A bit of urban bliss

Posted by jdg | Saturday, September 16, 2006 | ,

It is a late night for a baby, almost 9:30 p.m. and she's still up in the next room, listening to her mother read her Blueberries for Sal, a book I bought her yesterday because the young protagonist had meant something to me as a kid and now reminded me a bit of Juniper. I sat down to write this having just returned from a bar looking at beautiful photographs taken by women who are part of the local flickr group Exposure Detroit, and Juniper spent time with her new favorite family, plopping down on Maddie's lap to listen to Max read her Are You My Mother (a book her mother and I hate) which Max read to her so sweetly I later had to peel the dried crust of my heart from the wooden planks of the deck of the bar where I stood around drinking Bell's Two Hearted Ale and talking to Melissa and Logan and wondering why it took me so long to move back to Michigan.

First of all it was that kind of night I've missed for what seems like forever, the kind of summer night I used to think about on August business trips to Manhattan while walking around the city at twilight, remembering that in places that aren't San Francisco the nights are warm and people sit drinking on stoops or porches and kids play ball in the streets or the fields until the deepening dusk alone ends their games and they are forced to retire behind screen windows that block out the hollow mourning of mosquitoes but not the sounds of cicadas' songs. I missed this, I realized tonight, being out there in the night without a coat, not fighting the fog or the brisk chill of the Pacific and its single season of mild, humid cold. I will have to wait almost a year before showing Juniper lightning bugs, but knowing that they are out there somewhere, overwintering, I am still glad that I am close to their slippery silent bodies in the night.

Some people have been so fearful or skeptical about our blogging, suggesting the elaborate danger of throwing all this information about ourselves out into the void, imagining scenarios of all the possible ugliness that might pass because of it. Where does this fucked-up perception come from that half the people with an internet connection are extremely patient child molesters interested only in incorporating our bloated depictions of devotion to our daughter and photos of her standing in silly costumes in front of graffiti into their twisted and elaborate masturbation fantasies? It turns out Wood and I learned after a full year of blogging that the grizzled old white guy who lived across the street from us in San Francisco, whose windows looked directly into ours and who would smile at Juniper on our way to the coffee shop, had been convicted of raping a child under the age of 12 a few years earlier. And here I had spent a whole year reconciling all kinds of irrational fears about the blog.

Watching Juniper play with Max and Maddie, the sweetness of it, it made me feel so good, even if sometimes it seemed like she was ready to pack her bags and go live with them. I have worried and will continue to worry that by staying home with her and taking her for photo shoots down by the docks and in cemeteries I will be selfishly denying her the socializiation she needs and craves. Seeing her with other kids, especially older kids she worships likes Max and Maddie, did make me feel so much better. She's met so many babies and kids whose parents we met through blogs, both on the road and in California, and there are so many more I know we'll meet, with train rides to Chicago and trips to Portland and other places that will come, and all of this just makes me feel that this has been such a good thing. If we haven't met you yet, or even if we never do, I get such a comfort knowing you are out there, silent in the night.

These feelings swelled in me as we made the very short drive back from the bar near the banks of the Detroit River, and a little drunk I looked back on our daughter who I've spent such a wonderful week with. She was chattering away, in the back seat, demanding to be driven "back" to Max and Maddie, who by then were already in their car on the way back up to Royal Oak, a place not far away but far enough that we probably never would have met any of them had it not been for blogs. She then stopped her demands and tried a different tact, perhaps her new strategy of manipulation:

Juniper said in the clearest voice, "Mama pretty," and as she did Wood clutched her chest with her hand that wasn't on the steering wheel and she looked at me with a face that said, "Christ Dutch how did we ever live without that little thing snapped tight in the back seat?" and then Juniper looked at me and said, "Dada pretty," and those words meant more to me than even all the decency everyone has shown me in the last few weeks as I have tried and failed to grow a full beard. And I knew right then, driving through Detroit with the windows down on a warm September night that I would blog about it.

I would have driven her anywhere she wanted to go after that. But with Wood's promises of milk and books and her bed, she realized she only wanted to go home. With us.