A note: giveaway at the end!
It’s spring. As you can tell from these two photos of me sunbathing in the backyard.
Spring is a whisper here. The first thing I notice is that the tiniest branches on the tree right outside my window get slightly wider at the ends — the faintest hint of buds. Next, I hear birds. Then, I see birds. The green crocus leaves near the apple tree poke through, and a few weeks later, a purple flower blossoms. It’s still in the 40s (plus 5 for you Canadians).
It’s at this point, because we are in Canada, that I start to see people wearing shorts and T-shirts. This includes Khalil.
Spring in North Carolina was a tidal wave. It’s why, every year, I found myself drawn back to the Mary Oliver poem about spring. About how she’s going to “drown in the shimmering miles of it.” Here, in Ontario, it’s drip by drip.
Earlier this week, I gave a talk at a company, and during the Q&A portion, someone asked me about my favorite part of parenting. I said it’s how funny kids are — the weird things they do and say. Since I said that, I’ve been noticing those instances more.
For example, in 2017, David gave me a small orange plastic tool that slices eggs for egg salad (a very specific gift), and, for some reason, Khalil adopted that small kitchen device in 2018 and named it Birdie. For nearly 5 years now, they have been carrying it around and often fall asleep with it in their arms. Most mornings, when Khalil comes for a cuddle, they are carrying Birdie, the egg salad implement. This morning, in fact, they were Birdie’s parent and put Birdie down for a nap before going to scooter.
The most creative and funny writers' room has nothing on a kid's brain.
In retrospect, the name Birdie was some top-tier season one foreshadowing because, as a 6-year-old, Khalil is obsessed with birds. They haul around a field guide to Ontario birds and spend many hours each week feeding and watching birds. They come home in the evenings with tales of woodpeckers and robins and warblers and goldfinches and cardinals and mourning doves. Last week, I noticed an oddly colored duck and mentioned it to Khalil, and they, without hesitation, explained, “Well, that’s a bufflehead; you are used to seeing mallards.” This morning, they identified a loon after just glimpsing its beak before it ducked behind a rock.
I love my small ornithologist.
We are in a good season at our house. I have finished the manuscripts for every book but Unfit Parent, and being able to focus on one project is a nice change. Khalil and David both brighten when the weather starts to warm. Carter, a dear friend I met when we toured Davidson as juniors in high school, visited with her new baby. I am satisfied with my selection of pants. We are eating pizza outside this evening.
I heard once that you spend the first 40 years trying to obtain everything you want from life and the second 40 maintaining it all. When our heat broke this week and Khalil grew out of another set of clothes, that observation felt true. But right now, I feel so grateful to have a life that I want to maintain.
I can’t let this newsletter end without acknowledging that children are being murdered. As you’ve no doubt heard, in the U.S., gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children. And, to make that statistic more dire, of the 20 wealthiest countries globally, the rate of child mortality is highest in the U.S. The difference is gun laws.
I watched the Netflix docuseries, Emergency NYC, and of the threads woven throughout, the impact of guns on children was the most devastating. Over the eight episodes, a pediatric surgeon is shown treating child after child with bullet wounds. One child, who was shot in the pelvis by a stray bullet while walking down the street, is asked if he’s traumatized. “I’m just hurt,” he replies.
In the final episode, that surgeon is shown standing in his scrubs, after a long shift, at the back of a gun violence protest. He is hunched with the weight of the children he has watched die. He is doing all he can.
Throughout the series, I found the complex fortress of our medical system incredibly moving. It must say something about us, as people, that we devote so much time and energy and equipment to extending the lives of strangers. As the anthropologist Margaret Mead said, the first indicator of civilized society was a broken leg that had healed. We are our most evolved when we tend to and carry the wounded.
By that logic, it’s a devastating indictment of our humanity that we allow our most vulnerable to be murdered because we value gun sales and a flimsy simulacrum of freedom over our kids.
Visit Everytown to take action.
And, finally, Olivia Muenz, a disabled poet and author, has a stunning new book of poetry out that weaves in and around her experience of chronic illness. Her publisher is offering 5 copies of I Feel Fine to readers of my newsletter. To enter the drawing, simply like or comment on this post (if you do both, you’ll be entered twice).
May you have moments this month during which you can notice the parts of your life worth maintaining.
I love the drip in of spring, you've gotten the perfect verbiage for it. It's a slow unfurling that makes us lift our faces to the sun, like sunflowers, even if we are bundled up!
Spring drip by drip in Canada was an arresting metaphor. Hope I can meet Kahlil someday as perhaps you know that Lucia and I are also obsessed with birds! Congrats on finishing manuscripts and having just one to focus on--how lovely! Muah!