Every parent wishes they had written down those cute stories from when their children were babies and toddlers: the funny mispronounced words, the outlandish things they did, even that time they projectile vomited all over something formerly sacred. Many express regret that they only have their memories.
Port Alberni author Paul Alexander was one of those parents who actually wrote down the funny things. And one day he discovered he had enough to put into a book.
The result is Our Baby Was Born Premature (the same way he was conceived), published by RunAmok from New Jersey. The book chronicles Alexander’s observations of life with a newborn through to age five years. Or, as Alexander says, “and then there was T-ball…”
“The book was pretty much written on Post-It notes, restaurant napkins and the back of my hand,” says Alexander. “I didn’t have any ideas for a plot, I let life dictate it.”
A lapsed stand-up comic who has appeared on MTV, A&E and Comedy Central, Alexander’s book shows his prowess with the one-liners:
“A newborn sits around most of the time in a wet wedgy, and we wonder why they cry.”
”Today the baby is a trumpet with legs.”
“We bought earplugs and a bottle of vodka for our downstairs neighbour.”
“I entered the kitchen to see the baby climb into the dishwasher and come out holding a steak knife. I screamed like Janet Leigh in Psycho.”
”On the third day since I quit my job without telling anyone, there was a knock on my door. I looked through the peep-hole and saw Common Sense standing in the hall. I let him in.”
No subject is too sacred to be excluded from the book: from breastfeeding and a baby’s complete digestive system, to the day his wife Maggie discovered he’d quit his job when Sean was a newborn, to play dates, hockey, T-ball and the move back “home” to Port Alberni from California.
“That’s what the book is, is set up punchlines for 170 pages. I was a comic for so many years it was my natural style of writing.”
Alexander will perform three readings of his book around the Alberni Valley and Nanaimo in the next two months. He will be at Char’s Landing in Port Alberni on Thursday, Sept. 26 as part of Words on Fire (starts at 7 p.m.). The next reading will be at Burde Beans Coffee and Things on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m.
He will also be a guest reader at 15 Minutes of Infamy in Nanaimo on Nov. 20 at the Green Olive Bar and Grill, at 7 p.m.
While Alexander’s comedic background comes out in the one-liners that make up the book, the story behind it was pretty serious. Sean was born prematurely at Cedars Sinai hospital in Beverly Hills, California. “He was in the NICU (neonatal intensive care) for three weeks because he was four pounds, six ounces when he was born,” Alexander relates.
“Now, he’s six-foot-two and he plays rugby. He had incredible care. I’m thankful for the expertise of the nurses.”
The bill for that three-week stay was something else: $248,000, “which we obviously couldn’t pay,” he said. “We got out of the quarter-million-dollar baby bill,” he writes in his book. “Maggie photocopied my paycheque [he wasn’t working much at the time] and sent a nice letter to Cedars Sinai. I guess they figured, ‘how are we going to collect from a guy who picks turnips at the stupid farm?’”
What makes Alexander’s book different from other baby books is its humour, he says. Other books in parenting book sections, “it’s all bad news,” he says. “Where is there a book for parents that’s just going to cheer them up and make them laugh?”
Not many of those parenting books are by fathers either, he says.
”It’s almost a chronicle of failure. I don’t think I was that inept,” he adds, thanking Maggie and Sean for the material.
Sean is now in Grade 11 and last year earned a trophy for his rugby skills. “He hasn’t read (my book). Maybe he’ll read it one day and realize at least his dad tried to love him.”
Our Baby Was Born Premature is available from Alexander at his readings, through independent bookstores and online from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.