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More Mouths to Feed:
Maxwell James Tuozzolo
By Maire Farrington
Even before I moved to Noe Valley in the spring of 1992, I made a habit of dropping by the neighborhood to pick up the Noe Valley Voice. With each issue, I'd flip through the pages until I found the "More Mouths to Feed" column. Latté in hand, I would settle onto a bench on 24th Street and devour the tales of newborns and their antics. The opportunity to enjoy vicariously the ups and downs of parenting became a secret monthly pleasure.
Never did it enter my mind that three years later I myself would be chronicling the birth stories of Noe Valley's tiniest newcomers. In my six years on the "baby beat," I have been welcomed into the homes of more than 60 families. All of those moms and dads (and sometimes brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles) have graciously and candidly shared their most intimate stories.
On occasion, I've been asked if reporting on the same theme month after month was getting monotonous. "After all," one friend quipped, "there are only so many ways you can say, "This baby is cute.'"
On the contrary, the unique disposition and personality that each baby offered, along with the splendid variety of birth and parenting experiences, never failed to amaze me.
A few memorable moments on the baby beat:
* Seeing the 54-year-old dad marveling at finding himself acting like a school kid, playing leapfrog with his 3-year-old adopted son. "I'd heard that grandchildren were so much fun I decided to have mine first," he joked.
* Belly-laughing with the family whose baby had insisted upon a surprise arrival at home -- with an army of firefighters and paramedics in attendance.
* Being invited to have a hotdog by a cheerful mom who serenely served supper to her husband and three happy boys while we proceeded with the interview.
* Observing the angelic-looking, 21-month-old twins -- a boy and a girl -- who were fast asleep when I arrived at their house. Their parents made sure I got a second peek at them nestled in their crib before I left.
* Hearing the occasional "accidental" birth story, told by parents who were unfailingly enchanted with their new addition and wouldn't have changed things for the world.
* Witnessing the determination and courage of those facing special challenges. Some of the most inspiring interviews were with single parents, same-sex couples, and those who adopted a baby from another country.
* Feeling absolute awe the first time a mother placed her precious infant in my arms.
Though still a regular visitor to the neighborhood, I have left Noe Valley for the East Bay, and am beginning a new phase in my writing career. So with this issue I wish to extend a fond farewell and express my gratitude to all the wonderful families who have shared a little bit of their lives -- and laughter-- with me.
Someday, the Voice will have to organize a reunion of all the "Mouths" (and their parents) featured in its pages. I'll be there, I promise.
NOE THIS (and That)
In bidding farewell to Maire Farrington, the Noe Valley Voice is also retiring More Mouths to Feed as a stand-alone column. As of our March 2002 issue, More Mouths will be incorporated into a new column, Noe This and That, a compendium of recent milestones, celebrations, and other noteworthy or unusual events in the lives of neighborhood residents.
So continue to send us your baby announcements, but also send along news of graduations and academic honors, engagements, weddings and unions, professional awards, book publishing parties, art show openings, block parties, web site launches, charming pets, extraordinary gardens -- even encounters with neighborhood raccoons. We'd appreciate a phone number as well, to make sure we read you right.
The column will be written by Laura McHale Holland. You can e-mail your leads to email@example.com; mail them to the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114; or leave a phone message at 821-3324. We eagerly await your news.