While my wife is on a mission to clean house, go back through all the years of accumulated stuff and purge, I remain grateful for the things I have kept. (Well, not all. It is time to get rid of some of the cassette tapes and Orff T-shirts and Orff Conference notes from 1982 and so on). But the handwritten journals I’ve kept faithfully since 1973 are a treasure, a record of this small mortal being who keeps struggling with the same issues and loving the same joys and there it is in black and white to prove it.
Well, some of it. I was curious whether my first official Orff Chapter workshop was in L.A. in the Fall of 1985 or Chicago, so I dipped back to my journal to discover that I had only a single entry all Fall! Something about riding on Amtrak (which makes me think it was L.A. after all). And then on the occasion of my daughter Kerala’s 35th birthday, thought I’d see what I wrote about her. There is one entry on September 18th, 12 days before she was born. And then the next one is on…December 31st!! So much for record-keeping.
We did keep a journal for her and all my writing about her is to her, so all was not lost. But on the occasion of her birthday, here’s what I wrote anticipating her arrival.( Note that we didn’t know the gender ahead of time!) :
Sept. 18, 1980
A sea of fuschias dipping gracefully in the slight breeze, the low roar of traffic and the high pitch of birds. Golden Gate Park on a Thursday afternoon, savoring a moment of solitude. Time alone and time with people, all part of the same fabric, a fabric which is on the verge of adding a new color and shape, the child who will emerge any moment now. This child who has grown from a thought to a walnut-sized fetus to a moving, kicking being to a firm, smooth roundness in the belly with feet, elbows, bottom ,knees surfacing at different times. Karen and I are as prepared as possible for his/her transition to this world. While we wait, we’re searching out movies and nightlife, imagining some last fling as a childless couple. Soon, our Sunday scouring of the pink pages to check out the week’s events will be replaced by long walks and sits in the park with the baby.
Indeed, this is the delight I anticipate more than anything. Long years of sharing my child’s first encounters with the many facets of this world— from the first breath of air to the first taste of milk to the first laugh to the first time laying in grass to the first sight of snow all the way through to the first Charlie Chaplin or Hitchcock film, the first hearing of John Coltrane, the first time reading The Lord of the Rings and so on.
And, of course, my joy in sharing those moments will be balanced by the many first encounters with suffering, from hunger pains to teething pains to the first burn or scraped knee, to the first broken toy to the first fight with a friend all the way through first jilt from a lover, the first agony of separateness, the first encounter with death. The whole catastrophe!
Meanwhile, more child musings will probably go into his/her journal, but for now, my joyful anticipation is herein recorded and my brief moment in the park closed.
That was then. Now Kerala is a mother ushering her own baby boy and three-year old girl and 16 year old stepson through all their encounters with the magic, mystery, pain and joy of life. 35 years old! How did that happen?
I’m grateful for it all. Happy birthday to my darling daughter.