With Love and Squalor: A Letter to Friends, Shortly After the Birth of Their First Child, Esme

Mama. Mama! Ma!Ma! maMA! maMA!

August 16, 2015

Dear Tiffany and Josh,

I am at my kitchen table; syllabus prepping; knowing I need to be in the studio; listening to my household begin to stir (dogs, Finn, my mom). I am thinking of you in the midst of the managed chaos that has become my life. For instance, I thought I could get some work done (you know, live and let live), but as I email you I must simultaneously look up the name of the center outfielder for the Pirates and whether or not David Ortiz plays for Boston. The kid likes to process his thoughts out loud (he takes after me in this way), so each baseball card is announced as he flips through the pile. He’s got Bryce Harper.

Just now: “Mama, look. Can you see? See? See? Get it? Kershaw and Cueto. Kershaw and Cueto. Same guys, different cards.”

kershaw, cueto, cueto, keershaw

I love this kid. I imagine myself at 44 without having had this kid and it is the loneliest feeling. The kind of lonely you can’t fix. The kind where you wonder if you should have had a kid, if that’s what’s missing. Children really do fulfill. Adoption or birthing, either way. Obviously, I don’t say this to friends who do not have children. I know it is not for everyone.

Everything else is more complicated because of this kid. Some days, he takes my last ounce. Actually, my love for him takes my last ounce because I would not take some of the crap he doles out from anyone else. (Didn’t know tight socks were the end of the world. Didn’t know tight socks make me the worst parent ever. Spending $1,000 on the opportunity that is soccer does not make up for tight socks.) And at least once a day, I get ugly. Do NOT f-cking talk to me that way. I am SORRY I swore. Finn takes our last ounce some days because the rest of the world wants our last ounce, too, and we are going to give it to Finn first.

So glad Esme is here to take your last ounce some days. So happy for you. You will make it back to making art, I promise. As soon as she hits kindergarten. The preschool years are for catching up on sleep. As soon as she hits kindergarten, fluffy clouds of independence will coalesce. For all three of you.

“Mama, Ivan Nova is a pitcher for the Yankees. Can you look up this picture online?”

“The same picture right here on the card?”


“No, Finn, I can’t, there must be a ton of images of him online.” (Though I am already typing in “Ivan Nova”.) “There it is, that’s it.”

“That one is different.”

Neil does an impersonation of Finn calling me from the other room: Mama. Mama! Ma!Ma! maMA! maMA! “maMa!” means “You and I are one person. You are an extension of me. I am looking for my stupid motherf-cking socks. . .maMA!”

Have the best time ever with every little detail, joyful or tortuous.

Give Esme our love.