“DAAAAAAAD!!!! Evan peed on the floor!” was the cry that ran through the house. Moments before, I had just emerged from the shower, hair still wet, and now my little son Quinn was on my knee, and I was wiping food off from his face. Typically a sweet, compliant eight month old, today Quinn was being quite resistant to the prunes and oatmeal that I was attempting to shovel into his mouth. “Well, Evan, is it true? Did you pee on the floor, did you, a three year old, pee on the floor?” I yelled across the house. Evan came running up, face flushed red, and he blurted out “Yes, I did pee on the floor, but that’s because you were in the bathroom, taking a shower, and you hate it when we knock on the door when you’re in the shower.” I stared at him. He had a point. “Daaaaaaad, dad, dad, dad, is it true that fossils come from dinosaurs?” Liam screamed, as though he were shot. “Dad, I’m sorry I did the pee on the floor, I never do that, it was an accident” Evan stammered. As I directed the spoon towards Quinn’s mouth, his dimpled hand shot up in the air and sent the spoon and prune/oatmeal sludge heavenward. Down it came, descending in brownish showers on tray, hair, and floor. Quinn smiled the cherubesque smile that belongs only to infants, an untainted smile which humans later trade in for words. “DAAAAAAAD, why do fossils only stick in rocks?” Liam yelled. “Daaad, I’m sorry for the pee pee, can I get dressed now?” Evan pleaded, looking like a forlorn Charles Dickens character. Quinn started to cry. Evan started to cry.
Margaret was gone for the night, off doing income taxes. I was home alone with the kids. And I still had two hours before they went to bed. I stared at the wall, and thought to myself “Okay. Billions and billions of people have done this before, growing these life forms, guiding these misshapen balls of entropy along the obstacle course of infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. But if billions of people have successfully raised children, then why is it still so overwhelming? How many millions of books about parenting have been published? Shouldn’t child rearing have been fine tuned by now? Shouldn’t child rearing benefit from the ages in the same way that technology has streamlined the raising of longhorns in the Southwest?” More screaming emerged from the other side of the house, somebody was scolding me for not having enough Transformer underwear in their dresser drawers. And as I shoveled more food into Quinn’s mouth, I said out loud “Raising children is hard. Shut up, carry on, and laugh.”
Once in their pajamas, I chased the boys around the house. Tonight, I would be a ferocious dinosaur with rabies, chasing after little velociraptors. Liam laughed so hard, that tears rolled down his face. Evan laughed so hard, he had to go run to the bathroom to avert another urinary disaster. Quinlan half crawled, and cackled and giggled with delight. I placed Liam and Evan in their beds, prayed with them, and headed to Quinn’s crib. I braced myself for the customary hour or so of fussing and half crying, in order to send Quinn off to sleep. As I held him in my arms, I parted the curtain, and the last glint of daylight revealed a dark storm front in the sky, like a giant bruise above the tree line. I sat on the bed with Quinn, and the rain began to slowly fall on the holly leaves beside the bedroom window. Deep rumbling, and the first thunderstorm of spring was approaching. Quinn placed his head against my chest, and looked out the window with me. The rain fell heavier, and the cool breeze began to sway the curtains. Quinn cooed softly. Short little breaths gave way to longer breaths, gave way to sighs, gave way to the gentle drone of sleep. In just moments, Quinn was asleep on my chest, and the house was silent except for the distant rumbling of the fleeing storm. I never knew a deeper joy.
I woke early in the morning, and headed to the studio. My students came for still life class, and I pulled my son’s boots out of my bag. I began to teach still life painting, addressing the flow of light over form, about the play of dark against light, of weathered pine against the glowing varnish of maple, of man made materials against natural forms, of rough textures against smooth surfaces, of the decaying effect of time against the luster of the new. And as I spoke to my students about their paintings, I began to paint on my own new, fresh canvas. Dad’s boots, and Evan’s boots.
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”- that is all
ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”