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I call Ethan the next day, and of course I don't talk about the fight with my wife. Instead we speculate about where Giants manager Dusty Baker will end up next season. Ethan just signed the papers on his new job. "Now that it's the end of my stay-at-home stage, I'm already missing it," he tells me, and I find myself filled with resentment. Short-timer, I think. It's a lot easier to wipe up one more spill when you're not thinking of doing the same thing tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. My pettiness depresses me.

For $130, a bald Russian comes and replaces something called the bake igniter in my oven, and soon Franny and I are making cookies again. The sweet smell fills the house and makes me forget my bitterness. As much as I chafe at my life and its boundaries, there are times when I think I could spend eternity baking with my daughter.

I decide to give my son a shaving kit I'd been saving for Christmas. My father was not around for me when I was a teenager, so I probably attach more significance to the gesture than Adam does: I feel like I'm offering him a leg up into the adult world, the world of shaving and travel and unfettered possibility. "Cool," is all he says, and turns up the stereo.

An e-mail from Ethan: "Shaving in the bathroom. Finn walks in, 'Wha' are you doing?' 'Shaving.' 'Can I shave?' 'No, sweet boy, you have to be big to shave.' Leaves, comes back with two sticks, one big, one small. Holds the big one upright and uses the little one to play it like a cello while humming. I ask, 'What are you doing?' He says, 'Singing.' I tell him he looks like he's playing the cello. He says, 'I play jello.' I ask, 'Can I play jello?' He says, 'No, you have to be little.'"

As much as I made of giving Adam a shaving kit, I am reminded of the appeal of no responsibility and the music only little children can hear. Make us all little again.

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