Fatherhood: Impressions from Year One

Upon word of our impending addition to the family, many an experienced parent set about assuring me of the joys of fatherhood.  I was grateful for all the well-wishing and good-natured advice, but nothing could have prepared me for the way it actually would feel to welcome my son into the world.  Here was this little person that I knew I would always love, no matter what situations may arise.  I knew this immediately.


I also knew that my perspective had been forever shifted.  Within my orbit, there was now a true dependent–not in the sense that a family member may be listed as a dependent on a tax form, but in the literal sense.  Someone was trusting in me for their security, for mobility, for shelter, for nourishment.  In no way do I intend to downplay my wife’s role in providing these things alongside me–she is the consummate mother, as far as I can tell–but to communicate that this type of necessary provision was a new expectation for me.  On paper, to someone outside the situation, this advanced level of responsibility may be lacking in appeal, but a year of practice has taught me there is a deep satisfaction to be found in the act of providing so much for someone who is capable of so little, and the satisfaction is all the deeper when that someone is your own.


In the initial days of Arthur’s life, there was a barely perceptible quiver at the end of each long cry, a tremulous shudder of sound that would have been easy to miss had I not been in a state of hyper awareness, as I imagine new fathers often are.  His newborn lungs were giving it all the volume they could muster.  It is a mystery as to why this became a point of pride for me, but it did.  There was an identification with this desperate, infantile wail–a heart connection–that apparently was based in nothing more than the fact that he was mine.


Several of his actions would create mysterious heart connections that year:  the spirited shouts of made-up words when he discovered his voice (many of which sounded to me like various forms of “daddy”); the ecstatic smiles he would give from his crib first thing in the morning; the upright angle of his back after he learned to sit on his own; the way his brow would furrow at the serious business of eating a cookie; even the downturned corners of his mouth, sunken deep into his chubby cheeks, as a pout was about to materialize into a full-blown tantrum (so traumatic to him, yet so endearing to me).


At this early stage, it is difficult to resist imagining what Arthur will look like or what he will find interesting when he is older, but I am careful not to let those musings overshadow what a miracle he is right now, at one year of age.  His face brightens when I come home, and sometimes he squeals.  To think that this little boy will soon be calling me Dad, and to think he may even want to be like me one day, fills me with a joy I can hardly contain.  And in case he happens to stumble across this post at a point in the unknowable future, I just want to say, “Arthur, you have made me proud just by being born, and I love you.”

The Superior Season

“Now it was a cool night with that mysterious excitement in it, which comes at the two changes of the year.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Fall is my season.  Somehow–and this is something I cannot quite put my finger on–the artistic/intellectual interest I developed at a tender age lined up with the changing of the seasons, and autumn took on a significance which has grown steadily in the years since.  The whole range of fall’s attributes are attractive to me, from the loss of leaves to metaphysical meditations on the waning season of life.  Halloween plays a part, too.  The trappings of the Halloween season have sparked my imagination from earliest childhood.  In the decorations and colors and allegedly haunted things, I see mystery.  And it is mystery that draws me, not evil or gore.  It is the mystery of what is behind these things, hidden and nameless, the unknown.  Non-creative explanations that anything Halloween-related is evil are not sufficient.  That is simply a shortcut to thinking.

Something about this time of year draws me aesthetically, intuitively, and intellectually.  The imagery of fall serves as the vehicle for a sense of mystery that will enhance our lives if we let it—a way to hold on to younger sensibilities.  There is something inviting about the color orange when it is found in nature, whether on a pumpkin or a leaf–especially orange deepening into red, and its inherent contrast with darkness, such as you see in a sunset.  There is mystery in a sunset, a summation of what the day gave us and a curiosity about what the night is bringing, whether that sunset be viewed through the branches of trees or reflected off the backs of ocean swells.

To be honest, I became enamored of both fall and winter, but fall edged ahead on the strength of its sensory accoutrements.  For sight, there are the changing leaves and ripening fields.  For smell, there are smoky bonfires and pumpkin-scented candles.  For taste, there are various hearty, spiced, and sweet edibles.  For sound and touch, there are cool breezes bending branches and twirling leaves.  The artistic education taking place at that impressionable age merged with the pleasanter aspects of the changes taking place in nature.  The exhilaration of a brisk day that whispers of winter–under a lustrous blue sky, with leaves at peak color and twigs barely clinging to their trees–commingled with the elation achieved when a painting from the pages of an Art History textbook would suddenly reveal itself as a thing of complicated beauty.  Every year, when this finest of seasons rolls around, my excitable imagination becomes even more so, and I cling to each day in a vain attempt to make it last longer.