Gratitude Project

David Sedaris: Call and Response

January 23, 2023

Dear Mr. Sedaris,

My son, {The Baby}, came screeching into the world via an emergency c-section at 26 weeks- a two-pound potato whose vital organs needed lots of assistance to keep him alive. I met him for the first time four months later, when his birthmother invited me to visit the Neonatal ICU with her. After washing my hands under the watchful eye of a stern charge nurse, I peered into a sterile plastic box and gazed at this still tiny baby, his skin translucent, his almond shaped eyes indicative of Down Syndrome. Meeting your child for the first time, regardless of how they come to you, is a moment that has gravitas. I’ll remember this forever, you think.

And you do.

He’s seven now and still trying to mitigate the effects of his traumatic entrance to the world. He’s not walking independently yet, nor is he speaking any words. He doesn’t want to hold a pen. He likes his tablet, if only to drool on it while he watches four-minute episodes chronicling the life of a nonverbal sentient piece of lint named Booba. (The Baby) lives a very happy, if simple, life.

His current favorite book is Moo. When he is reminded of its existence, he’ll hold onto it for dear life until someone takes pity on him and reads it to him (again). I’ll sit on the floor and gather him into my lap, as he starts hitting his hands on the cover. As far as books go, Moo will never win any awards. The character development is nonexistent and there is a startling lack of conflict. Does the spotty, dotty cow harbor any resentment towards the little yellow chick? Does the owl feel like an outlier, being the only nocturnal animal in the character list? Don’t ask these questions, Mr. Sedaris, because there are not answers to them.

{The Baby} has the book memorized. He knows just when to dig his fingers under the worn cardboard pages and flip to hear what the “smiley pink pig” or “fluffy wooly sheep” will do. As we get closer to the last page, his favorite, his excitement grows. He starts happily screaming; he’ll flip the pages early or bang on the pictures of sleeping animals in a barn. When the book reaches its crescendo, a cartoon rooster crows with a large speech bubbled “Cockadoodledooooo!” I screech my best interpretation of the big, bossy, cockerel and {The Baby} cackles like an 80-year-old asthmatic, wheezy and fully of joy.

We could repeat this process five times a day. There are times when the humdrum, routine of caring for a child like {The Baby} can feel stifling. Why can’t he, say, be enamored with a Thailand travel guide or an improv class full of drag queens instead? There are times when I wonder if I’ll ever get to have adventures so that I can write things people will be interested in, because, god knows, no one wants to hear about Moo.

Except, Mr. Sedaris, your writing has shown me that even the smallest, seemingly insignificant, details can be profound. I appreciate that you see small interactions, with an ant bed or a Japanese barber, as worthy of notice- significant even. Your writing gives me hope that maybe someday a recounting of a Moo reading could be a chapter in a book about finding wonder in minutiae.

If you’re ever in Dallas, we’d love to have you for dinner or lunch or coffee. Perhaps {The Baby} will give you a tight squeeze or (more likely) drool on you. My teenager may ask to use his diamond tester on any diamonds you happen to be wearing or he will grunt at you. Your guess is as good as mine. Come marvel at our chickens, tell me about your guest judge spot on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and join us for a gathering where nothing, and everything, might happen.

– Beth Wise

Response from David (received 3/25/23)

4 thoughts on “David Sedaris: Call and Response

  1. Sister Beth

    Yet again you wove an engaging story about your internal and external worlds.

    Your familiar muse named Angst was present to motivate you. But there are hints of other muses too.

    Note that the greatest paintings in the museums are appealing depictions of ordinary life.

    Some of the great poets that are remembered for generations found beauty in the mundane.

    The average life expectancy is about 80 years old. So you have a long runway in front of you until your last day. These days in the pressure cooker of motherhood have refined your soul in great ways that will be revealed in your writings decades from today.

    Previously you referred to your plan to write books for children. That is a genre where you might excel.

    Those writers who have been interviewed revealed that they kept a journal or diary. Those settings can serve to discharge internal yuck and give a platform for the muse to come and play.

    Over the decades my journaling has helped me hugely.

    John S. Oliver

  2. Sister Beth

    Please consider that the format for this blog’s post was to share a letter to a person you admire.

    I suggest that you can transfer this concept to future blog posts.

    You might share an open letter to a writer or speaker that had a meaningful impact on your life. It can be like a fan letter yet with specific insights about how their communications resonated with your internal world.

    Hey, you can write such open letters to your heroes that are dead.

    This is a flexible way to practice your writing craft without needing to dance with the muse of Angst or go traveling.

    John S. Oliver

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