Category Archives: Fievel

Sorry, Charlie

-for Charlie (duh)

When my wife, Susan, and I found out we were having a boy this time around, we burst into tears. This is because we realized he would one day wreck every vehicle we owned. No, we cried because we’re the sort of 13th century couple who doesn’t find out the sex of their child until the delivery. So the moment we found out he was a boy was the same moment we found out everything else about him. Also, I’m pretty sure if you don’t cry happy tears at the sight of your newborn, the doctors keep him.

They officially admitted us to St. Catherine’s hospital shortly after midnight. “Did we come in too early?” Susan asked me every time the nurses left the room.

“No,” I explained, “they’re letting us stay.”

Her: No, I know that, but would it have been better if we’d waited?

Me: Better for who?

Her: Whom.

Charlie arrived at ten-o-three that morning and at ten-o-four the nervous energy began to drain from my body. The hours leading up to the birth, you’re carried forward by sheer adrenaline as you wait to see that small wonderful face and hold that tiny body fresh from the heavens. Then, ten minutes later, you realize you’ve been up all night and all morning pacing and encouraging and holding your wife’s foot. Also—and this is roughly as tiring, I suppose—your wife has for close to 24 hours been pushing a human person from her body. The moment your son or daughter finally arrives is like the moment a marathon runner crosses the finish line—you’re exhausted, you feel vaguely like you’re going to throw up, and you smell great. So logically, this is when they decide to send in the visitors.

“You have visitors,” the nurse announces.

“Who? Me?” You wonder who could possibly know you’re here in the hospital. Then you look down at your iPhone and realize you just texted literally everyone you’ve ever met, all in the last fifteen minutes. (“Mom and baby doing well,” the caption reads beneath a blurry picture of your wife and wrinkly, red-faced son, a picture that is only half-obscured by your index finger.)

I’m a fairly bad conversationalist on eight hours of sleep, so you can only imagine how abysmal I was on zero. Luckily, my wife Susan was there to correct me every so often.

“She was five meters when—”

“No honey, centimeters. I was five centimeters dilated when they admitted us. Five meters is a house.”

“Then they brought in the pachyderm to—”

Epidural. A pachyderm is an elephant.”

“And now we have to put Vaseline on it every diaper change until it falls off.”

“The umbilical cord! The umbilical cord falls off, not the—”

Okay, so maybe I wasn’t that bad, but I did say some pretty dumb stuff, which is par for the course. If it ever comes out that Susan does all my writing for me—and not just my editing—I’m certain it will be a shock to no one. Instead, everyone I know will most likely turn to one another and say, “I told you he couldn’t read.”

Even worse, I’m now doomed to say any number of such things to my son. Eventually, he’s going to start talking and shortly after that he’s going to start asking questions—and expecting me to supply the answers… What if he asks me the capital of Washington, D.C.? Or how much Canada weighs? I’ve only been alive 31 years! That’s hardly time to learn both geography and the metric system.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned a few cool things—how to cook large cuts of meat, how to throw a punch (more or less), and how to change a flat—but if Jeopardy, the SATs, and most of college taught me anything, it’s that you’re rarely quizzed on stuff you already happen to know. With my luck, Charlie will want to know how many senators it takes to elect the president. And I’ll just have to tell him the truth: Nobody knows.

Charlie will one day find out his dad doesn’t know everything about everything. (Sorry, Charlie.) It will be a sad day for him, but I’m sure he’ll recover. His dad, on the other hand, might not.



The Season of Waiting

“Fievel” is the new baby’s tummy name, as “Nino” was Bonnie’s. It’s Yiddish for “a small mouse in a floppy hat with an aptitude for getting lost.” No, it’s actually Yiddish for something like “bravely born,” but the cartoon mouse of our childhood is definitely where I got the idea.

I haven’t written a great deal about this pregnancy, and honestly I don’t know why. I’ve come up with half a dozen or so reasons, but they’re all pretty lame. The only thing I know for certain is that when we were expecting Bonnie, life was far more settled for both Susan and me than the last year has been. In just the last twelve months, we moved across the state; Susan took a new job at a new college after eight years at K-State and then another new job six months later; I became a part-time editor and full-time stay-at-home-dad, then a freelance editor as well, then an adjunct instructor for two different colleges, and then a substitute teacher at the high school—all while trying to maintain my writing; our little Bonnie went from being a six month old, whose greatest feat was rolling from her stomach to her back, to a crawling, walking, climbing, and babbling toddler. We worked on an estimate for renovating one house, then a different house, and then finally decided to start looking for a sane person’s first home (i.e., one not in desperate need of Chip and Joanna Gaines). In the middle of it all, we got pregnant. Okay, so maybe I know why I haven’t written as much about Fievel, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

I miss how we felt waiting for Bonnie, like Mary prayerfully but eagerly awaiting the birth of Jesus. This time around we’ve been a lot more like Joseph. Joseph scrambling to get Mary out of Galilee. Joseph desperate to find a room in Bethlehem. Joseph evacuating his family to Egypt—all while making kitchen tables and wagon wheels as the village carpenter. Now, I’m sure Joseph was just as reverent, but you’ve got to admit the guy was busy. Or maybe he wasn’t reverent at all and maybe that’s okay, too.

The season of Advent, as the Mass readings remind us, is a time when we remember the coming of Christ, but it’s also a time to prepare for the second coming. If a cursory comparison of the first few chapters of the Gospels and any chapter of Revelations is any indicator, the second coming is going to be wildly different from the first. Maybe that’s how it is with kids, too.

This Advent I decided to slow down and pay more attention to my family, especially the newest member. This is always my struggle, so to that end I also shelved social media for a time, letting my phone go back to being just a phone. It hasn’t been a cure-all and there are certainly some grumpy evenings, but it has made me at least moderately more present. There have already been some fruits. For example, the other night, while we were listening to Christmas music on the couch, I let my hand rest on Susan’s stomach and felt those most surreal jabs and kicks, like an alien beginning to burst from my wife’s abdomen. I’d scratch her stomach and Fievel would answer, reaching out to touch his father’s hand.

“Sorry, you got short-changed in the prose-department, buddy,” I wanted to say. “Daddy’s been busy making sure we don’t have to move into a cardboard box.” Although, let’s be real, Susan’s been the busy one. But I’d like to think I’ve been there to assist. Driving Bonnie to daycare. Washing dishes occasionally. Making soup. Those are the same as creating a human being from scratch, right? Hopefully, the preparation has been enough; although, in the case of Advent, I doubt we’ll ever really be ready. I suppose all we can do is look forward. Look forward to Fievel, Christmas, the eschaton, and enjoy it once it’s here.