000 – Dot-com bubble bursts, all of us out of work

2001 – 9/11 attacks change entire country

2003 – War in Iraq

I know that’s a mixture of the mundane, miraculous and tragic, but that’s the hodgepodge of history you actually experience when the local and global play upon your psyche.

It’s funny how those things play out: the O.J. verdict seemed like a direct cause of Rodney King (obviously, O.J.’s a murdering bastard, but when he was found not guilty, my 25-year-old brain thought it was a nice “fuck you” to whitey). My brother Sean moved to Chapel Hill in fall ’93 because of the insanity that had swirled around the campus that spring.

It’s a messy timetable, to be sure, but one thing is certain: for the last fifteen years, things have been happening. We even had another space shuttle blow up and everyone had too much whiplash to care.

During the last election, some pundits thought that Americans were suffering from “history fatigue” and would reject Bush and his neo-con weltpolitik in favor of less rash civilization-remaking. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but I confess I miss the days when we merely concerned with nuclear Armageddon rather than getting nickel-and-dimed to death with the world’s axis changing every other year. Jon, Chip and I had wished for a little more excitement in our college years, but like Oscar Wilde said, the Gods punish us by answering our prayers.

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Jon, me, Bud in NYC, summer 1986

revoke this license

4/26/05

Sleep-Deprived Parenting Thought For the Day #4676b

Yo, all the mommas and poppas out there in the motherfuckin’ house: have you ever wanted to, um, EAT your baby? I don’t mean actually eat or anything like that, but sometimes I look over at Lucy and see her chubby cheeks or her nubbin nose, and I kinda want to put her in my mouth.

The worst are her feet. They are so goddamn cute. Her toes should be used as antidepressants. I mean, aren’t they like, completely scrumptious?

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YUM!

Yeah, shut up, I’m going to bed.

the following was written between 1&2am

4/25/05

We interrupt your usual baby diatribes to bring you a special edition of Shit I’m Watching on TV, or, more specifically, Shit I’m Watching While Rocking Ol’ Ironsides To Sleep.

Actually, even more specifically, I have to say I’m intrigued at how the fine folks at “24” manage to keep their show going. Don’t get me wrong, I basically love every episode (especially the ones with our bud Sarah Clarke in them) but this season they seem to snatching brilliance out of the jaws of utter inanity.

Why do I care about these things, you might ask? Because I’d like to be writing on of my own shows one of these days, and series like “Alias,” “Lost,” “Veronica Mars,” “Numb3rs,” “House,” “Boston Public” and “24” are excellent studying templates for the final exam in front of a batch of network executives. Today’s television, as I have said countless times in these pages, is not like the crap we grew up with (check out Steven Johnson’s excellent article from this Sunday Times for the biopsychological perspective).

“24” is up to some pretty strange shenanigans of late. Entire characters and plotlines have disappeared (the lady who ran CTU – Driscoll – has been axed, as well as Kim Raver’s father, the defense contractor’s militia, the redhead who flew the stealth bomber, and other elements nicely detailed over at TWP) with the insouciance and ease of a TV writer taking out the trash. It’s as if they were drawing the plot on a chalkboard, and they ran out of chalkboard. Which sucks, because I really, really loved Shohreh Aghdashloo.

Right now, they’re trying to portray an “undecisive President of the United States,” who looks an awful lot like Richard Nixon. His inability to act on anything should seem Hamlet-esque, but in a steroid-fueled show like “24,” it merely comes off as EXTREMELY ANNOYING. Also, the Powers That Be have given Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) a bunch of shit because he tortured somebody while trying to find a stolen nuclear warhead.

The fact is, if the government knew there was a stolen nuclear warhead, they would torture every single motherfucker in the country, and they’d start with liberal asshole bloggers like me. That plotline, again, has been EXTREMELY ANNOYING.

Enter Chloe, the bizarre-faced dork at the Counter-Terrorist Unit (in a “geeks hate other geeks on the food chain” rivalry with Edgar) coming out tonight with guns blazing. You really had to be there, but that was AWESOME TELEVISION. Score another one for “24” – just when you decide to go to the bathroom, they nail the dismount.

Um, do any of you readers watch this show? Uh, okay. Back to Dungeons and Dragons for me.

older and wiser, telling you what to do

4/24/05

In the Now That I’ve Experienced It, I Can’t Believe It department:

How the assmunching hell did Dads get away with not helping rear newborns for so goddamn long? In the early days – meaning The Beginning of Man through about 1930 – anytime a baby was born, a support system would kick in. Grandmothers, spinster aunts, sisters, and if you could afford it, nurses (wet or otherwise) would assume their positions and help the mother through the first treacherous months of baby raisin’.

Now, in the 21st century, you’d be hard-pressed to find many hipster dads here in Coastopia who aren’t as obsessed – or more – with their newborns as their female counterpart. I don’t know a single dad, or dad-to-be, that hasn’t dealt with the pregnancy and baby with the utmost dedication and seriousness, even those with “real jobs.”

That leaves the years 1930 through about 1985, when the diaspora of families left new moms thousands of miles away from sisters, aunts and their own mothers – and their husband stuck in the bullshit patriarchy refusing to change diapers and cancel golf. Frankly, I don’t know how these mothers did it. Tessa and I both approach Lucy as a full-time job with about nine hours of overtime each night, and although we’re delighted by her newfound smile, we’re also super goddamn tired all the time.

I have often thought that living through the 1950s – as an intelligent, sensitive woman – makes the current political atmosphere seem like a dirty-toenailed commune. When “Happy Days” became such a hit in the mid-70s, my Mom fumed, “I hated the 1950s the first time around.” No wonder those were the precise years when they took us all off the breast and stuck us on formula – it was the only peace of mind these women could get.

It’s always been stunning to me how long men were allowed to get away with crap like that. Even now, the concept of “paternal leave” is a joke at most companies. Is anybody ever insulted by that? The ONLY THING men have going for them over women is upper body strength, that’s IT. And that tacit threat has made them dominate the species for longer than any story has ever been told.

Not to toot horns or anything, but I am proud to be among the generation of fathers who gave up their stranglehold on humanity and actually got into the trenches with all the poop-filled diapers and the 5am-7am rocking. When I swab Lucy’s umbilical cord with a little alcohol pad, I look back in history and know I’m one of the first guys on the moon.

So this blog goes out to mothers like my Grandma Klea Worsley, stuck in some flea-ridden shack in Los Angeles in 1941, raising four kids by herself while her husband went off on 4-month “business adventures” returning empty-handed. None of us new dads are in the same league with her. God bless you, Grandma!

très bien ensemble

4/21/05

This whirlwind, bizarre and electrifying change in my life is now a week old, and I’m bursting with magnanimity for our stunning blessings, so I’d like to thank a few people this week for making this transition so much less scary than it could have been otherwise.

– First off, again, you folks on the internet are awesome. It never escapes me that all of you have your own intense lives and yet still come by to chat. As I said before, whenever I have pangs to give this up, it’s that delicious “comments” button that makes it worthwhile.

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– Tessa’s mom Sandy was such a delight in her two weeks with us. Not only did she tell her boss in Texas what’s what, she was the rock that steadied us through 9.2 months pregnant, labor, and the first days at home.

– Oh yeah, Chopes was cool too. When we brought the baby home, the first thing he did was give her a big lick on the face. After we disinfected Lucy and aired out the room (his breath is atrocious) he settled into his sentry position and guarded All Who Dare Venture Near Her. Unless, of course, he’s asleep.

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– This is going to sound hopeless fruity, but I’d like to thank the tree that stands outside our apartment. It sprang to life the same day Lucy did, and its pink leaves are stunning. When the going gets a little rough, and the screams curdle the blood, somehow that awesome tree outside is calming, even at night. I’m going to be quite sad when the flowers blow off.

– The friends that have sent us stuff? My god, what a fucking cornucopia of delight! Smart friends buy better toys than you can. And it really helps us that Laurie, Dana, Nell, Virginia, Hilary, Alia, Stasia, Jason & Tim, Carrie and Penny all are having kids this fiscal year so they can all be the same grade in school and keep each other from getting beat up.

– My family has been wonderful. Sean and Jordana, despite buying their first house and remolding it from the ground up, find time to come over from Astoria every other day (check out his blog for photos) and they even made us SOUP. My mom and dad call every day, Michelle wants to move back to NYC, Steve got us a play aquarium, and Kent gave us his name (and hopefully his preternatural calm), which is about all anyone could ask.

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– I’d also like to thank The Internet, Modern Technology and more specifically, Apple Computer for the iSight that allowed us to show Lucy to her grandmother 3,200 miles away.

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– My wife is unbelievable. She soldiered through some amazing events this week. I do whatever I can – laundry, dishes, driving, diaper changing, singing the entire “Rubber Soul” album to the baby – but breastfeeding and sleeplessness have only slowed her a tiny bit. She is delighted to find her ankles back, she fits into her old jeans, and I’m smooching the girl from 1987.

– Lastly, sweet Lucy. I never thought I would have you, never thought I would have any child. I honestly thought I was too screwed up, or had waited too long. I’m so happy my parents can know you, because in a way, I had to prove to them that I was going to end up okay, and you are in no small measure the proof itself. I can say to them that I got this far, and all the old shame and humiliation melt away. You are 9 pounds, 1 ounce of redemption for both of your parents. But enough about us.

How can I thank you enough, when I walk into a room and see this?

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misfired electron = delight

4/20/05

I know this isn’t supposed to happen yet, but today, Lucy and I locked eyes for the longest time yet: about 5 seconds. I was so psyched that I started smiling. She looked at my mouth, and then did something that I would never have believed if Tessa hadn’t seen it too: she smiled back.

Now, every nurse, pediatrician, neurologist and armchair doula will tell you it’s only gas, it’s only a fart, it’s some kind of synapse misfiring, but I was goddamn there. I know what face she makes for having gas, I know the rest of her eight emotions like the back of my hand; I’ve been staring at her for a week. And nobody can tell me it wasn’t a smile.

If anybody here can prove different, I’m all ears. But GOD ALMIGHTY what a moment. That little girl’s scream can peel the varnish off furniture, but her smile has the beauty of Helen and the power of Cleopatra. What the hell am I going to do? I’m going to have to build her dollhouses made of fucking mint chocolate.

And while we’re at it, this is as good a time as any to ask: what is your one piece of practical parenting advice? We are learning quickly (and have 15 of our own to share), but the best part of our baby shower was that each attendant had to give one helpful thought on having a newborn – or, in the case of those without kids, what thing your parent did that made the world infinitely better for you.

Pound away, if you so please!

eat your paisley!

4/18/05

First off, all of you are amazing. A baby is born every seven seconds, and to have so many of you take the time to share our particular moment has been very thick frosting on an already-fabulous angel food cake. We’re printing out the comments and emails to be enshrined in her baby book for time immemorial.

I’ve always been very conscious of “how I was being received,” so conscious, in fact, that after a few years of writing the Wednesday’s Child column at UNC, I stopped putting what year in school I was, just so the freshmen would still listen. I’d like to make a similar caveat here: I didn’t want this to become a Look At My Baby Blog. That’s great for Dooce (who does it well) and many others, but those kinds of diaries always used to bum me out after a while. I still need to appeal to my East Village Hipster demographic, god dammit!

HOWEVER: it is damn well nigh impossible to think of much else right now. The rigors of a newborn baby are predictably intense, and although I always wanted to have a family (due to some latent Mormonism in my DNA), I don’t think I ever actually thought it could happen. So I’m discovering things in miles per second squared, and if I don’t put it on here, in some ways, I’m afraid I’ll forget.

God, I was so full of shit. I used to believe the following:

– any girl that used the phrase “my boyfriend” was a pathetic affirmation vulture

– wedding rings were nothing but ownership chains used by insecure couples to taunt single people

– golf was for incontinent 80-year-olds with poop running out of their kilts.

I have now transgressed all of those, and one more: back in my twenties, I used to glaze over with abject boredom the second anyone started talking about their babies. So trust me when I say this – if you come on here and think I’m doing nothing but blabber “BABY BABY blah blah BABY BABY squirt BABY” then I feel your pain.

But that’s just too fucking bad. I may not have one single original thought on the subject, but I promise to try and still be entertaining. I will adhere to the following rules:

1. poop is funny once, but boring and slightly sickening the fifteenth time

2. all babies kind of look the same. I mean, really. (except for mine)

3. I am not going to be Wacky Dad like Dave Barry, Soulful Dad like Paul Reiser or Moses Dad like Bill Cosby

4. I know how to put on a diaper and have since I was five, when I used to change my little sister. So no “bumbling dad” diaper jokes (see rule 1)

5. I will Photoshop out any of T’s boobs that happen to spill into the picture

6. I will not refer to my baby’s weight as a sign of my virility (yes, people do that)

7. a pacifier is a pacifier, not a “binky.” A blanket is a fucking blanket. WORDS MEAN THINGS.

8. I will not dress Lucy in a onesie with a bitchin’ ’75 Camaro on the front and a hat that says “Kid Vicious” and then take a picture.

Well, actually, I probably will do that.

aries, gemini rising

4/17/04

Wednesday Evening

So Tessa had been having these “contractions” for a few days now; every once in a while she’d look up from whatever she was doing and say, “oh, um, well, there’s one” and then go back to viciously tackling her pre-natal To Do list. I asked her if it was okay if I went to my golf lesson – yes, I have been taking some lessons, so SHUT UP – and she said sure. After an hour of slicing golf balls into the coke machine, I got The Phone Call saying something akin to “git yer ass home.”

It wasn’t long before her contractions became serious. Sandy (her mom) and I were doing our best to distract her, so we turned on cable and unfortunately, we were stuck with “The Prince of Tides.” I’d forgotten about how miserable that movie could be (and, of course, Barbra Streisand’s fingernails) and it’s amazing how much you can concentrate on such a piece of crap while your wife is about to have the most profound night of her life. Maybe it’s just a defense mechanism.

Her contractions were two minutes apart, and they lasted about 20 seconds each. This is where our troubles began; she started to projectile-vomit all over our kitchen, and, knowing that nausea is nature’s deal-breaker, I called the doctor and the doula. Both recommended we come straight to the hospital.

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arriving at the hospital around midnight

Thursday, Very Early Morning

The thing about hospital personnel is this: the most important day of your life is butting up against the most mundane day of theirs. This dynamic plays itself out time and time again, as frantic would-be parents try advocating for their spouses, only to be met with the cold stares of nurses Who Have Been Down This Road Lo So Many Times.

We happened to get a very crotchety nurse who pulled enough bullshit for us to start a deep loathing. Note to expecting parents: try to get your baby to wait until after the graveyard shift.

Tessa threw up again at the hospital, and the doctor assumed, by her physiology, that she must be 6 cm dilated (out of a possible 10). A quick check showed that she was nowhere near this, and let’s just say the fun leaked out of the room pretty fast.

Let me tell you something about my wife. She has the highest threshold for pain in North America. She hasn’t had a single narcotic in her body for a decade. She doesn’t get novacaine for a filling. She should join the carnival. She can take ANYTHING. But in the throes of the fourth hour of violent contractions, she looked at me with the hollow eyes of a child, a vulnerability I’d never seen before, and we both knew it was time for surrender. She was shaking, vomiting, and in unbelievable agony.

We had wanted as natural a childbirth as possible, no drugs, wires, tubes or anything. An hour later, she had:

– IV delivering saline drip

– finger sensor for blood/oxygen detection

– armband for blood pressure

– Doppler thing for monitoring contractions

– fetal heart monitor

– catheter

– and, of course, an epidural.

Thursday Morning

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Our room had a sensational view of the tip of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. When the sun rose, it lit the tops of all the buildings in downtown New York City and bathed us in this surreal yellow light. Tessa was at 8cm now, and we soothed her as best we could. Even the epidural couldn’t take the lion’s share of the pain away.

The nightmare nurse didn’t bother to get our doctor until after her shift was over, but that was fine by us: at 7am, the Sunshine Nurse of Happiness appeared, and both mom and baby inside seemed to know it. The new nurse gave us all the confidence that this thing was really going to happen.

Blogs can’t do remote justice to the process of seeing a child born. Both poetry and science have tried, but neither have the ammunition. What I saw made me so proud of Tessa – this delivery put her in paroxysms of unbearable misery, and she was so brave. It’s easy to say, “well, what choice did she have?” but if you’d been there, you’d understand. I wanted to keep her nether regions sacred, so I only glanced once as the baby was crowning. By then, the doctor and nurses were beginning to mumble something about the size.

The last push was Herculean, Wagnerian, like an entire Ring Cycle and Symphony of a Thousand in one. All of the health care professionals in attendance went “WHOA!” as soon as the baby emerged: 9 pounds, 1 ounce. 21 and a half inches. I never understood why people always put the baby’s weight on birth announcements, but now I do: it’s to make sure the mother is granted sainthood by the Vatican.

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In nature, we’re used to things moving slow: thunderstorms take hours to develop, flowers take days to bloom. But this little creature went from being an aquatic, blue, bloodied blob to a breathing, pink, screaming human in FORTY SECONDS. I had never experienced anything like it. When she started breathing for no apparent reason, it made me re-think my agnosticism.

The baby’s lungs were “junky,” so they did a ten-minute number on her with the aspirating bulb. Here’s where your fight really begins, because the hospital wants to take your baby away: give it a bath (which it doesn’t need), prick its heel several times for glucose levels, give it a blood screen, a Vitamin K shot, a gel-based eye wipe, and then rotate its tires, change the timing belt and lube the chassis. But if you can stall them an hour, and get the baby on the mom’s tummy right away, you can have the best experience of your young adulthood (not to mention put you on the fast track to easy breastfeeding).

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Jordana and Sean were her first family visitors

I lost some battles (they took her from us for three hours at one stretch), won others (no second and third bath!) and by the time visiting hours for dads was over at 9pm, I finally thought we were going to be okay. Neither me, Tessa or her mom had slept in 2 days. I went home, drunkenly posted the pictures to the previous entry and passed out.

Friday and the Weekend

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gettin’ ready to blow the taco stand

I can’t tell you how awesome it was to wake up to all the comments on the blog – some of them made Tessa very weepy. I had done a pretty piss-poor job of keeping my family in the loop (Kent didn’t even know her middle name), so I made sure all of them got the status of Lucy and her mother – but that blog entry was the most anyone (including me) had in the way of pictures.

Here’s the thing: Tessa’s labor was blindingly intense for 12 hours, and once the baby was born, we spent the rest of the day fighting to keep her with us. Every other moment was taken up by unfathomable fatigue. We’d brought magazines, speakers for the iPod, all kinds of shit that didn’t see the light of day. It’s just too intense in there.

After a bunch more heel-pricks (OW!) and glucose screens, Lucy finally got the go-ahead to get the hell out of there. Not to be overly precious and riddled with metaphor, but when we emerged from the hospital, it was the warmest day of the spring: our little Aries baby, the first of the Zodiac, born on the day all the trees bloomed in front of our apartment.

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VICTORY!

Now we’re just trying to get to know who she is, and what the hell is in her diaper. When she locks eyes with you, you feel almost embarrassed by her gaze. Having her fall asleep on your chest is worth several round-trip plane tickets.

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with Granny Sandy

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When I first really looked at Lucy, not long after they had cleaned her up and we got a few secret minutes alone, I wondered what the hell this creature was that just crawled out of my wife’s belly. I’d heard that some parents don’t really connect with their infants, and I felt like I didn’t really know who she was. I’d just met her, after all, and even giving her a name seemed presumptuous. I went through the motions, but worried that I wasn’t going to be any good at this.

When they took Lucy in for the last blood screening, I came with her to speed things up. They pricked her heel, and she started howling. And that’s when it hit me: you’re hurting MY KID! I couldn’t bear the sound of my sweet little girl having anyone cause her the least bit of harm. I knew in that precise moment that I would fling myself in front of a bus for this wonderful little being, that I would leap skyscrapers and plumb oceans for her delight. In that epiphany, it was all too much. As her screams quieted, I walked into a storage closet, surrounded by vials of purified water, and began to sob.

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