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What the Devil won't tell you

Birth in a time of coronavirus: Audrey DeAnn has got things covered

New granddaughter is statistically likely to witness the 22nd century

Chaos is about to meet Mayhem.

Chaos, as I type, is pushing around an orange paint pail making an ungodly racket. She’s at grandpa’s. That means she doesn’t sleep. There’s too much shit to do. Too much chaos to create. And she knows how easy it is to unsheathe one of her hyperdrive smiles to get away with whatever the hell she wants.

Alannah’s partner in crime – and my insomnia – was born March 16, 2020: five weeks premature. Audrey DeAnn Holliday, 4 pounds, 11 ounces. Part Yankee. Part Tennessee. All Arizonan.

She’s in good shape for a preemie. Everything is where it’s supposed to be but smaller. She just didn’t have time for this coronavirus craziness. “What? You expect me to wait my turn and be born when the hospital is on crashdown? I can't trust you adults to properly buy toilet paper. I’m on my way … I got it covered.”

She’s not much for social distancing but she’s doing her part to flatten the curve. In five weeks Tucson Medical Center could be packed. Overflow facilities may be set up. Health officials may be commandeering places temporarily.

No way was Audrey going to allow herself to be born in the Shelter or Chicago Bar.

So she’s here and growing her lungs preparing to roar, while visitors to the maternity ward are pilfering latex gloves and the masks nurses keep in hospital rooms because they need them.

With or without COVID-19, I was going to be in for another year or so of social distancing.

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Anyone who has ever been in charge of a baby for chunks of the day understand being swallowed whole and left for dead on the couch.

When Alannah’s mom was born (268 minutes ago, it seems like), my human interaction for the first two years was limited to my daughter, her mom, people I worked with, alongside, next to or around and maybe the random checkout clerk.

For the last year, I’ve been watching Alannah saying out loud: “She’s so small. But she runs everything.”

Now there are going to be two of them. I wasn’t going anywhere, anyway. 

Most people showing symptoms get to sleep for a week. Watch TV.

You won’t have two-eyed babies staring up at you: “Teach me something new right now or I’m going to throw a fit at a sonic frequency that will rattle your spine. Ignore me and I may do something that could kill me.”

One of them is chaos. Two of them will be chaos and mayhem.

They are both miniature human beings – wonderful but useless in their own maintenance – relying on you for things like food, diaper changes and general amusement required to help them develop into the kind of creatures that won’t — during times of pandemic — steal hospital masks from obstetrics

So Audrey is chillin 'in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, ordering up breast milk and having it covered. Her newborn eyes are probably focusing on the distance fever line of a heart monitor in the room thinking, “Far out.”

The Alannah Show, interrupted

I’m not sure how Alannah is going to handle this because Alannah makes Lady Gaga look like a shoegazing bassist. I’m sorry, you are paying attention that something that isn’t me? You didn’t get the governor’s declaration? I’ll have that right over to you.

It’s an abstract and esoteric concept that she would not be adored, center stage before an audience absorbed in babybabble rants. It’s how the rest of us consider calculus. We know it exists. It’s probably useful. But damned if we can figure it out.

And now here comes this new creature and she’s going to look at it thinking: “It’s smaller than me, its just as cute as me, it’s needier than me and it’s getting cuddled instead of me … well, anyone can see it must be destroyed.”

So if TucsonSentinel.com at some point in the next year publishes a story about a two-year-old pushing her sister’s stroller toward the general direction of moving cars … it will be because I fell asleep.

At some point, I fully expect them to be friends – maybe even best friends. Audrey clearly has this whole thing figured out and will figure out Alannah. Alannah will figure out she has a ready-made audience of one.

Her own thing

So now there are girls. Plural. Two of them. We have a spare.

But that spare is going to be rather insistent that she is her own person, with her own sense of the way things ought to be. However, that there are two of them broadens the odds that at least one of them will be Denver Bronco fans. My daughter has already took that on from me, but to be honest it probably has as much to do with the team mascot fits with her equine tendencies.

Believe me, I’ve slipped up at the whole parenting thing and thank God for her mom. Yet the other thing I’ve learned is that parenting never stops. It just changes shape and form because you are never a human being to the generations behind you. You are always mom and dad, grandma and grandpa (trying out “Cap’n Whoopass” but it’s working about as well as it did with her daughter).

The trick for us now is to make sure that Audrey gets to be Audrey to the degree that Alannah just is Alannah. That and keeping personal sanity chasing two of them, now that chaos has its mayhem.

When my daughter was born, I had this idea in my head that she would be a bookworm political junkie, with a liberal revolutionary streak as she flew jets off aircraft carriers because her job was to live the life my eyesight and mathematical suckery prevented.

Instead I got a cowgirl — an equestrian expert who could give a damn about books or politics. She’s got massive amounts of common sense and the lazy bone seems to be missing from her.

We do both love naps and the Broncos.

Good enough for me. It’s the job of the people around Audrey to help her live the life that she’s going to lead on her terms. That’s it.

Maybe she’ll be an equestrian fix-it girl like her mom and dad. Maybe she’ll be the bookworm. Maybe she’ll decide she’s into math and do coding for a living. Maybe she’ll be Alannah’s agent.

But that’s up to her.

One of the challenges to rearing up a kid I’ve noticed is to let them be them when they are going to do something you know is stupid, they’re friends know is stupid, the nearest garden rake knows is stupid but kid in question thinks is the only way things should be. Then help them deal with the consequences.

The payoff is that they’ll blow you away with things you wouldn’t have done, in ways you don’t know how to do it and act like it’s easy.

Toward the 22nd century

Audrey has sure as hell come out into the world on her own terms cursed immediately by the blessings of interesting times.

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But that little bald, pink critter, who’s crying and squirming is a human being ready to happen and I get to help contain the collateral damage.

The other thing that I was trying to explain to Alannah was life expectancy and what it meant.

She’s statistically likely to witness the 22nd century, which is mind-blowing considering I’m not quite used to the 21st. She’s going to first-hand find out who was right about climate change: The scientists who have studied and observed it? Or the people who find it inconvenient to profits and world view (it seems like we should be able to make money off this).

That demographic shift on the country is both going to happen to her whiteness and she's going to be a part of it with her Latino lineage.

The gig economy to Alannah and Audrey may just be “the economy” and we’re going to find out if genetics and artificial intelligence are the best friens of the working woman or personal servants to the 1 percent.

She’s going to get to tell Gen Z and the Millennials they are old and really old and utter failures. She is – statistically, at least – going to witness the Arizona Wildcats win the Pac-12, 18 or the BigPacEast 90.

She and her sister’s idea of the '60s will be the 2060s , when they are in their 40 when 40 is the new 16. God only knows the mischief they’ll find on the 100th anniversary of Woodstock. It may just be the original Woodstock experienced through some Deep Vintage virtual reality machine that will make them all muddy and wondering why Country Joe needed Fish.

She’s may even commute to school or work in the jet packs we were promised but have stubbornly been denied.

When I was done explaining all this to Alannah holding her up over me, she looked down and said the one thing she would say in Babybabble: “Oh, wait. You get to talk too?”

Whatever comes next, Alannah and Audrey will get to do it together.

Years on, Alannah will be the one holding court at the keg and Audrey will be one one in purple sunglasses sipping from a straw and telling the rest of the party: “That’s my sister. She’s awesome but she gets lost on the way home when ever she sees something shiny.”

She’ll sniff for effect. “Its fine. I got it covered.”

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Blake Morlock is a journalist who has spent 20 years covering government in Arizona and also worked in Democratic political communications. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.

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Ocean Rose

Audrey Holliday, born five weeks early because that's how she rolls.


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