By Marvin Payne
This month I’m reporting on the birth. Every poignant detail, every quiver and stab of emotion and pain, every rustle of the thinning veil, every soft rush of insight from the unseen world.
But first, I think it not inappropriate to observe that Philo T. Farnsworth didn’t really think much of Alpine, Utah. I don’t mean that he thought ill of it; I just mean that he didn’t really think much about it, quantitatively. This is a little surprising, since during his early years the town of Rigby Idaho (where even now the most prominent feature is the billboard proclaiming it as the birthplace of little P. T. F. and, by a pretty bold extension, television) was a lot like Alpine (except that in Alpine there was something to look at – this was before the billboard).
Philo just up and invented this earth-altering technology of moving pictures blasting unseen through the ether in little tiny bits (this on the authority of Willy Wonka) without ever discerning the shattering flaw in his design, which is that the little bits would reassemble themselves meaningfully in homes everywhere on the planet but in Alpine. Adding the proverbial insult to the ubiquitous injury, Brother Philo failed to intuit that Alpine would some day be home to Dale Murphy, Todd Christensen, and Fred Roberts, athletes of such staggering proportions (Fred Roberts, for example, is taller than you and I put together, providing that you’re quite short) that hundreds of millions of people would sacrifice almost anything, regularly, in order to watch their exploits and triumphs on television. Except they (M., C., and R.) couldn’t. Watch, I mean. In reruns, I mean. Because the little bits wouldn’t reassemble meaningfully here.
Unless you have satellite (which Philo wouldn’t have dreamed of) or cable (which Philo would have scorned, if not against which he positively would have railed, murmured, and scoffed). These technologies, being fond of Brothers Murphy, Christensen, and Roberts, not to mention Cleese, Disney and, for a really good time, Welk, we have had in our home. Satellite and cable. But not now.
I am conscious that most of you right now are thinking, “Wow, what a bold, reckless, and righteous choice!” Actually, it was because we failed to pay the bill. Often. The first few times, we paid it up just in time for conference, or the BYU football season (this was quite some time ago). Then we noticed that our home was more peaceful, we all read more, we all got more sleep, doctrines of truth descended upon all our heads as the dews from heaven, and all our acne cleared up, without television. So now I can say, without embarrassment, that if Seinfeld and Janet Jackson knocked on my door, together, I would think they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. We go to the store and buy the laundry detergent that has the prettiest box. We’ll sometimes go for hours without knowing who won the Super Bowl. We haven’t the faintest clue that it’s suddenly become fashionable to be skinny (that’s my excuse, anyway).
So now if the bishop called me in and said “Brother Payne, the visiting teachers have noticed your children sitting around the house reading, can we draw on the sacred funds of the Church and get your satellite bill paid?” I would, even if it seemed inappropriately proud and contrary to the welfare spirit, refuse the help. We like it this way. It’s one of poverty’s true consumer benefits.
So we listen to conference on the radio. The 550 words immediately previous are to explain why, during a recent non-Sunday session, our little kids were only partially attuned to what was going on – so partially, in fact, that they were mostly outside. At a certain point in the proceedings, however, right before President Monson was to speak, five-year-old John came in excitedly holding out a snail that eight-year-old Caitlin had captured. “Look!” he said, It’s a snail!” His mother expressed the appropriate degree of amazement – then, as he opened the front door to go back into the sunshine, she called out, hoping the kids would submit to hearing a prophet they enjoy, “It’s President Monson!” Through the screen door, Caitlin quickly and patiently corrected, “It’s a snail.”
Kids say the darnedest things.
That reminds me, we have another kid. Who doesn’t say anything. But she burps the darnedest burps. Her name is Adwen Lea, which is Welsh for “very fair” and “meadow,” respectively. We, ourselves, think it’s a really pretty name. However, having encountered wrinkled brows and worried looks and the occasional, “Yes, but what will you call her?” (my brother in California immediately sent out an addendum to the extended family calendar with her birth date and name, “Edwindla”) we have taken to pointing out, “It’s a family name.” Family names are, of course, sacred and are held, universally, to be above criticism. And of course it really is a family name, because Adwen has it, and she’s totally in our family.
(We’d thought aloud about naming her “Brenda Linda,” after the doctor, Brent Lind, and even “Ramona Becka,” after the bishop who presided over her conception and early gestation, but no.)
On to the nitty gritty. Brethren, you may for a moment utterly zone out while I share with the Sistren the following numbers, which they consider it vital to know, and without which they consider any announcement of birth incomplete, if not entirely invalid. 9/2, 21 inches. (Brethren, welcome back – thank you for your patience.) The birth was really wonderful, a pleasant, restful spring day in a friendly hospital room, looking out a big window on the range of North Mountain above Alpine.
You might retort, “That’s easy for you to say! ‘Restful day’ indeed!” And, well, yes – it is easy for me to say. But Laurie would say the same thing. You see, she had this practically perfect epidural – couldn’t feel any pain, but could sense everything that was happening. (When it was all over and the medical crew had left, we looked at each other and, with relief and gratitude, said “Well, all the way through yet one more birth without going natural. Or hypnotic. Or herbal. Or midwifely. Or underwater!” It’s such a temptation. You wouldn’t believe.
Kind of natural and/or herbal, though, was the fact that I took my little mahogany Martin guitar with me. It was Laurie’s idea, because Adwen had been listening to it every day for months and, Laurie testifies, liking it. So in her first few moments of earthly sojourn, Adwen heard something familiar. In fact, quite apart from the guitar playing, the first thing we felt from her (again, after the SWAT team had left) was, “Hey, I know you guys!” Only real quietly.
You can see pictures here.
There was already a song for her. On the guitar, no words yet. How could there be words? We didn’t know her yet. Now there are words. But you’ll have to buy the CD.
Oh, forgot to say, there’s a third birth going on! (You will recall that the second birth is the one named Epiphone Zephyr Regent, the baby guitar that came the night before Adwen came. We’re telling people that “Epiphone Zephyr Regent” is a family name, too, but nobody believes it. Just as well.) The third birth was in gestation coincident with the other two. It’s the CD with the song “Addie Lea” on it. (Zephyr Regent is heard in that song, as well, making it a virtual triple-whammy birth!) This baby shall be known on the records of Meridian Magazine as “Front Porch Hymns & Humns.” It was conceived right here online (you think such things don’t happen on Meridian?) over in Steven Kapp Perry’s regular feature “Cricket & Seagull.”
There was no epidural (no one even offered me one), so I could feel everything that was happening plus all the pain. Actually, I’m still feeling it, because there are some fixes and remixes yet to attend to – think of it as the things they do when they whisk the baby off to the nursery before bringing her back to you all cleaned up and smelling nice, with a tiny bow of ribbon glued onto her head.
You can read all about it here (yes, that’s a real place). Believing in the irresistible power of link-ness, I won’t write more about it here. Except to exhort: think of it as something to listen to when they come and disconnect your satellite, before the idea that the disconnection might well serve as a catapult into self-righteousness has kicked in and you still feel an emotional attraction to media. Addie would be pleased.