Juniper, The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon – Tom and Kelley French

Pentru doritori, podcastul despre povestea lui Juniper poate fi ascultat aici, iar mai jos va las cateva videoclipuri si bineinteles, citatele culese din carte.


  • „She arrived at the edge of what is possible and what is right, the shadowland between life and death, hubris and hope.”
  • „If we made her long to know what happened next, maybe we could keep her with us until dawn.”
  • „My parents had plenty of flaws, but their gift to me was the freedom to explore.”
  • „She would be fierce and wild and dirty and drag a kitten under one arm. She would climb trees and sing.”
  • „Real stories did not arrive via press release. They did not announce themselves, but they were all around us, for the plucking.”
  • „I kissed him to make him stop talking. To make him forget the girlfriend, or any previous or concurrent women, or any version of himself that had ever existed that was afraid to begin again. I kissed him to say, If you never do this again, you’ll miss it for the rest of your long, static life.”
  • „He was interested in the world, its history, its richness, its forces and counterforces. All its crazy beauty became magnified and reflected in him, and when I was around him, it rained on me.”
  • „I walked around inside that place, a temple to the things man can build and the things beyond his understanding, the afternoon sun streaming through stained glass. Man’s filter and God’s light.”
  • „I wasn’t religious, but I was in love, and that felt like religion.”
  • „“You’re like this vast, unexplored continent,” he said one night on the phone. “And I could wander around it forever.””
  • „“Writing is a concentrated form of paying attention,” he told me. “And so is singing, and kissing and praying.””
  • „I stubbornly believed, as so many women believe about so many men, that I could help him rediscover the best parts of himself, the person he might have been had divorce and middle age not beaten him blind.”
  • „They were already two of the finest humans I’d ever met— generous and joyful and funny. Tom was damaged, but they were perfect. And he was part of the reason.”
  • „Tom slept too easily, always with his back to me. I could never sleep, lying next to so much confusion, so I’d just watch him breathe.”
  • „I would tell her I loved her and taste the ashes of those words in my mouth.”
  • „She was a puzzle I could never solve. She did not seem to need anything, except what I would not give her.”
  • „Mysterious and self- contained, she refused to be understood before she was ready.”
  • „On the page, as in her life, she remained just out of reach.”
  • „Something inside me was broken. I worried that I only knew how to skate the surface of things, that I had never learned how to hold on to anything that counted, or to even recognize what counted. I suspected that I was not a person at all, but a facsimile of a person. A forgery.”
  • „Tom, like the character in his story, had stepped inside a storm. He was drenched in it. I could destroy him. Maybe I already had. He had been ruled by fear for so long it had warped and twisted him into a dark copy of himself. He was turning into the wind, letting the rain hammer and shape him into something new.”
  • „People say that engineering a child in a lab separates creation from an act of love, but people say lots of stupid things. Babies are created from all manner of impulses. They are created in the backseats of cars, in bathroom stalls, up against alley walls, under bleachers, and in stairwells. They come from desire, lust, confusion, capitulation, revenge, even rage. Babies built in labs are the product of meticulous calculation. They come only at great cost— second jobs and second mortgages. They are built by committee. There are so many opportunities to turn back.”
  • „I’ve heard people call fertility treatment selfish, and that has never made sense. Children hijack your body, your money, your time, your privacy, your very identity. IVF is excellent preparation for parenthood, because the driving question at every turn is How much can you give?”
  • „We don’t yet understand all the ways biology shapes us. But having a child was not about creating someone in my own image. I wanted to help my daughter become the best version of herself, not another me. I had an image in my head, sure, of a dark- haired, blue- eyed, dirty- faced girl. But I hoped she would surprise me and challenge me. The real gift of creation is the thing that no one has ever seen before.”
  • „“It’s not her job to love me,” I said finally. “It’s my job to love her. That’s it.” I owed her an amazing father. I owed her my complete devotion and my best effort at a good example. I owed her the best genes I could find. She owed me nothing.”
  • „When Sam wasn’t looking, I wrote one of our favorite quotes on a little eraser board that hung on the door of his dorm room. It was from the first pages of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. „He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.””
  • „When the doctor used a catheter to insert the embryos, I held Kelley’s hand as I had held it through so many other procedures. Maybe that’s what being a husband was really about. Not paying the bills or taking out the trash or even making love. Maybe it was just about holding your wife’s hand.
  • „Our baby came swirling into view, week after week, on the grainy wedge of the ultrasound monitor. First a dark featureless pool, then a tiny orb, then budding arms and legs and finally long fingers and a recognizable profile. Everything had been so hard. Now the promise of our child unfolded easily.”
  • „I wanted our child to grow up confident and unafraid. I had always been a shy kid. I wanted to raise a leader and a thinker. If she kept hearing Be careful! Stop! Put that down! I worried that she would learn not to trust herself.”
  • „Lose the pregnancy. Pregnancy is a condition. A noun. Synonym: gestation. The baby was not the pregnancy. The baby was my daughter. Lose my daughter. She would slide out, wet, raw, mute, purple. Slide right out of my body in a river of my blood. She would not be lost at all, she would be right there, in my hands, turning gray.”
  • „“The statistics don’t matter,” he said, “until they happen to you.” What echoed in my head was something Dr. Germain never said: saving her might be the most selfish act in the world.
  • „When the nurses reached in to touch her, their hands looked giant. Her skin was papyrus, and beneath I could see the web of her veins, spidering up her arms and into her hands and her long anemone fingers. Everything about her declared that she still belonged inside her mother.”
  • „I took a deep breath, then slowly reached in with my left hand and placed the tip of my little finger in her right palm. At once she grabbed on. The power of her grip humbled me. Why was I so afraid, when she was so strong? I sat there, my shoulders heaving.”
  • „I was swept away. I saw her will, her beauty, all the possibilities waiting inside her. She was a work in progress, yes. So was I. “Hey, Peanut”, I whispered. “It’s Daddy.””
  • „I saw her plastic box halfway across the room. I didn’t see anything else, just this tunnel of space and time and of everything changing that marked the distance between us. Here I was one person, and there I would become someone else. The soap was hard to rinse, and I let the water run for a long time. Tom wheeled me forward. There, through the clear plastic, was my daughter. She was red and angular, angry like a fresh wound. She had a black eye and bruises on her body. Tubes snaked out of her mouth, her belly button, her hand. Wires moored her to monitors. Tape obscured her face. Her chin was long and narrow, her mouth agape because of the tubes. Dried blood crusted the corner of her mouth and the top of her diaper. The diaper was smaller than a playing card, and it swallowed her. She had no body fat, so she resembled a shrunken old man, missing his teeth. Her skin was nearly translucent, and through her chest I could see the beat of her flickering heart. She kicked and jerked. She stretched her arms wide, palms open, as if in welcome or surrender. I recognized her. I knew the shape of her head and the curve of her butt. I knew the strength of her kick. I knew how she had fit inside me and felt an acute sensation that she had been cut out, and of how wrong that was. I would do anything to put her back inside, to keep her safe. “Hello, baby. “It’s Mommy.”
  • „She was alien and familiar. She was terrifying and beautiful. She was complete and interrupted. I felt the icy hush that comes with looking at a secret you are not meant to see. I was peeking into God’s pocket.”
  • „Daughter. The word was so unfamiliar it caught in my throat.”
  • „The NICU was a technological triumph. Science had made life possible at earlier and earlier stages of development, but inside those possibilities, terrible bargains were made. Medicine, ambition, compassion, and common sense collided here every day.”
  • „Our baby was born at a unique window of time, at twenty-three weeks and six days gestation. She was an averted miscarriage, not yet fully her own person with her own standing. Because the questions were so unanswerable, the decision to put her on life support and allow her a chance to live had belonged to Tom and me, not the doctors and not the state. This place was a frontier. Between life and death, certainly, but also between right and wrong, and between who we used to be and who we were becoming.”
  • „The financial specialist was sweet and calm, but when we sat down at her desk, I gripped Tom’s arm. I knew that medical disasters like this cost people their homes, their careers, their retirements, their marriages. I was paralyzed by the fear that if our daughter lived, she’d come home to a ruin of the family that had created her. This was before Obamacare, and most insurance plans, including the one at the newspaper, had lifetime caps.”
  • „I pushed on, trying not to think about the hospital. But when I came to the baking aisle, my hand reached for a small bag of sugar. I placed it in my palm, lifting it up and down, gauging the lightness of it. One pound was nothing. One pound could be poured away in an instant. The other shoppers pushed their carts around me, pretending they did not see the strange man crying over the sugar.”
  • „And although there was no rule against talking with other parents, the idea of it felt awkward. They were encased so tightly in their own sorrows that they seemed out of reach. It was like riding a crowded subway in New York. We were all on top of one another but exiled in our own worlds.”
  • „You’re pathetic. It would be simplistic to say I felt like a dairy cow. Dairy cows produced milk. I had failed. I’d failed to conceive, failed to carry a baby to term, now I was failing to feed my barely formed daughter. If I were livestock, I’d be culled from the herd.”
  • „Most of the tiniest babies in the NICU don’t die on their own. They are babies who would have died without intervention. So here, they die by decision. They are taken off life support by agreement of their parents and doctors, when the suffering becomes too great and the prognosis becomes too grim.”
  • „There’s a phrase in neonatology: “waiting to declare.” Doctors say they stabilize the baby at birth and then wait for them to declare themselves—their intentions and their will—by either improving or deteriorating.”
  • „Juniper was no longer a fetus. She had crossed into personhood. We had seen her and touched her and loved her. Day by day she cemented her stake in the world. We were still waiting for her to declare, but it was becoming harder and harder to turn back.”
  • „I understood now that we were stuck inside a limbo where each moment was suspended between life and no life, everything and nothing.”
  • „Tracy was around more and more. She never announced it, but we realized she’d decided to be our primary nurse after all. In her voice I heard a trace of a Hoosier accent. I had known and admired girls like her in high school—smart girls used to driving fast on back roads that cut through cornfields, armored in an unwavering sense of right and wrong, afraid of nothing and no one, with sharp tongues that could slice you in half if you got fresh, and not a lick of patience for anyone who put on airs. In my experience, these girls grew into women who quietly ran the world.”
  • „It’s too easy for fathers to feel wedged out of their children’s lives. From pregnancy onward, the mother exists at the center of the universe, her body an ocean of safety, nourishment, comfort. Fathers can rub the mother’s feet and make sure she eats and drive her to the doctor, but we are marooned from the baby. We direct our voice toward the mom’s swelling belly and hope that whoever is inside will hear some garbled version of our words, mixing with the sound track of the mother’s heartbeat and breath. When the child is born, she still believes she and her mother are one. The mother is a continent of completion. Her gravity is unbreakable.”
  • „All Juniper knew was the long night into which she had been born. That darkness was the entirety of her world, and it would have been easy for her to believe there was nothing beyond it. I could not understand what it was inside this child, this notion of a girl, that made her keep going. „
  • „What more could I do to connect with a little girl who couldn’t see or eat or scream? How do you parent a baby in a plastic box?”
  • „“They don’t listen to your words,” Ana Maria explained. “They listen to your feelings.” She was a Preemie Whisperer.”
  • „It really did feel like I was whole again. I could forget the wires, the monitors, the tubes and bandages, the alarms, the other babies, the swirl of science and of statistics and probability and loss. I was holding my baby girl. She was wearing a pink hat. Her hands were curled under her chin. She seemed content. She could feel my heart. She was warm under my hand. She was the same little girl who had squirmed inside my body. The one I’d pleaded with on the bathroom floor. The one who had been ripped away. We needed each other. Here was a thing I could do.”
  • „She was so bony and so light. Like a baby bird, I thought. I breathed for both of us.”
  • „“Junebug,” he said, “is here only because of you. If you’re not the most ferocious mother on the planet, you tell me who is.””
  • „Now I understood why Kelley had found it so difficult these past weeks to enter this place. She had been facing the truth, and I had been hiding from it. Somehow I had convinced myself that I was being brave, but I’d only been playing a more subtle version of make-believe.”
  • „Some of the greatest moments of my life had been tucked inside this misery. Memorizing her face. Holding her hand. Feeling her warm and weightless form on my chest. Reading her a story. Writing “Mom” on a consent form. Every act, no matter how mundane, affirmed that this child belonged to me, that I belonged to her. If those moments were not so precious, there would be no terror, no cruelty, in seeing them snatched away. “She’s my daughter,” Tom said. “I wouldn’t change any of it.””
  • „But I didn’t care about work, which had once defined and guided me. I didn’t care about food, or breath, or sex, or the dog, or money, or myself. The baby, this hint of a girl, shut out all the rest. I had never heard her voice or seen her smile, but I knew her better than I knew my own terrible, conflicted heart.”
  • „Our badges meant our child was not leaving. We belonged in a place we wanted to flee.”
  • „“A story is a promise,” Tom had told me. “It’s a promise that the end is worth waiting for.””
  • „But we were shattered versions of ourselves, handicapped by sleep deprivation and panic.”
  • „That night, I read to her from Tina Fey’s book, the chapter she writes as a prayer for her daughter. May she grow up beautiful but not damaged; may the Lord lead her away from acting but not all the way to finance; may she play drums, with her own power and rhythm, so she need not lie with drummers. The prayer took on an extra measure of faith there in that darkened room.”
  • „One afternoon I walked in and she was holding our baby and singing “Folsom Prison Blues,” telling Junebug that she had shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die. I didn’t think it was possible to love someone as much as I loved my wife at that moment.”
  • „I didn’t feel anything as slight as happiness. I didn’t feel euphoria or joy or any emotion so fleeting or pure. I felt complete. I felt full. I felt okay. We were okay, right now. I would have this moment forever, no matter what came next.”
  • „Sitting for so long in that darkness, I thought a great deal about God and what that word meant to me. I had no use for the version the nuns had tried to sell me during catechism. The bearded sage, condemning people to eternal fire? He sounded like an embittered old man, boarded up in his house at the end of the road, living out of coffee cans, spitting out curses at all those who had disagreed with him. As best I could tell, God was not an entity at all, but a force gathered inside anything and everything that had meaning. When I saw my daughter’s hand, gripping her mother’s finger, I believed in God. When I sang to my child the sweet and raucous songs that had shaped me, that was my way of praying. When I escaped with Junebug inside a children’s book where her brothers’ younger selves lived on, we were all taking communion together.”
  • „“The world consists of the tension between order and chaos,” a mathematician had once told the New York Times.”
  • „In the darkness of Junebug’s room and in the light of everything beyond, stories were my best defense against randomness. If the world was defined by the tension between order and chaos, then our lives unfolded in perpetual countercurrents of meaning and meaninglessness. I saw it whenever I walked into the NICU, where the alarms were constantly sounding. The songs we sang, the books we read—all of them helped keep our family afloat. They calmed us, inspired us, helped us hang on through the long months of not knowing how our daughter’s story would end. Every time we opened to another page of Harry Potter, the story transported us into other lives and other experiences that echoed our own. They helped the three of us imagine a future after the hospital. They told our daughter she was not alone.”
  • „She knew that hardware was no substitute for a mom’s intuition. She knew I needed to figure out how to harness that intuition and to trust it. She knew I needed to learn to parent with no one watching. She walked out. I wish I could remember what I said to Juniper then. I wish I could remember that candles had appeared, and soft music played, and the lights dimmed, and I rocked her and bathed her and she stared dreamily into my eyes, and I was the mom I’d always imagined I could be. I think what really happened is that Juniper was incredibly slippery, and she kept sliding down into the shallow water, and I tried to sort of wipe her down with some gauze pads, and I wished someone would give me some grippy gloves, because what if she came this far only to be drowned by her mother in a plastic bathtub, and I must have sung her the John Prine song, the one I always sang to help her understand that the curves that flew at her in the NICU—the hard corners, the precipitous free falls, the long, grinding climbs—were pretty much the same as the ones that awaited her in life. It’s a half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown That’s the way that the world goes ’round None of this had unfolded as I would have scripted it. But I couldn’t say it had all been bad. If we made it out of here intact, I would have to admit that this place had performed a mysterious alchemy on me. I’d do anything to spare Juniper the experience she’d been dealt, but for myself, I wouldn’t change a day. I’d reconsidered every one of my values and emerged entirely reassembled. I would probably never do anything in my life as heroic as the things Tracy did in a single day. I would never have the impact of Dr. Shakeel. I had absorbed the lesson, clichéd though it may be, that it is the tiny choices we make moment to moment that determine who we are. It is, as Tom had said all along, about paying attention.”
  • „My stepson Sam had once taught me a technique handed down from a high school drama teacher. “Explode the moment,” the teacher would say. It meant that every second onstage is pregnant with motive, action, tension, and purpose, and the actor needs to inhabit those moments fully and convey all of it to the audience. I’d adapted that advice for my writing students, trying to show them how to find meaning in a gesture or a glance and commit it to the page. In the NICU, we’d been forced to explode each moment as though it were the last we might ever have. I never wanted to go back to the sleepwalker I’d been before.”
  • „I told my daughter she didn’t need to find a bad boy to tame; what she needed was a good boy with a bit of an edge. Somebody with a brain, somebody who woke up in the morning with a plan. Avoid any guy swinging nunchucks in front of a Bruce Lee poster, I told her.”
  • „“Love is the miracle,” he said. “The miracle is just that we are capable of loving each other. That’s it.” Of course that was it. It was all a cliché, and it was all beautiful and true. Every day with Juniper had been a miracle. She’d remade our world. I was a mother now. I knew what that meant. It was not a child’s imagining anymore.”
  • „”To Juniper, we ask your forgiveness if the spotlight ever burns, and for all the days you cried because we had to work on the book. When you get big, we hope you’ll read this and know how hard you fought, and how much you were loved, and we hope you will be happy at us.””

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