So the holidays are over and A. and I’s lives have changed concretely, probably for keeps. I write this now (shame on me) installed at my new desk at South College Asheville, where I’ve through a marvelously simple daisy chain of contacts and events been named Chair of the Department of Professional Brewing Science. Funny how you can spend all this time gazing at your past like you do through a window at inaccessible baked goods, some enticing, others appalling, but all of them passively beheld, remote from you, gripless as yesterday, and then all of a sudden those same baked goods assert themselves enough to…
No: you’re up there on the foremast deck, at the conn, helm in hands, sails blooming full of a steady wind, and though your body is poised at the future, your gaze trails aft at the slow-boiling wake as it smooths back into the sea, and from back there all at once comes a sudden shift in the breeze and you’ve altered course.
That’s a little better than the metaphor of the appalling baked goods, at any rate.
In retrospect, hurrying into my MFA program wasn’t wise, and toiling four years at a local craft brewery felt less like a strategic move than it did treading water, but in the third act the first two are revealed to have been essential. For accreditation purposes, South College preferred that someone with a masters degree head up their new program, and there aren’t (yet) scads of people with those in the craft brewing field. As icing on the cake, one of the people instrumental in hiring me has a son who was briefly a staff writer for the literary arts magazine I founded as an undergraduate. It isn’t white smiling God in his glowing heaven picking up these scattered threads and cinching them into a neat bow. Fate is made by people. Let’s praise them.
To that end, we’re going out to dinner tonight with a couple friends who were key in hooking me up with South College. They’re getting a sitter for the occasion, are expecting number two any day, and I imagine the subject will come up.
We were blessed with beau coup nephew-and-niece time over the holidays, and while I’m not ready to haul up the curtain entirely on the most recent kitchen-counter-side Pressing Subjects broached in chez Walsh, I will say that the see-saw might could be at its see-sawing thing again. Might could. One can’t yet say for sure. One must wait to see which numbers one’s feelings throw.
The Slocums are expecting again in New York. The Warren-Hills of Weaverville. The Berlin-Moris. One childless couple in our neighborhood is preggers, another is in deep contemplation. Lukatrina just popped their first one out… This generation that flooded into 80s pre-schools together and came out the other side as college graduates in a melting economy, who lined up for choice interest rates on their first mortgages while watching D.C. unmoor itself from the mainland: blink and they’ve multiplied.
One thing is we had too much unstructured free time over the holidays. Vast slow unspooling bobbins of time, harassed by no one, kept awake by no one, unprepped for. We got bored, honestly. The idle hands of thirtysomethings are much more dangerous than those of kids. (Well, kids who use protection.) I read a short story in Harper’s Magazine recently in which the main character’s love interest tells him on a summer day, at the beach, “Knock me up. Let’s take our lives seriously.” Now there is a line that sticks.
My trouble is I see myself holding a beautiful baby, my own, my wife’s, and I love her, of course, but also I’m aware of what I’m missing, and I can’t shake that, and every time I kiss her forehead or nom her tiny toes there’s an asterisk, and I’m reminded that instead of spending a day with my wife on a couch engulfed in high literature, I’m reading Give a Mouse a Biscuit again.
Originally this post was called “If We Must Have a Baby, Let It Be a Bauhausy Baby,” because for some reason all day I’ve been listening to Bauhaus for the first time in more than a decade, thinking how great would it be if the 80s comic gothic quartet, less like any other band than any other band I’ve ever heard, reunited to make an album in honor of me and A.’s amazing new baby. In this fantasy, Peter Murphy, the gaunt prince of the glass-wristed set, attends the exhausted mother, bleary father and cooing newby on Day One, going, like: “I dub thee Chrysanthem,” and I say, “No, you can’t, but thanks,” and he says, “Your child is extraordinary. This demands a grand gesture. I’m getting the band back together.”
In particular, the last five songs of “The Sky’s Gone Out” (1982) have me hooked. It concludes with a trippy cycle in which, after the world ends, a father tells his son (reading from Bertolt Brecht’s first play, Baal): “My baby, how big you’ll be in a very little while. You’ll be going to school and you won’t want your daddy then, will you darling? Oh, I wish you could be my baby all the time. I wonder what the future holds…?”
I want to answer: it holds the past, but not like how you supposed it would.