Oh, there is lots to catch up on, an overwhelming amount, as we not hours ago wrapped up a 200 mile backcountry trip in the company of fellow adventurers Alex and Ashek, and touched down in La Paz for our first hot shower in a period of time that many would argue was far too long.
Most importantly, over the course of these events, The SilverFish turned six on an unnamed beach just south of San Evaristo and she had a pretty typical birthday… you know, scorpions, a couple rattlesnakes, and a piñata suspended from a twenty foot high cardon cactus thanks to our guests, the very same Alex and Ashek (thank god Ashek is an engineer, and over six feet tall, as the piñata hanging was a very complex and, frankly, dangerous project).
I’ll post about the adventures later, but given that the lady in question just turned six I’ll dwell on Sylvie for a moment.
While Val and I are quite aware of how babies are made, Sylvie wasn’t exactly planned in the modern sense of the word. When we found out, we were very happy, and Val wondered aloud whether or not we’d have a boy (sort of a natural opposite for Leonie) but I closed my eyes and emptied my mind and took a deep breath and it came to me, as clear as day: another girl was on the way.
Science confirmed this, and as Val began to expand dramatically to accommodate our second daughter, we talked about what exactly the birth plan was.
We had a somewhat Kafka-esque experience trying to escape a local hospital after Leonie was born (there was limited interest in letting me take my very healthy wife, and very healthy baby, home to our comfortable apartment) Val and I decided if we ever had another kid we’d have a home birth.
And, thanks to a couple of earthy bottles of Rioja, we had a chance to test this new theory of ours a good three years sooner than we expected to.
Now, if you tell people you plan to have your baby in your home, they look at you like you’ve lost your mind. Never mind that for ten thousand years we humans have been successfully having babies in caves, on ice floes, in jungles, and in deserts, if you go ahead and have a baby in a duplex in Brooklyn you’re doomed.
And, to be fair, a home birth is not for everyone.
But I thought about all the terrible things we would face having a child at home: at no time would I have to fill out dozens of forms or fumble for my health insurance card. I wouldn’t have strangers in white polyester jumpsuits attempting to wire my wife to machines mid-contraction. I wouldn’t have to enter into a lengthy debate with nursing staff about whether or not my baby needs to be tested for jaundice (“well, does she look yellow to you?”).
When I was hungry, I could eat, and it would be real food, the stuff I like, the stuff in the fridge. More critically, when paralyzed with panic or fear or indecision or emotionally overwhelmed with it all, my entire bar would be right there for me.
Now, of course, these are the benefits I would enjoy, and many of you might say that Val’s feelings on the subject are also pretty germane to the decision. As it turns out, she wanted to be in her own home also, and because she’s as tough as nails and wanted a natural childbirth she figured a trip to the hospital whilst in the throes of labor was one thing she could happily live without.
So, after a lazy February afternoon walk around our neighborhood to relax, Sylvie got anxious to meet everyone who had been cooing at her through the intermediary of Val’s abdomen and, by 7:24 at night, there we were, holding all nine pounds of her in our arms and wondering what the hell we had done to be so lucky – the universal prayer of thanks for all new parents.
And, over the last six years, the SilverFish has grown into a remarkable young thing.
More importantly, and something that has become clearer and clearer with each day we pass here on our trip, is that the SilverFish and Leonie have truly come to bond with one another. There is nothing, in fact, to come between them out here – no school, with its grades or cliques or otherwise neatly dissected social strata to get between them, all they have right now is a truck, Mom, Dad, and each other.
They love each other.
I mean, they fight each other with the ferocity of the Spartans at Thermopylae over the most mundane things you can imagine, but that’s some of the time. Whereas all of the time, we remind them (and deep down this is a known truth for them), they love each other.
I find that I, as a Dad, often wish I could cheat time and fast forward, just to get a glimpse as some sliver of the future so I could see the girls and how they are doing, what they look like, how tall they are, where they are living and what they are doing.
Anything, really, to try to help me get my bearings when it comes to these two little monsters of ours who mean so much and, paradoxically, are so busy teaching me so much about myself and the world, especially out here, given how much time we spend in each other’s company.
I spent every minute of Sylvie’s first 24 hours of life with her, and I am quite fortunate to be able to say I spent every minute of the 24 hours of Sylvie’s sixth birthday with her.
That’s not going to be true for the majority of them, certainly – I imagine that when she’s 28, having her dad around for the full day would qualify as a total disaster (“Guys, just ignore him when he starts talking about Aqua Moose and what it was like working on The Street in the 90s”…).
But she seemed pretty happy about it on the sixth, and even if that is all I get, that’s good enough for me.