Dear Jackson

Dear Jackson, 7.10.10




Dear Jackson,

This morning, Mommy let me sleep in late.   Mommy had stayed up late working on a mystery art project, and I was busy shaking the sand out of everything from the beach.   Jackson, when mommy is making art everything is better.   She has a whole crazy amount of energy and a whole different way of being.  Art is good for Mommy - and good for the rest of us, because we get to live with whatever she makes.

When it got really late, just after midnight, mommy turned off the light in her studio and came downstairs to our bedroom.   Mommy said, "this is the first moment of your birthday and I am so happy you were born."  Then mommy lit some candles and wanted to kiss and hug and laugh about how big her belly is getting.   Jackson, there are so many moments I just want to hold and never let go of.  I think that is why I take pictures and write and make up stories to tell you.  It is because I want to remember all the joy and happiness you and your mommy and everyone in my life gives to me.

Jackson, last fall I thought I was living in the sweetest spot.       Something had clicked creatively and I felt like I owned my work for the very first time. Suddenly I felt such a sure hand at making the pictures and they got so much better.   Pop was alive and doing well  - and while we knew how fragile his health was, we were so happy to have him to call and visit with and hug and share our love with.   I was so crazy happy being with you and your mommy.  Everything all seemed so perfect - I wanted to wrap it all up and live inside that moment like it was a big present.

Jackson, I was never so aware of the seasons changing before you were born.  Now,  I see the changes so much more: the days getting long then short, the green grass then blankets of cold white snow.   The leaves put on a performance every fall that is so beautiful it looks amazing both in and out of focus.  Like the seasons, we know, we have to keep changing and moving and growing.  We gain new things and lose things everyday.  Sometimes we can make our dreams come true, and sometimes Jackson, sometimes things happen that make us so sad.

So here I was last fall, living in my sweet, sweet spot and having dinner with your mommy.   You were asleep upstairs in your room.   It was dark and cold outside and somehow the house felt alittle lonely.    Your mommy looked at me and said, "There is something missing from our house."   I had no idea what she thought was missing.  Did she want something new to sit on in the den?   Did she want more art on the walls?  I asked her what was missing.   Jackson, your mommy looked at me and said, "the rest of our family."    For a moment I thought - I don't want to change anything.   We are living in our sweet spot.   I want to be with Jackson and Mommy and I don't want to dilute our happiness at all.   A moment later,  I went over and hugged your mommy.   Your Mommy knew that our sweet spot last fall was only a chapter.   That in every chapter we have to change in ways we want to and in ways we cannot even imagine.  The reason the sweet spot is so sweet is that it is new and fresh and always evolving.   Your Mommy was dreaming even bigger than I could dream.  She knew the next sweet spot was both a leap of faith and the gift you get for believing in yourself and eachother.

A couple of months after that dinner, two things happened almost at the same time.  Pop got really sick and went to heaven.  Jackson, I still cannot believe Pop is not here with us, although he is always in our hearts.   I know all the things the Drs. said.  I know that we all have to go sometime.  I know Pop was really courageous and fun while being really sick at the same time.  STILL, I really miss Pop, and I know you do, too - and will especially as your get older.   Jackson, at almost the very same moment Pop took his last breath, your Mommy found out that she was pregnant with the rest of our family.   All I can say is this Jackson, if you can believe in the people you love with all all the love you have, good things happen.  Sad things happen, too - but if you make a really big pile of good things with the people you love, there will be plenty to get you through the sad things and still be happy.

Jackson, yesterday we woke up together in Beach Haven.   You opened your eyes and the very first thing you said to me was, "Bruce is my friend."   I said, "That is great Jackson! What do you do with your friends?"   You said, "I  share my scooter with Bruce and he can share his guitar with me." Then you started singing, "Down Down Down" to me and then said, "Jakob Dylan is my friend.  Ella is my friend.  Pete Seeger is my friend. Louis is my friend. Coldplay is my friend."   It was funny because yesterday in the car, you were singing to Coldplay and asking me to play it so many times, I finally tried playing The Beatles for you.   You wanted Coldplay.  Even when I try to play another Bruce song, you only want to hear, "I'm Goin' Down."  It is so great when a new song gets added to the mix - because mostly you know what you want to hear.  If you ever read this Jackson, and want to know what was on your playlist in July of 2010, you can look at the playlist on the bottom of this letter.

This morning Jackson, when I came down I could smell the garlic, and there were vegetables in the skillet waiting for eggs.   You and mommy were out in the back hitting balls off the T-Ball holder.   As soon as you saw me Jackson, you ran up and hugged me and said, "Happy Birthday, Daddy."   Then you went back, made a really tough face, brought the bat back over your shoulder, then swung so hard the ball went right passed Mommy, who looked especially beautiful this morning.   Then we came inside, made our eggs, and Mommy had Daddy's present hanging on the wall covered with a big card.   When Daddy took off the paper, there was the most amazing wooden box filled with 55 birds - all different sizes, all suspended in air.  The box was inspired by an artist, Joseph Cornell that we love - but Jackson, the box was all Mommy.  Every birthday Mommy has made Daddy a piece of art with the number of his birthday years in it.  Daddy was so so happy to get the birds.   Mommy's art is so special, it feels so much a part of the day and timeless at the same time.

Jackson, Daddy is 55 today.  55 years since he was born in Pittsburgh to A and his Daddy, Jack Lange who you were named after.   I want you to know that Daddy has mostly been really happy his whole life, but never happier than he is today on his 55th birthday.   The amount of joy you and your Mommy and the brother growing and kicking in Mommy's belly brings to your Daddy makes this the sweetest of sweet spots so far.

All Daddy wants is to stay healthy for a long long time to bike with you and run with you and catch the balls when you hit them.   All Daddy wants is to sing with you and your brother, and tell you both stories of taking swimming lessons when I was little and meeting Mommy and falling asleep on fast fast trains.

Jackson when you go to pick me up at the train station and see someone who's heart is so full of love it is about to burst, whose smile is so big he can't hold it in, who can't wait to see you and your Mommy and live in our sweet spot that grows and changes and sometimes makes us sad, but mostly makes us happy - that is your Daddy who is 55 today.

Now let's find some ripe peaches to make a mess with.



PS: Jackson, can we make one deal.  I will let you watch little bear on the ipad, if I can take some pictures.   "It's a plan, Daddy.   Shake on it.  Look in eyes."

Jackson's Playlist: July 2010

Another Cup of Coffee  - Enric Madriguera (from the Paper Moon soundtack)

Keep Your Sunnyside Up-  Johnny Hamp's Kentuckey Serenade (from the Paper Moon Soundtrack)J

I'm Goin' Down - Bruce Springsteen

Nothing But the Whole Wide World - Jakob Dylan

It Don't Mean A Thing - Ella Fitzgerald with Duke Ellington

A Tisket A Tasket - Ella Fitagerald

A Kiss to Build a Dream On - Louis Armstrong

People Watching - Jack Johnson

Viva La Vida - Coldplay

The Swimming Song - Kate & Anna MacGarrigle

Rock Candy Mountain - Pete Seeger

Summer's Here - James Taylor

Father's Day 2010


Dear Jackson,

This is our third father's day together.   This year we can talk to each other.  And sing.   And make jokes.   And dance Jackson.   We can DANCE!

This year we cannot call your mommy's daddy, "Pop" and wish him a Happy's Father's Day - which seems so unbelievable, but as Gege says, "Pop is in our heart."   That is true, Pop is in our hearts and dreams every day.  We are thinking about him alot on this Father's Day.

Jackson, I have told you some stories about my father, Jack Lange, who you were named after.   It is not that hard for me to appreciate how much a part of you is him, though you will never know about him except by the stories we tell you, and the pictures, and some recordings we have of him singing.     We tell the best stories at night after the lights are turned off, and the sun is down and the moon is right up there in the sky.   To be honest Jackson, I don't think I remember enough stories about Jack Lange since he died in 1998 and my memory is mostly pictures.   I remember him more as a feeling than most of the things we did together.   I remember how much fun it was when he put his computer speakers out the window of the second floor in Pittsburgh and played bird sounds into the trees.  I remember the birds coming to the window, and my Dad being so happy with that.  I remember him thinking he controlled the weather, and saying on every beautiful day, "see what I gave you."   I remember sitting on the front steps of the house in Pittsburgh watching every car come around the corner, hoping it was my Dad coming home from work.   I remember being so happy when his car would pull in the driveway.   I remember when he would sit down at dinner and always - and this was a joke - but he would always tell A how crazy it was that what she was serving for dinner was exactly what he had at lunch.  Mostly she made him a NY strip steak with mustard broiled on top.   He would have a Coke.   I would ask for a gulp, and he would say I could have a sip.   At desert, my Dad would say he had to taste it first to see if was good enough for me or your uncle Andrew.   Mostly I remember my father telling me how I could do anything I could dream up.   That the world was truly my oyster.   He did not give me a lot of money Jackson, although he did pay for everything I needed growing up.   While he couldn't really afford to be a member of the fancy clubs other friends belonged to, he always felt he belonged.    He always said he couldn't afford everything, but there was never anything he wanted that he couldn't afford.   Mostly Jackson, mostly, Jack Lange was a big dreamer with a bigger heart.    He would have loved you so much, and it makes me so sad you will not get to play with him, and hug him and pat his back.

Jackson, around the time I was born my father took A's typewriter from college, a card table, some chairs, and went with his brother, Leonard to start a business.    They went to a small town outside of Pittsburgh and began a home remodeling business they called, "Brighton Construction."   My father could not build anything.  He was not  good with a hammer or a screwdriver or painting.  What he was Jackson, was just about the nicest person anyone had ever met.    He was funny and knew lots of jokes.   He was a good friend that people could trust.   He was sensitive, which you will learn is a mixed blessing.   There was a restaurant that my father went to every single day called "Dideos."   Everyday for years he went there, took his employees, took his customers.   He became good friends with the owner, Mr. Dideo.  One day Mr. Dideo decided to fix up his restaurant, and he hired someone other than my Dad's company to do the work.   My dad's feelings were so hurt, but all he said to Mr. Dideo was, "I will not be coming to your restaurant for five years.   After five years I will come in like nothing happened and we will be friends again."    And guess what Jackson??  That is what he did.  After five years, your grandfather Jack Lange walked right back into Dideo's and acted like nothing had happened.

You know Jackson, that Jack Lange was Jewish.   Not only was no one in the town where he had Brighton Construction Jewish, but they had never met a Jew before.   Some of them had crazy ideas about what Jews were like because they had never met one.   That made it harder for my Dad - but also made it fun to be the first Jew they met, and know that they would judge Jews by how my Dad was.   And Jack Lange was fun!   Do you think they thought everyone Jewish was fun because Jack Lange was fun??   These people were big drinkers and your grandfather would drink with them.  These people were big smokers, and he would smoke with them, too.  Everyone smoked then Jackson - and it turns out that was a really bad thing to do, but no one seemed to know.   Mostly Jackson, all these people became really good friends.  They were strangers from very different backgrounds, and they came to trust each other and care about each other.   They talked about life and work and made jokes, and in a big way took care of each other.

Jackson, some people say that having children is work.  I never understood what that meant.  First it is hard to understand because I love what I do for work so much that if they are saying that raising children is work, they must be saying it is really fun and inspiring and the greatest job in the world.   If they are saying raising children is a challenge, well that is good, too - we like to try to reinvent ourselves everyday.    Last night Jackson you woke up in your big boy bed so upset.    You were crying so hard, and all you wanted was to come into our bed.   Mommy sat next to your bed, and you were so sad.  I tried holding you, and all you wanted to know is if I was taking you to our bed.  First I let you know that I heard what you were saying. Then I started to tell you where everyone was sleeping.  Where A was sleeping, and uncle.  Where Gege was sleeping and Katrina.  Where the penguins were sleeping and the giraffes.   Pretty soon Jackson you were falling back asleep in your own bed.   With your own dreams.   Then I climbed back in bed next to mommy.   I curled up and put my hand on her belly that is so big and warm, holding your new brother while he gets ready to be with us.

I was thinking about this Jackson:  I was not born knowing how to be a Daddy,  I was born knowing how to dream.   I was born loving every single thing I got to do, everyone I got to be with.  (Jackson, a lot of big people reading will not believe this....but if they know A well, A who loves every movie, every book, every dinner, everyday more than the last- they will know what I mean).   My Daddy taught me that being a Daddy is about learning that dreams really do come true.   As I grew up I learned that you never know what is going to be the most fun, give you the most pleasure, be the biggest part of your life.   Even in my work, I never know which assignment will bring the best best pictures.   I didn't even know Jackson that the love of my life, your mommy was going to walk through the door at a dinner party in Nashville one night.  Jackson, we need to give everything we see its chance to breathe, everything we hear the chance to sing.  Jackson everything we touch needs to be turned around and examined from all sides, knowing that there is goodness somewhere in almost everything.

Jackson, we could not imagine you before you were here with us.   You were born out of love.   You were born because Mommy and Daddy were loved so much growing up, and love so much being together, that they wanted to share their love even more - with you, and then free you to share your love with the world.  Jackson you are dream come true as every single child born into the world is born with so much love inside.  Every parent who gets to raise a child is so lucky to help their children  get all that love out.  Each day spent releasing all that love teaches all the parents how much  love they were hiding inside themselves.  Someone told me when you were born that being a parent is the process of letting go.   I think it is the process of learning how to love even more.

When people tell me that raising children is work, do you know what I say Jackson?    I tell them I love changing every dirty diaper.  I love every moment I get to hold you in the middle of the night when you are upset.    And Jackson - that is not even mentioning all the moments of pure joy you share with us everyday, with your one foot up gliding down the driveway on your scooter, singing along to Bruce & Ella & Louis & Jack Johnson.   Kissing us, and running in circles, and drinking lemonade.

Jackson - I want you to know that Papa and your grandfather Jack Lange are in our hearts AND our souls.  There are so many special ways that we see the world, relate to people and love each other that we learned from the way they lived.   And Jackson, as much as we learned from them, we learn from you.  That is how the world works Jackson....and it doesn't feel like work at all.

Happy Third Father's Day Jackson.


Daddy Finn Lange

Dear Jackson - Mother's Day


Dear Jackson,

I want to write to you about Mother's Day. I know it seems like Mother's Day is about pancakes and extra hugs and kisses - and that is a big part of it. It is also the day we get to think about all the love mommies give to all of us. It is the day we get give extra love back.

Jackson, your mommy and I grew up with the most loving mommies. Now our mommies love you even more - and that is ALOT. My mommy "A", and your Mommy's mommy "Gigi" are very very special mommies. Really special mommies create a place where you can feel safe and free. Really sensitive mommies listen and help us solve our problems rather than telling us what to do. Really understanding mommies know that in order to be happy you need to be sad once in awhile, to be successful you have to fail, to be creative you have to dream. Gigi and A surrounded your mommy and I with so much love, that when we first met we didn't feel like strangers at all.

Jackson I remember the very second your mommy became a mommy. I was holding your mommy so tight and watching you slide into this world through tears of such joy. The first thing I remember is how happy I was that you were fully assembled. All your fingers, all your toes, your nose...everything was attached and in the right place. That was both shocking and a huge comfort. I was then so aware that from your first breath you had a real personality. You were suddenly a real person, not a dream hiding in mommy's belly. But Jackson, in that very same moment I saw our Stephie become a mommy....and I cannot tell you how happy that made me. Everything changes in that moment. I got to see all these new parts of your mommy come to life. She became so strong and so gentle at the same time. Her voice was so patient, and kind and loving - even in the middle of the night....especially in the middle of the night. Jackson, your mommy is the most selfless, sweet, kind, generous mommy. Jackson, the most amazing part of you seeing your grow, is seeing your mommy grow with you.

Jackson, being a mommy is not always super easy. Sometimes you are not happy or have a cold. Sometimes things are scary or sad or make no sense. Sometimes there are a dozen fires burning at once and two dozen plates spinning in the air.  It is in the craziest moments that your mommy really flexes her mommy muscles and teaches us all about how big a heart can be.

Jackson maybe love has a personality, the way you were born with a personality from your first breath. Maybe love is like that. Maybe Jackson, maybe. With each birth, the earth is full of that much more love. It is our job, as a mommy (and a daddy) to see and feel and discover all that new love in the world that you (and every baby) unlock in us.   Jackson, sometimes I feel like I should have known this a long time ago.  Somehow I couldn't understand this love, I couldn't feel this love, maybe....I couldn't even imagine this love.   You teach me about love everyday Jackson. Right by your side your mommy does, too.

Jackson I guess you know this by now or are busy figuring it out -but the answer to everything is love. The more love you can feel the happier you are. The more love you feel the easier it is to understand how we are all connected by love.   Jackson, alot of people are afraid of love, can't find love, look way beyond the love sitting on their own nose everyday.  All you need to do is open your arms.  All you need to do is look at your mommy.  She is the most loving person I have ever met.  We are both so lucky to be with her.

And while we are talking about your mommy, I want to say one thing about kisses. Jackson,  I mean it every single time I kiss your mommy and you.  Even when we are just waking up before we brush our teeth.   Even when we are running out in a hurry.   Jackson every single kiss is important.  Every single kiss means that we love each other.  Not one kiss is for decoration. Not one kiss was made to say anything else.  Even when I finish this letter to you and go upstairs, and kiss mommy while she is sleeping.


Same goes for hugs.




Dear Jackson,

(I wanted to keep writing in the spirit of the Dear Papa letters, so here is my first "Dear Jackson" letter.  I promise for Jackson's sake I will try to keep them alittle bit shorter.  These are for Papa, too.)



Dear Jackson,


There is a man named Jimmy who sells fish at the Farmer's Market on Saturdays.   I talk to Jimmy all the time.  You know him.  Daddy loves buying fish from him because he really cares about the fish he sells.   I once asked Jimmy why his fish is so fresh and so good.   He said that buying fish is all about getting in touch with rhythm.   The rhythm of the fisherman, the rhythm of the ocean, the rhythm of the fish.   Jimmy said that when he drives over the bridge to the island where the fisherman come in, that he knows if it is a rainy day, what it is like for the fisherman.   He feels the vibe.  He can feel the drums.  He can feel the bass.  Jimmy knows the fish and knows the rhythm.


Jackson, each day has it's own rhythm.   Even before you open your eyes you can feel it.  Some days you look outside and it is sunny and there are leaves on all the trees. Some days you have your favorite waffles in the morning before you even know you are hungry.   Some days you hear thunder and the rain starts right away.  Other days it gets dark, and the air feels so heavy, and you are yelling up at the sky, "COME ON!  RAIN ALREADY!"      Sometimes playing feels like a drum, "bop, bop, bop" and everything falls into place and feels just right.


Yesterday, it was Saturday, and we planned a trip into New York City on the train with Daddy and Mommy.   You were so happy.   When the train came you climbed on board and went to sit on the top half of the train.   You asked for a ticket to give the conductor, said, "Thank You Conductor!", then watched out the window as the train pulled out of Maplewood.   After the train left Newark, it slowed down and stopped for a really really long time.    You were a really good boy - mostly watching videos and playing games on the iphone.   It took over two hours for the train to get going again - and we finally made it into New York City.  We went on the subway up to 86th St and Broadway where Daddy used to live when he first moved to the city.   By the time we got out on the street it felt like something was off.  No one knew why - but the train had messed up our rhythm.  We went to a really old restaurant called, "Barney Greengrass" that your Pop used to love.   The waiter brought you a glass of fresh orange juice, which you drank all gone, then threw the glass on the floor.    You never do that.  What was going on?   Later you threw another glass.


After lunch, we went to Central Park and we all needed naps.  Mommy because she has a baby in her tummy.  Daddy because he always needs a nap on weekend afternoons.   And Jackson - who takes a nap everyday, and will never admit he is ever sleepy.   Mommy fell asleep under a tree with her sunglasses on.  Daddy laid a sweater on the grass and cuddled Jackson in tight.   "No Daddy I don't want to take a nap."     "Noooooo, Daddddddy...."    "nooooooo"  Daddy was whispering a Curious George story in your ear.    An hour and a half later, you woke up in the shade of the most beautiful day ever and you looked up at Daddy and said, "Thank You Daddy."   Daddy asked, "How was your nap, Jackson?"   "It was good."   We then went down the hill to a garden with hundreds of tulips, the most fragrant lavender in bloom, and we all felt intoxicated by spring.   Still, even with all the beauty. Even with us all being together.   Our rhythm was off.


It was a but but but but day.   Everything was beautiful but... but....


We still decided to go to the Jewish Museum to see a show of drawings of Curious George.   Since it was the Shabbat, all the lights in the lobby of the museum were off.  The gift shop was closed.  The were not taking any money to come in.   We went up in the museum to see the Curious George show.  It turns out the people who created Curious George were Jewish.   I know Jackson, you don't really know what that means yet - so I will not bore you.  Let's just say it is a history of ideas, and traditions and people that connect you to the very beginning of time.   After looking at some of the pictures, we went to the reading area in the middle of the exhibit.  There were lots of kids sitting around reading Curious George books.  They were all mostly older than you so I took you onto my lap. reached for one of the books we knew, and started reading it.   You were not interested and insisted on looking at the iphone.   Normally I try to limit you using the iphone too much in one day Jackson, but since our rhythm was so off, I gave it to you.  Then on the pillows in the middle of the Curious George show at the Jewish Museum, surrounded by all the kids reading quietly, you started watching Curious George on the iphone with the volume really loud.


After the Museum we were pretty spent on New York City even though it was so beautiful and full of spring.   We took a taxi to the train, and ran through the station to make the 5:11 train.    Your mommy was carrying you, and at one point a big man almost knocked your Mommy over, and she mumbled really loudly, "Jesus!"


When we got back to Maplewood, a babysitter met us - and Mommy and Daddy went out.    Jackson, it is hard to describe the night Mommy and Daddy had after you went to bed.   Daddy had gotten tickets to see a comedian he knew almost nothing about.   The theater was in a part of Southern Jersey that was one hour south and it felt a million miles a way.     The lobby was deserted when got there just as the show was starting.  Jackson, your Daddy left a part of himself at that theater.  He laughed so hard he couldn't breathe.  He laughed as hard as he cried when he heard your Mommy was pregnant (and that was REALLY hard!).  Jackson, your Daddy is not proud of laughing so hard at some really bad jokes, but he could not help it.   The night found the rhythm we couldn't find during the day.   The comedian knew all about rhythm.  He rocked the audience back and forth like a boat, reeled them in and out like a yo-yo and only let them up for air when he felt like it.   Jackson, it hurts to laugh when you cannot breathe.   When Mommy and Daddy drove home, they put on that song we all discovered last week, "Nothing But The Whole Wide World For Us."   It is the song you will not let Daddy sing along to.  It is the song by the guy Mommy and Daddy and saw last week in New York City.


Jackson, this morning was Sunday, and the first thing you said when you started to stir was, "Jesus!" - just like Mommy said in the train station yesterday.   We went down and made waffles, put on "People Watching" and all had our rhythm back.   Maybe it was all being together at home.  Maybe  it was the rhythm of the  rain.   Maybe it was the moon or the stars or maybe Jackson, we just needed the right music playing.  We read out on the porch in the rain on the swing.  There were puddles forming for you to splash in.   We were all together.   It was Sunday.


Jackson, this afternoon when the rain stopped we went out and played with your bat and ball.   Daddy told you to hold the bat with two hands, which you did.  He then told you to keep your eyes on the ball.   You then reached over and pressed your eyes right up against the ball.


Tonight when we took a bath, I said, "Jackson you are getting so big!"    And Jackson, you just looked at me and said, "And I am going to get a whole lot bigger."