Wednesday, April 06, 2005


They say it sounds like the bark of a baby sea lion... and I guess I can understand the comparison. But to me, it sounds much more extraterrestrial: like a taun-taun, the Hothian beast of burden from "The Empire Strikes Back," or like a gremlin hatching from its pod... or whatever raspy, wheezy, barky creature you can find in any cheesy science-fiction film...

Either way, it's not the kind of sound that you like to hear from your six-month-old baby girl.

And the situation becomes increasingly surreal when you strap her to your chest, zip up your coat to cover the lower half of her body, and go out for a midnight stroll through the streets of Amsterdam Oost. Her rhythmic rasp, the sound of breathing through a sheet of sandpaper, almost matches the cadence of your steps as you saunter past the snackbars, the canals, the dark corners of the neighborhood, trying to keep warm in the cool, dark Dutch night.

The walk provides escape from the fear that the otherworldly sound will stop alltogether. Hearing every breath, with her head close to yours, is better than straining through the darkness to hear irregularities in breathing from down the hallway. The walk helps her to breathe more easily, as the cold damp evening air eases the swelling of her trachea. And the walk gives pause to pray. So it's good to be walking...

But you've got to look forward to the time when your daughter will stop sounding like a sea-lion-taun-taun-gremlin creature and like her normal happy self.


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