Another Easter has come and gone — the second in the life of my fast-growing and irrepressible girl-child, and also the second in the life of Triad City Beat.
As any parent knows, there’s a world of difference between eight months and 20. A year ago she was laughing, gurgling and even taking a few halting steps, but this is probably the first Easter that’s made a real impression on her.
Her Grandma Goosey, who totally spoils her, bought her an Easter dress, a pail of goodies and a pink bunny. My wife, who had to work on Easter Sunday, pulled out some of the gifts the night before. She sat her down on the floor next to the pink bunny, who sings and wiggles her ears. Our daughter looked at the bunny with one raised eyebrow and cackled uproariously. She also played with a plastic egg, finding endless fascination in pulling the two halves apart and fastening them back together again.
In the morning before my wife went to work, she laid out the Easter dress, along with a more casual outfit for an afternoon party. We ate a leisurely breakfast, and I fitted my daughter into the Easter dress, a resplendent pink number with flowers. At church I grudgingly accepted the compliments that she looked like she was ready to go to prom. She knows she’s the center of attention, and that makes me all the more determined to teach her to share her toys and to not steal milk bottles and cookies from the other babies.
After church, we went home to change clothes, and then headed over to the Clareys, who I’ve known since 2004. Triad City Beat Editor Brian Clarey, and his wife, Jill, are like family. We were thrust together at the old shop when our former boss, Charles Womack, hired us to help start Yes Weekly. As the new editor, Brian invited me, then more or less a stranger, to join his family for Thanksgiving. He had a long mane of hair then and was full of energy, opinions and ideas. His third child was less than a month old. We became fast friends as the two mainstays in the editorial department, with Brian’s strengths in literary narrative and understanding for human frailties and mine in rigorous investigative reporting. He’s been there for me to celebrate good times and commiserate through bad ones, to give counsel in important life decisions and career decisions. He’s my best friend, and naturally I asked him to be my best man when I married my wife.
A natural leader with an inborn sense of hospitality, Brian has always approached the Easter and Thanksgiving holidays with a kind of noblesse oblige. Making sure his writers and reporters know they’re welcome at the table is a responsibility he takes as seriously as editing copy or submitting payroll. Over the years I’ve gotten to know his parents, Bob and Barbara, who moved down to Greensboro from Garden City, NY, along with his sisters, Ellen — who also moved here — and Carolyn. They all dote on my daughter, and I see Bob early on Wednesday mornings when we pick up our papers at the News & Record andbegin our respective delivery routes.
In recent years, Eric Ginsburg — associate editor at Triad City Beat — has joined the holiday gatherings, too. He approached me about an internship at Yes Weekly not long after I got married, and I lobbied hard to bring him on, even plotted to get him to join me as a partner when I harbored a secret plan to break off and start an online news service for a community struggling with poverty. I saw a lot of myself in Eric, and still do — a seriousness about social justice and respect for traditions of organized struggle. I’m proud that we’ve brought him up from an intern to a staff writer and eventually to the position of associate editor. He’s flourished, and in many ways has set a new standard for Brian and me to meet.
Working with these two guys is the closest I’ve come to the experience of being in a band. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and understand when to play our parts and when to lay out so the other guy can shine. We give and take criticism freely with minimal egoism. For the most part, none of us is looking for our star turn, so our efforts are geared toward making every part come together so we can put out the best paper possible.
We’re like a band, but we are a family. Or, rather, we’re part of a bigger family.
At the Easter gathering on Sunday, Jill and Ellen collected eggs to put in my daughter’s basket, compensating for her lack of focus on the hunt. We discovered it wasn’t the candy that she really liked so much as the sliced strawberries. Bob would give her a slice, and she would run to the far end of the yard with a look on her face as if she’d gotten away with the biggest caper imaginable. Then she would return to Bob for more, and repeat the pattern.
And last week, I needed to travel to the state Division of Solid Waste in Raleigh to pull some records. I didn’t feel that the bald tires on my car were roadworthy, and started asking if anyone had a vehicle I could borrow. Brian suggested his mother’s trusty Toyota Corolla. She agreed without hesitation, saying she was happy to help the paper in any way she could.
I sent a text to Brian expressing my appreciation for facilitating the arrangement.
“No problem,” he wrote back. “This whole thing is a family affair.”