Tonight I rewatch a video my son posted some time ago, of him teaching his five year old to weave on a pretty complicated loom. The patient voice in the background, encouraging, instructing her to turn her long slender hands just so, to catch up threads, to coax them, beat them, understand, moves me immensely.
I am glad that his father and I have succeeded in raising a man who knows, fully, how to be a father: what it is; what it isn't.
There are many such videos, mere snippets, in my son's library. The family, carving a pumpkin which doesn't look like anyone else's. His daughter, dancing wildly, whirling on the wooden floor of an old, old house. Her having so many costumes that every chair is her changing room: ducking behind one, startling daddy with a new character, or yet another ice princess. Watching daddy cook on the woodstove, mostly learning to really love wood, like your daddy. Daddy reading, long, long books, with narrator's voices, thrilling, familiar, yet not.
Her daddy has been there beside her from the moment her mother delivered her in the 120 year old house, with no attendant but daddy. Somehow knowing how to catch her, even by candlelight. Listening to her sturdy first howls. Knowing she would draw her own air, first and always.
They gave her the middle name Calliope, and she hasn't hushed the circus-sound yet! Fully lifted into every new moment. Plenty to say, daddy always listening. Sometimes so tired as they climb his zany spiraled staircases, his Doctor Seuss lofts which fill their old house. Every piece of wood cut and hauled by her resolute daddy. Rope ladders squeezed into spaces wood can't reach. Climb a rope lattice, you might find an aquarium at the top, or thirteen clocks, or a piece of barbecued venison. Or daddy, on the little notebook, answering some question about the size of galaxies, or the reason flowers have petals besides the leaves... anything you might think to ask. Daddy might already be typing, but he will still make room. He will show you what letter it starts with, what key it's in, how paraffin burns.
I had a miserable father myself. Was only even there about four years. Never a hug, never picked me up, even when I turned out to be very good at geography. After I spent a day preparing a song for him, at three, my mother said he laughed and said, "Don't try to make a living singing, kid."
For years you see your reflection in that very imperfect mirror and wonder why it could be that hard to love you.
But part of growing up is coming to find out who is broken and who is not. Watching my son be a father has long since resolved THAT one.
Liane U’Prichard was given a globe at age four and told by her family, “this is your home.” She spent the next 71 years wandering all across the world by freightship and other means of transportation, writing about every place she lived. Photo shows the author straddling the Tropic of Capricorn in South Africa.