Fathering, continued

Almost twenty years ago, I went to my local independent bookstore and ordered a hardcover copy of “A Wrinkle in Time.” It had been my favorite book as a kid, at least until my mid-teens when I discovered a now-forgotten Michener novel called The Drifters, which caught me up in the unreal romance of the late 60s, but that’s another story). On that day, I was imagining children and hoping that one day I would get to read this book with a son or a daughter.

I am not sure what moved me – at the time I was very single, faraway from most of my friends, and not a lot of prospects for having children. For most of my adult life, I had intense relationships with creative types, relationships full of adventure and also fiery conflict, which usually consumed them after a year or two. I’m still friends with a few of these women I dated then, but we were hopeless as partners. People used to ask me, “Do you want to have children someday?” And I would say, “First I have to find a mother.”

Clearly to me now, there was some kind of silly faith at work that afternoon when I walked  into that bookstore and asking them to get me that book. Fast forward two decades and now I have a nine-year-old daughter and a son nearly six. I’ve somehow lost that hardcover edition of Wrinkle in all the moves I made since then, but we did manage to find a paperbound copy from an old box of books my mother sent once when she cleaned out her garage. We’ve been reading it over the past week, laughing through some of the silliness of the witches, puzzling over the strange turnings of the universe and the evil pulsing of IT. Tonight we read the chapter about Aunt Beast restoring Meg back to health after her near-deadly trip through the Black Thing, the sweet music she sings and the food that is sad to look at but more delicious than Meg could ever have imagined. The experience of finally reading this has been sweeter than I could have imagined when I took that small (and ridiculous) leap of faith (or maybe it was just a hop, really) back in the 90s and ordered the book.

Tomorrow will be the last chapter, but the book won’t be out of memory. A friend said he had loved the book as a kid and remembered scenes it, disjointed scenes that he couldn’t piece together into a narrative. He said, “I’d love to know how the story goes, but why ruin the magic.” Little does he know the magic of being in an older guy’s body but being able to see this magical story afresh through the delighted eyes of a nine-year-old.

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