JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Swan Angel and Gaj

My daughter’s name is Casey. I call her my Swan Angel of Love.

My son’s name is Emmett. I call him Gaj.

Swan Angel comes from, well, I’m not sure where. It began when she was teeny tiny, and continues today, even though she’s 9. Gaj comes from—somehow—”Little Guardian,” which is what Casey used to call Emmett when he was 2ish. Now he’s 6.

A few days ago I wrote about how I hate when people gain personal perspective from tragedy; how they learn to appreciate what they have when others lose something.

And yet …

This past weekend, I kept looking at my children. Looking and looking and looking. Emmett loves running. On Saturday morning he competed in his first three-mile race. We did it together, and the experience was magical. Emmett started slowly, walked a little, seemed confident, then tired. He asked me to play some music on my iPhone, and the songs—Run DMC and Gym Class Heroes—perked him up. People along the road saw him and smiled. A truck honked when Emmett pumped his fist. As we approached the finish line, Emmett began hopping. Just because Emmett loves to hop.

Bliss.

Casey is a flutterer. She flutters. I love watching her, when she doesn’t know my eyes are upon her, fluttering this way, fluttering that way. She’s like a little butterfly. On Thursday, she had a little piano concert. Casey takes lessons, and adores the songs from the Sound of Music (really, who doesn’t?). As I sat there, listening to her play, watching her hold her breath as long as possible (it’s really funny. Casey refuses to breathe while she plays), I melted. This is my little girl. My little swan. Today she wore a new dress for our annual family Chanukah party. I couldn’t believe how beautiful she looked.

Bliss.

I sometimes long for the old days. Living in Manhattan, eating whenever I wanted to eat, writing until 3 am and waking up at noon. There was freedom and ease and comfort. Yet I wouldn’t go back; wouldn’t trade the experience of being a father for anything in the world. I would do anything for my kids. I would—without thought—die for my kids.

That’s what I keep thinking about, post-Sandy Hook. These poor parents, and how they feel, and what they lost. I don’t know where you turn. I don’t know how you recover.

I just don’t know.