Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Charmed Life

Home with Audrey now for two days. She’s very fussy when awake, and (much like her Papa) seems to find the waking world unsatisfactory in almost every way. Unlike him, she hasn't yet learned to express her dissatisfaction in words and pictures, so she resorts to a cruder if no less effective medium: screaming. For hours on end Jung and I find ourselves trapped within the stretcher bars of Munch’s most famous painting. But as soon as she feeds or sleeps “The Scream” turns into "Lullaby for Strings” and her parents fall in love all over again.

Hopefully, as time goes on, Audrey will find the world more to her liking, or at least develop more subtle ways of expressing her discontent!

Meanwhile it's snowing here in Carbondale; forecasters predict six inches by mid-afternoon. Already I’ve been out shoveling, feeling like the father in Robery Hayden’s "Those Winter Sundays," whose love for his family is best expressed by tending the fire. I’ll say this: it is better to clean the snow off the car with a baby in the house than without.

A year ago if someone had told me I’d be a daddy, I’d have laughed in his or her face. For me, then, the charmed life consisted of tidy quiet rooms equipped with drawing supplies, writing implements, books, and cozy corners to read in. The phrase "charmed life" conjured a sunny cafe fronting the Mediterranean. A pied-a-terre in Paris, maybe another in Rome. Two swims a day, one in a lake, one in the sea. An aperitif at four in the afternoon giving way to quiet meals eaten under grape arbors with good friends--all of them childless.

And here I am in Carbondale, Illinois, in an apartment crammed and cluttered with baby implements—swing, stroller, bassinet, car seat, diaper bags, baby tub, crib, breast pump, swaddling blankets ... what Zorba would have called "the whole catastrophe." In four days Jung and I have slept maybe eight hours. Clothes and shoes scattered everywhere, dirty dishes piled in the sink. Last night we were so exhausted we left a pan of re-heated takeout egg foo yung on the stove. No time for tidying up. I remember in my younger days walking into homes like this one--homes of fresh parents--hearing the baby's screams and saying to myself, “There but for the grace of God.” For me having children was something other people did out of some perverse masochistic instinct, a form of self-sacrifice that made about as much sense as setting yourself on fire.

Now, fresh from brushing the snow off the car, I crack open the bedroom door and bear witness to my child sound asleep in her mother’s arms, and the words "charmed life" take on a whole new meaning.


cosmopolitana said...


Katinka Neuhof said...

Audrey's lovely and dear. She will rock your world! Congratulations to the three of you.

Cheryl Gower said...

From the date on your last post, Audrey--love the name--was born on Jan. 5th. What a way to start a new year! And with no subsequent post since then, I'm pretty sure it's all you can do to open your eyelids and brace yourself for another day in Audrey's Land.
Congratulations to all three of you. For what it's worth, things will improve. She'll just find different ways to show how disgruntled she is, and it always happens just as you've figured out how to successfully respond to the previous disgruntlement.

Herspective said...

congratulations professor selgin! wishing you all the joy and happiness of daddy-hood.

MSU Spring Semester '09