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Notes from the Small Pond: Homegoing

Here’s what’s beautiful:

Your daughter’s firstborn, rolling on the floor like she did at that age, chin-drooling like she did, round, wet eyes like underwater jewels and an insatiable appetite for pretend-rough, morning bed-wrestling, the inexplicable joy of him giggling and growling and the unfathomable poignancy of watching her watch the two of you, seeing her remembering herself as him, a lifetime ago and a moment, something in her catching every time you get close to Too Much, the way your wife did when you were the same with her in that Sahlman Avenue Apartment #46 on 18th. … and him played out, exhausted and puffing like a brook trout, flat and spread-eagle on his back, no fear of vulnerability, proving your daughter is as gifted at Motherhood as hers. … Adults are rarely comfortable flat on their back and spread-eagled. Because they know better about vulnerability.

Here’s what’s sad:

Your daughter’s firstborn, cheeks ablaze with fever, virus coursing through his system, while you, your wife and daughter all share the same. And, while the three of you know what “fever” means, he only knows what it “is,” no name for it or concept, just pain and confusion and an otherwise blessed 21-month life’s first horror.

Horror is fear without fully understanding the source.

Fear is going to the dentist for a scheduled root canal.

Horror is being clicked into a car seat without having your thirst slaked and the grownups preoccupied with the deals at Home Goods, your water bottle in someone’s purse, you having no clue how long you’ll be thusly confined and thirsty .…

Horror is being 21 months old, waking up with a headful of fire, your skin pressed outward like sausage casing, trying to cool itself the only way skin can — inducing perspiration. Behind your eyes, your heartbeat throbs, painfully, and the strangeness of it is as upsetting as the pain itself, because you know it, not. Above you tower the giant adults — the same ones that have always made you safe, fed, clean, content — and now there’s a sensory vibration emanating from them that you can only read as their own fear, and the strangeness of it, the pure, unmitigated foreignness of it, compels you to object in the only way you know — your knowing itself just reflexive — so you wail your lament, your objection to this anomaly. And the giants emanate more, cyclical, negative feedback loop.

Here’s what’s touching:

They grow up. Of course they do and everyone knows that, including me. However, what I guess I never quite realized was that once they go from slobbery and chubby and cherubic to straw-haired and wiry and confident, to preteen tinsel-toothed and athletic, to high school shockingly beautiful like their mother, to independent, collegiate, to lovingly betrothed, to achingly happily married, to … Motherhood … once a daughter gets to motherhood … she still keeps growing up .…

I hadn’t anticipated that. Somehow, I guess I figured there’d be an End Stop where the Growing Up concludes and the rest of eternity would glide ever onward, through the rest and end of my life with her sort of treading water and time, maintaining her admittedly dramatically dimmed need of me, requirement for me — that need and requirement that, at one point, magically turned reciprocal about the age her son is now — about the time she learned to smile at me — the smile she saved for me, different than her smile for anyone else, the same one her son saves for me now ...

She used to stand at the back door and cry when I left for work.

Now I do when she does.

There is no going like Homegoing.

Cloquet’s Parnell Thill is a past “Columnist of the Year” winner in Minnesota and author of “Killing the Devil and Other Excellent Tricks,” available online. His opinions are his own, as are a few of the moments he describes to make his point. Contact him c/o [email protected].