It was an uneventful Sunday afternoon when the knock came at the door. Dove, our 5-year-old neighbor, was standing with her grandpa and a Spider-Man scooter. “I’m too big for this now,” Dove explained. “I wanted to give it to Zachary and Maggie Rose.” My wife, Bridgett, and I knew this was a watershed moment for our 3-year-old twins: a new form of recreation, a means of transportation and a taste of early-childhood freedom. Of course, ZaggieMac-the collective name we’ve given our children-wanted to try it out right away. So after thanking Dove for her thoughtfulness, we ventured outside. But I couldn’t help but feel the half-hour scooter indoctrination was incomplete. A few weeks earlier, our digital camera had disappeared on an out-of-town trip. Around the same time, our camcorder ran out of videotape. When it came to capturing those ever-emerging childhood turning points, we felt woefully unprepared. In the Baron household, the kids’ inaugural scooter outing called for both still and video photography-the most common media exposures we employ, often in tandem. That’s pretty typical stuff for parents. But whereas most others stop the kiddie coverage there, we’re just getting started. We have a Word document called “ZaggieMac Firsts” that has grown to 10 pages long, Among other historical gems, the file has entries that include “Z tries to tickle himself” and “MR puts one of her socks on.” More peculiar than Zach’s consumption of a lemon Yankee candle is that I took the time to jot it down on April 18, 2005. We press our audio digital recorder into service when we want to capture cute or precocious comments. On one audio track, we have a not-quite 3-year-old Maggie Rose reciting a serious chunk of the 23rd Psalm as she was being tucked in. When they turned 8 months old, I got the idea that it would be fun to get a picture of them sitting in the same chair on the 8th of every month until they were, say, 62 years old. We were on a 2½-year roll until we lost the digital camera after the Oct. 8, 2006, photo shoot. Over the next few weeks, I drove Bridgett nuts as I agonized over the break in the time-lapse photography chain. What on Earth has brought us to this multi-media preoccupation? Here’s some of the equation: (Geographically Distant Relatives) + (Forgiving, Flexible Digital Technology) X (Our Wistful Yearning That Our Folks Tracked More of Our Formative Moments) = (Honey, Get the Camera Quick!) + (How Cute!) But that is a partial explanation. There’s also the exponential factor of my chronic chronicling of anything and everything. It’s been a lifelong descent. Do you know anyone who tracks gas mileage at every fill-up? Would you believe I once penned an obituary on Ed, our curious cat? And I have compiled a list of weddings I’ve attended, broken down by date, state, the ages of brides and grooms, and current marital status. So becoming a dad provided me with a socially acceptable cover for my love affair with minutiae. Even then, the cover extends only so far. My overboard tendencies surface regularly, as if I am laying a groundwork of dizzying detail for the children’s future biographers. At my insistence, we photographed the kids when they turned 1 million seconds old, better known as a shade over 11½ days. I propped slips of paper against each of their sleeping bodies, with manic scribblings from a red felt-tip pen noting their respective names and times. “Creepy,” Bridgett said. “It looks like a crime scene.” Ever since, I’ve alerted countless couples to their newborn child’s imminent 1 million second milestone. “They’ll be almost 32 years old when they turn 1 billion seconds,” I inform them. “You’ll want to capture this moment.”
To my knowledge, nobody’s taken me up on the suggestion.
Matt Baron is a self-described “recovering” journalist, having spent more than 20 years chronicling stories for a variety of publications. He now owns a public relations business and resides with his family in Oak Park.