#923: Simon Pure

May 4th, 2018

You have 10 little fingers and, I presume hidden under the swaddle, 10 little toes, and I like you very much.

You stretch your arms a lot while you’re in my arms. You’re in my arms, your dad’s manning the grilled onions, your mom’s opening a bag of chips and my wife is asking what she can do.

Hi, Simon. You’re two weeks old. Your head is squishy and you always look pissed off. You stretch and wave your arms like you’re cheering an invisible football team. And I’m going to know you for the rest of my life.

I’ve always wanted one of you — I called my childhood stuffed panda “son,” not “buddy” — but it’s impossible for someone with a touch of fairness in his soul not to see how horrid we can be to people who don’t.

We worship babies in a way that would have made Egyptian supplicants to cat-gods think “That’s a little much.” We treat them as inevitable whens, not optional ifs, and make those who simply don’t want to trade their rich, full lives for shit-filled rags and endless Seuss defend their stance. We turn every social encounter into a jury trial and every friend to a hostile prosecutor grilling you with an incredulous “You don’t want kids?” while judge and jurors glare with scorn.

It’s probably better not to want one of you, Simon. Makes more sense for money, stress, waistline and career. But I want one of you. I’ll happily trade nights out for endless conversations about the consistency of poop and whether we should call the doctor about it, which I assume is like 80 percent of parenting.

So what do I say to you now, Simon in my arms as your daddy grills burgers and your mom chats happily with my wife? Do I tell you of puppy dogs, rainbows and first kisses? Do I warn you that the world’s going to break your heart and, statistically speaking, probably one or more of your bones? Do I promise you a good world or a bad one, and why does holding you in my arms make me want to promise you anything?

You stretch out your arm again and end up with your hand laying on top of mine. I am undone, and notify my wife of the situation. She nods and coos, but doesn’t understand that what just happened is the greatest occurrence the planet has ever known.

The world fucking sucks, Simon pure. And, despite what grandmothers and parents’ friends will murmur, you don’t have endless options. Demographics and sociology ensure some options will never be yours, and you have options others will never get to try. You’ll always be an American, born in a big city founded by fur traders and murderers in the American Midwest. You’ll always have that white skin that will get you out of so many scrapes it’ll take you 20, 30 years and a lot of black literature to realize you were protected at all, and that some others would have handled themselves better but fared worse. You will always have been born with the boy parts.

You’ll never be rich enough to buy a nation. You’ll never be poor enough to know true hunger. Your first word, be it ball, Dada, tree or the name of Bruce the lonely-eyed dog eyeing the food on our plates and the attention that used to be on him, will be in English, not French, Cantonese, Yoruba or Farsi. Your path has already been set in so many, many ways.

That’s not meant to be sad or dismissive. If your skin and gender of birth give you privilege, be worth that privilege. Use it to help others. Your relative wealth will keep you safe. Your relative poverty will keep you moral. English is a crazy-tricky and nonsensical language (tough, though, through, trough, thorough), but has a boundless, ever-growing vocabulary to tap, with more synonyms than any other tongue. It’s fluid and resilient, not a bad language to shape your neural paths.

I don’t know if that last bit’s what happens in your brain as you grow, but your mom can teach you science. Your dad can teach you art and, as I’m about to find out, how to grill a damn good burger.

And I can count your little fingers and, at least for now, hold you in my arms.

Read about more kids

Some go to high school

And then some go to college

Some become assholes

Some dream

They watch the world change around them

And, alone, they smile

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You are currently reading #923: Simon Pure by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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