Wednesday, August 22, 2012

a childhood

The fact is that anybody who survived
his childhood has enough information about life
to last him the rest of his days.
                                                                     — Flannery O'Connor

It's a great thing to be given, a childhood; and a weighty thing to pass on. I see my children grow before me, breathing in our little family as the center of the universe. To them Charles and I are the only type of parents, and New York City the most obvious of all homes. They do not see the positives and negatives of living in an apartment in Manhattan as I do, nor grasp that their mother and father are just two of many different kinds of women and men. We comprise the universe. We and our parents and grandparents, ancestors reaching further and further back, adding a whole host beliefs, failings, propensities, and habits to the fabric of my children's world.

Sometimes this scares me. I want to solve all the problems in myself quickly, overnight, so as to protect them. I place myself as a hefty filter between them and the world outside our home. But, really, filtering out the "dangerous outside world" is the easy part—at least at their young age. It's the inside world, the things Charles and I carry with us, that are much harder to protect them from.

And yet I take courage. Courage because I know that I am giving this my all, and I'm not afraid to say I'm sorry when I fail. And because my parents both tried to give me better than had been given them. And even when they failed, which did happen at times, I did not merely survive. I survived with character and strength; with a sense that the world is more good than evil, more beautiful than ugly, with more joy than pain. And I learned to take courage, to seek truth, and to keep my feet planted firmly in soil—and these too are the things I pass on.

N O R T H   O F   C H I L D H O O D
by Jonathan Galassi

Somewhere ahead I see you
watching something out your window,
what I don’t know. You’re tall,
not on your tiptoes, green,
no longer yellow,
no longer little, little one,
but the changeless changing
seasons are still with us.
Summer’s back,
so beautiful it always reeks of ending,
and now its breeze is stirring
in your room commanding the lawn,
trying to wake you to say the day is wasting,
but you’re north of childhood now and out of here,
and I’ve gone south.

From North Street and Other Poems, Copyright © 2001 by Jonathan Galassi

Poetry Wednesday  }


Veronika said...

This is so beautiful! Thank you for writing this, I think about these things everyday! Courage to us all!

Julia said...

Yes, like Veronika, I perfectly relate. I also happened upon this poem the other day on the Poetry Foundation website and really liked it. Sometimes, in my mind, I like to separate these two things: my own childhood, which I am probably overly occupied with figuring out, and the childhood of my own children, which is happening in Real Time. It is hard to imagine that the present could possibly ever be as complicated as the past, and yet, it probably will be, for them. But as Jeff likes to joke: Don't worry about it. We have to give them something to tell their therapist.