One child in Detroit, working.
Another, in New York City, working.
And their Dad,
tethered to gadgets,
and to them,
And here it comes…
One child in Detroit, working.
To curl up with children and a good book has long been one of the great civilizing practices of domestic life, an almost magical means of cultivating warm fellow feeling, shared in-jokes and a common cultural understanding. Harvard professor Maria Tatar has written of its origins in medieval fireside storytelling, “before print and electronic media supplied nighttime entertainments.”
Certainly in the modern era there is something quaint about a grown-up and a child or two sitting in a silence broken only by the sound of a single human voice. Yet how cozy, how impossibly lovely it is! Unlike tech devices, which atomize the family by drawing each member into his own virtual reality, great stories pull people of different ages toward one another, emotionally and physically. When my children were small, I would often read with my eldest daughter tucked in by my side, the boy draped like a panther half across my shoulders and half across the back of the sofa, a tiny daughter on either knee, and the baby in my lap. If we happened to be on one of our cycles through “Treasure Island,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s swashbuckling classic, my husband would come to listen, too, and stretch out on the floor in his suit and tie and shush the children when they started to act out the exciting bits.
“We let down our guard when someone we love is reading us a story,” Ms. DiCamillo says. “We exist together in a little patch of warmth and light.”
Scott Addington writes, “As is often the case, my purpose became clearly evident after I had stopped looking for it. On October 11, 1995, my daughter was born. Beginning with that moment, there has never been the slightest doubt regarding the purpose and source of meaning in my life. Being a father is the most meaningful and rewarding pursuit a man could ever hope to experience.”
~ David Brooks, Hearts Broken Open
And then I hear the water rumbling into the tub. Naked, the baby’s arms and long legs flail against the bare air, and she wails. “Oh you,” I whisper, unable yet to call her by my name, “it’s all right.” I want my joy pure, I want to get rid of the echo in my head. This is my granddaughter, named for me. This beautiful child. I gather her up, nuzzling her soft face, and bring her into the bathroom, and my daughter, her breasts heavy with milk, reaches up her arms for the child. The moment she is lowered into the water the baby stops crying, her body goes limp, her eyelids drop—it all happens at once. Under her half-closed lids her irises are now moving left to right, over and over, rhythmically, as if to a beat. At first I am afraid, and put my hand in the water to make sure it’s not too hot, but it is fine, comfortable. We don’t speak, but my daughter touches my arm as we realize what we are looking at, what the two of us are being shown. This is the face of the unborn child. And I know now what a moment can hold.
~ Abigail Thomas, What the Moment Can Hold. Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life
Photo: With Love and Light
May 28th. Days short of June, yet solar heaters are blowing. 84° F, and steamy.
Sidewalks are teeming with tourists.
Mid afternoon Manhattan traffic is locked bumper to bumper, snaking up Sixth Avenue.
I skipped breakfast, had a meager lunch, and I’m longing for a sugar fix. Chocolate. Now.
Waze estimates 25 min to get uptown to the office.
My Thumbs are on the keyboard.
Should it be ‘Hi’ or ‘Hi!’? I’m not feeling ‘Hi!’ I’m not a ‘Hi!’ type. I’m more like a “Hello” or a “Hi” guy. Or maybe it’s ‘hi’. “hi’ makes me approachable, less prickly. Yet, it’s hard to alter the brand, callus layered on callus. ‘Hi!’ would be inauthentic or soft, and both just won’t do. Dad’s the tough guy. There’s an image to uphold. A Brand to burnish.
Would have preferred ‘Hi Daddy!’ But ! is good. She’s happy to hear from me.
DK: I’ll be in your building in 30 min. I’ll buy you coffee. Me, a warm chocolate chip cookie.
RK: Can’t Dad. I’m in the middle of something.
“As a small experiment of women’s uniqueness and the special bond between a mother and child, we met up with 6 wonderful women, and asked them to let us blindfold their most precious loved ones. Their children!
The children were guided towards the group of women, and using their senses and intuition asked to try to find the one they believed to be their mother. Anxiety, love and a bit of heartfelt tears filled the room as children from the age of 3-9 tried and succeed in finding the one and only they could call mum!
All women are unique in shape, personality and heart, and so is the beautiful connection and precious love we saw this day.”
It’s 27° F. I’m fast stepping to catch the 6:16 am train to Grand Central. My soles are snapping the rock salt crystals. The eyes are scanning the sidewalk on the look out for black ice. It’s March. It’s damn cold. I shiver. It’s over. It’s over soon.
I review my notes for my 8:30 am presentation. And then shift to the morning papers. I scan my calendar. I complete the Morning rituals. I’m done early.
The gear box is misfiring. Where’s the pre-game anxiety? Where’s the morning email missives? Where’s the pullin’ Locomotive?
The noise-canceling earphones and the music player are dialed up. I’ve encased Myself inside Myself. Myself and Bob Seger, Against the Wind.
My phone vibrates signaling a text from Rachel — she’s two trains behind me. Hi Daddy! I send her a link in reply: FDA Panel Backs Kythera Double-Chin Treatment. Thanks Dad. Another genetic beauty mark that you’ve passed down to me. I chuckle. She’s mine. Not yet 7 am and she’s counterpunching. That’s My Girl.
The train enters a long, slow curve into Manhattan. Rachel is leaning into the curve, behind but with me — her electronic Hi Daddy, Oliver’s soft wind, like a belt of silk, wraps the house.
We’re in the tunnels. The normal pulse escalation zone. I’m watching the Commuters scrambling to gather their bags to prepare for ejection. I’m watching. Sitting. At Peace, Calm and Centered – with Seger crooning in the background. Damn de-stabilizing. Mad-Man turned Zen.
I let the masses pour out of the train and clear. I follow behind the herd.
I exit out onto 42nd Street and Vanderbilt, and she catches me catch her eye.
I’m OFF. Again. FAIL! Commuters Creed: Avoid eye contact. [Read more…]
“I thought she was sleeping until I heard her call out from across the room, “Will you bring me a glass of water?” I did. Then in her always-sleepy tone and drawl she said, “Do you remember when you were a little boy and you would ask your mama to bring you a glass of water?” Yeah. “You know how half the time you weren’t even thirsty. You just wanted that hand that was attached to that glass that was attached to that person you just wanted to stay there until you fell asleep.” She took the glass of water that I brought her and just sat it down full on the table next to her. Wow, I thought. What am I gonna do with love like this.”
– Dito Montiel, “One Night,” A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, A Memoir
Notes: TT* = Throwback Thursday. Photograph: Adriana Varela
It’s 5′ x 7′, that is five by seven feet. Unlike contemporary, machine-made models, which are much shorter and cheaper to produce, there is ample cover to reach the tippy-toes of my 6′ 1″ frame.
It has survived 32 winters.
It has served 6 homes, and is now working its 7th.
It has outlasted 10 automobiles.
And, yet here it is, working, in pristine condition, with a new car smell.
Besides our tableware, which should be replaced, it is the only wedding gift that has survived. She has long since passed, but her afghan lives on.
Is an afghan knitted or crocheted? Are they stitches or loops? I have no idea.
Eric calculated 38,260 individual loops. 38,260 hand made loops.
It is brown, green, and two shades of blue. Why these colors? The earth? Its plants and forests? Her hope for a God, for heavens? Why didn’t you ask her when she lived? [Read more…]
Memories are cloudy. It was a ritual that was conducted on Saturday afternoons or Sunday mornings. It was cold and wet. Cabin Fever had set in. Mom and the Kids needed to get out. Our first stop was Barnes and Noble. Rachel, in her pink galoshes, wandered the aisles in search of the prettiest book covers she could find. She would unzip her down jacket and sit on a Lilliputian bench flipping the pages. Eric would be tugging on his Mom’s coat, impatient, and ready to move on. After negotiating with Rachel that she could only have two, we would head off to lunch, which would include a sandwich or burger, french fries and steamy hot chocolate.
Ah, yes. The good ole’ pre-internet, pre-Amazon days. Who visits book stores today? What book stores carry large inventory? Who’s got time to read to their children? Do children have the patience or interest to sit quietly with a book? The Tech candy is flashing and twitching, coaxing them over. ME. ME. ME. Forget the boring books. Pick ME up.
That evening after we returned from the bookstore, and during weekday evenings that followed, we would read bedtime stories to our children. This parental ritual is beautifully captured by Daniel Pennac below in his reflections: