The Big Prize

How would you like two free nights in the newly open Frederick Hotel in Tribeca, Manhattan? That’s the prize for our Goodnight New York Contest, and there will be three winners. Thought you’d like to know. You’re welcome.

And our Past-Year Memoir Contest offers the winner a free Gotham class of his or her choosing. You write about an experience from 2017 in 17 words or fewer. If I were to enter—which I’m pretty sure is not allowed—I might submit this:

No-sleep night. High-drama morning. She grasps my finger, telling me I’ll be okay. My new daughter.

Yes, my wife and I had a child on May 12—Sahara Helen Steele. I know, I’ve been holding out on you. I’ve refrained from parading her in these letters because I didn’t want to sound like the parents Roald Dahl mentions in the opening of Matilda:

It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful. Some parents go further. They become so blinded by adoration they manage to convince themselves their child has qualities of genius.

But aside from that hesitation, I have imagined that I could impart all kinds of wisdom learned from my baby girl about the creative process and everything else. You see her trying to form words, to unlock the gift of language all on her own! Or: She looks at the simple rubber toy and conjures a world of possibilities in her mind!

Yes, all pretty trite. And it’s easy to misread the kid’s “genius.” When we first brought her home, for example, we put her in her bassinet, pressed the button that played “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” (mistakenly attributed to Mozart as a child), and her face lit up with the magic of music. Or so I believed. After that, she screamed every time to get out of the bassinet, the music be damned.

Yet, there is one great thing I’ve learned from this kid. When she wakes up in the morning, she glances around a few seconds, does an incredibly flexible stretch, then looks at me or her mother with a big smile. She’s happy to see a new day. Happy to discover what’s coming up. Happy to be alive.

Maybe it’s easy for her to arise that way. No out-of-reach bills, or stressful workload, or the other slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune…yet. Still, it’s a nice reminder every day that life is a prize—a much bigger one than two free nights in a hotel—and we should try to greet each day with wonder, eager to see what happens.

Alex Steele

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