Thursday, March 29, 2007


Dear Spike:

I’m sitting in a rocking chair in a room on the labor and delivery floor at LDS Hospital, listening to your tiny heart fill the room with a sound like a horse galloping through wet sand.
In front of me, your mother is in the bed with a belt around her belly. The belt is connected to a computer by two wires — one to let us hear your little ticker, the other to let us see an image of its progress. Right now you’re hammering away at about 140 beats per minute — just the right pace — but it has slowed down a few times today and that has the doctors a bit concerned.
They assure us that it is likely nothing to worry about, but we’re going to watch it just to be safe.
Meanwhile, we wait. And as we do, I get to listen to the most beautiful sound in the world.


Thursday, March 22, 2007


Dear Spike:

A few months back I learned that children today are potty training, on average, more than a year later than they were in the 1950s.

It knocked me off my chair.

A little perspective: In the 1960s we sent a man to the moon. In the 70s we created a baby in a test tube. In the 80s we learned how to read human DNA so exactingly that it could be used as evidence in a criminal trial. And in the 90s we revolutionized communication through the internet.

Yet in all the years that have passed since the decade in which the polio vaccine was created, we never figured out how to help kids get our of diapers faster?


My incredulity sparked a conversation with your mother about what we would do to help you be a 1952ish kind of kid. That, combined with our 2007ish devotion to making sure you have a planet to live on and my own 1929ish frugalness led us to the decision to raise you in cloth diapers (which, we’ve concluded, promote earlier potty training, are more environmentally friendly and are cheaper than disposable nappies).

Sure, we figured, cloth would be a bigger hassle. But with doorstep pickup diaper services available to do the laundry, we’d manage.

Except for one thing: The only diaper service in Utah just went out of business.

I know, I know: It’s Utah, right? Land’o’baby. The place where you can have 10 kids and still be the smallest family on the block.

It doesn’t make any sense, I know, but it’s true. Want to ‘go cloth’ in Zion? You’ve gotta wash it yourself.

There are many times in life that you are going to find your determination to live out your values stretched thin by your desire to do what’s easiest on your time, patience and pocketbook.

Shortly after we moved into our first home, for instance, your mother and I took an afternoon off to price compare at three grocery centers: a natural foods store, a chain store near our home and a Super Wal-Mart on the west side of town.

The bottom line quickly became the bottom line: Groceries at Wal-Mart were a third cheaper than at the local chain store. And to shop at the natural foods store, we decided, we’d have to take out a second mortgage on the house.

While not fans of Wal-Mart’s business and labor practices, we swallowed our disdain and did our twice-monthly shopping sprees there.

Ultimately, life changed a bit. I got a raise at work and your mother and I both grew ill at the thought of repeatedly returning to the enormous, crowded, soulless edifice that is Wal-Mart. We still can’t afford to shop at the natural foods store — as likely would be our preference if money was no object — but we’ve found a bit of a balance: We take regular walks to the neighborhood chain store to pick up our groceries. And we don’t so much as drive past the Wal-Mart anymore.

At the same time, we don’t judge people who choose to shop at mega stores. For one thing, I’m not sold on the idea that the comparative evil of Wal-Mart is all that much worse than the chain we now shop at (or even the expensive natural foods store down the road, for that matter.) And moreover, I know that for some people, the bottom line is the bottom line. We’ve been there, after all.

In this world, those who follow good intentions into oblivion (“I’d let my children starve before I shopped at Wal-Mart”) are called lunatics. Those who only follow their self interests and selfish desires (“So what if my Hummer only gets 10 miles per gallon? It looks so cool!) are called assholes.

As in all things, balance in key — though when you err, my dear, I’d prefer you do so on the side of being a lunatic.

Which brings me back to the nappies: We’ve decided to forge ahead with cloth, but with an emergency supply of disposals on hand, just in case.

That’s the right balance for us, for now.


Sunday, March 18, 2007


Dear Spike:

Your mother and I were speaking today about the parable of the prodigal son. You’ll get to know this story, as it’s one of my favorite lessons from the Hebrew scriptures, but for the sake of background, here’s the tale in a nutshell (and with a few Lucasian twists...)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a rich guy had two sons. One day, the younger of the boys approaches the father with a proposition: “Dad,” he says, “give me my inheritance now and I’ll go off and make a fortune on my own on another planet.”

So the dad agrees and the son takes the first star freighter out of town. But rather than using the money to buy a moisture farm on Tatooine or opening a mining colony in Bespin, the kid blows all his cash on death sticks and green-skinned dancing girls.

After hitting rock bottom, the lad decides he’s had enough of the high life and decides to return to his father’s home, beg forgiveness and ask for a job as a servant in the old man’s bantha stables.

But when the father sees his son’s figure approaching, silhouetted against the setting suns, he runs out to embrace the boy and calls for his servants to go kill the fattened gundark. “Let’s party the way we did when the second Death Star was destroyed,” he says.

All of this leaves the older boy — who all the while has been a good and faithful son — feeling a bit like he just got taken to the cleaners by a Toydarian.

“My brother went off and wasted half your money,” he says to the dad, “and now you’re welcoming him back like a hero of the Republic? What about me? You never held a party for me!”

The father puts his hand on his oldest son’s shoulder and responds like this: “My boy, you’ll always be dear to my heart, but your brother had turned to the Dark Side. He was a Sith, but now he’s walking the path of a Jedi.

Today was the first time your mother ever heard this story. I thought she’d enjoy it and take from it the same lessons that I always had: That the capacity for forgiveness is vast and the love of a parent is absolute.

But that’s not what she gleaned from the tale.

“So basically what the story is saying is that we should just go ahead and have fun and be bad,” she said. “I like it. Good story.”

You’ve got an interesting religious education ahead of you.

On the one side of your cradle will be a father who spent more than a few formulate years in church, singing “Read the Bible, Pray Everyday (and you will grow, grow, grow.)”

On the other side you’ve got a mother who never attended church and would probably rather actually be sent to war than to sing “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

Fortunately, we’ve found each other somewhere in the middle. So while you’re not likely to escape Sunday school and evening prayers entirely, we’re not going to make you join Opus Dei, either.

And as for the prodigal son, the sermon on the mount, the fish and the loaves and the flood and the good Samaritan — we’ll let you decide what those things mean.

I’ve got faith that The Force will lead you in the right direction.


Thursday, March 8, 2007


Dear Spike:

There was a warm, slightly moist texture to the air today. It hung around even after the sun turned in. I took the opportunity to do some work in the backyard, knocking down last year’s sunflowers and checking the grapevines for buds. Sure enough, they were there — tiny, cottony buttons pushing through the chalky brown wood.

In the front yard, the snow melted away this week to reveal, pushing up through the wet dirt, the first green fingers of our crocuses, daffodils and tulips. Above the budding trees, the mountains are still arresting in their white dress uniforms and will be for months to come — but there is no question Spring has made her debut.

I’m fond of aspects of every season. I love Summer for her long, soft nights and even for the parching harshness of her days. I love Winter for his jubilance and for the way he makes our home feel so much less a structure of brick and wood and so much more a living benefactor of our family. I love Fall for his artistic whimsy and for the unsubtle ways in which he begs our mindfulness.

But could I choose a season as my bride, I would choose Spring. Bringer of fife. Revealer of things unseen. And this time around, herald of my child’s coming.

Of course, she’s not one for marriage. Spring is delicate and fleeting here. She’ll disappear a few times more before she takes her final stand against Winter, sometime in May. And then she’ll vanish, melting into Summer like a snow bank into a mountain stream.

She is, as we all are, ephemeral.

I remember once hearing a man describe the moment that he first held his child — the realization that she would one day die was so striking and sad to him that he had to hand her away. I’ll never get that image out of my head — a man so afraid to accept the consequences of life that he allowed a moment of its most glorious beauty to be lost upon him forever.

There is in this world much to be lost if we think only of what is to be lost. I prefer to acknowledge Spring’s impermanence as to better appreciate her magnificence.

Same too, for you. The glory and beauty of infancy will be with us for such as short time — I’m certain it is better to embrace and enjoy that than to mourn it. So it goes for childhood. So it goes for adolescence (and, perhaps that is very good.) So it goes for us all.

But when I look into the mirror, I still see a little boy. And when I sleep, I still have his dreams. I think those are my father’s dreams. I think they belong to his mother. To her father. To his mother. To her father. And on and on to our Eve.

I like to think that is Spring, inside us all, waiting out Winter, waiting again to bring new life, to reveal new buds on the vines. To come, to be, to leave.

Such is beauty.