The sisters welcome their new brother.
But even Shirley presents the girls with no more than a small speed bump in their endless race. Security badges gleefully grabbed, they resume their competition to see who will be the first to find mama's room, No. 3133. Advantage Quinn, again, as Dixie can't read any number greater than 10. With Dixie behind her, running as fast as her little legs will carry her and screeching "Wait for me Quinn!" Quinn flies to her mother's hospital door. And there, amazingly, she stops in her tracks. The big, cold recovery room door is too much for even her to barrel through. She knocks nervously and announces her presence, giving Dixie just time enough to catch up.
"Just let me put some clothes on!" I hear Tabitha shout.
That's not what she's doing. She's setting the stage.
Much effort, none of it mine, has gone into preparing for this moment. She's bought and read them countless books about sibling rivalry; taken them to endless sibling prep classes at the hospital; rented many sibling-themed videos narrated by respected authorities—Dora the Explorer for Dixie, Arthur for Quinn; watched with them, every Sunday night, their own old baby videos; and even bought presents to give to them from the baby when they visit him in the hospital. Before this propaganda blitz, our children may or may not have suspected that they were victims of a robbery, but afterward they were certain of it. Hardly a day has passed in months without melodramatic suffering. One afternoon I collected Dixie from her pre-school—to take one of approximately 6,000 examples—and learned that she'd moped around the playground until a teacher finally asked her what was troubling her. "When the baby comes, my parents won't love me as much," she'd said. Asked where she'd got that idea from, she said, "My big sister told me."
I've sometimes felt that we're using the wrong manual to fix an appliance—that, say, we're trying to repair a washing machine with the instructions for the lawn mower. But my wife presses on, determined to find room enough for three children's happiness. The current wisdom holds that if you seem to be not all that interested in your new child the first time the old ones come to see him, you might lessen their suspicion that he's come to pick their pockets. And so that's what she's doing in there: As her children wait at her hospital door, she's moving Walker from her bed into a distant crib.
"OK, come in!"
They push through the door and into the room.
"Can I hold him, Mom?" asks Quinn.
"No, I want to hold him!" shouts Dixie.
And with that Walker's identity is established: one of something that we need two of. In less time than it takes an Indy pit crew to change a tire, Quinn's holding him and Dixie's waiting her turn, swallowing an emotion she cannot articulate and wearing an expression barely distinguishable from motion sickness.
Michael Lewis' most recent book is The Blind Side.
Photographs by Tabitha Soren.