Saturday, January 08, 2005

Sweets and Beauties

John Updike's short story Daughter, Last Glimpses Of tells a father's view of his daughter's last days at home before her leaving to move in with a man. The father's glimpses of her doing ordinary things is suddenly charged with the upcoming transition. The daughter is radiantly happy-- in our simplicity, we had named her Joy -- and the father, his world order somewhat shaken, looks on sadly, happily, and in awe all at once:


How big my daughter looked!-- freckled, with sloping daughter's shoulders, standing at the height of health beside the shrunken stoic shape from whom she was descended, And for me (the father) it was as if, in one of those swift thrilling crossovers the good jitterbuggers could do, they had switched positions from the distant moment when my toddling infant daughter had fallen against a hot wooden stove in Vermont and her grandmother, so calm the cigarette never left her mouth, applied ice and butter and soothing words to the scorched arm that must have felt, to the astonished, shrieking child, seized by Death itself

Updike perfectly captures the mysterious, capsizing power children have over one's assumptions. Kids keep growing up, faster than you'd like. They race through their stages before you can mentally adjust to their last achievement. It keeps you breathless. Sad, happy and in awe. And like a photographic negative of Shakespeare's "Sweets and Beauties" sonnet, a droplet of death is right in there with that torrent of life.

I got some very good news in December, then good news again, and yet a third piece of good news this week. We are certain about heading home now; we still need to figure out a lot, but it's done. And I feel that same strange admixture of emotions, normally provoked by my kids, but now just coming with glimpses of our life in Munich. Only this time I'm the one whose changes are upending the established order. My consciousness is repeatedly astonished to remember that these are the days, the final days before... other days.

--Winter blue skies and bike trails. Grumpy, aged dayhikers, miles from anywhere and nevertheless in a rush.
--A German yogurt, blueberry, the most intense 35 cents I'll ever spend.
--The continual three-way fluster of cashier and customers, as each paid-out customer gets bombarded with the next guy's stuff, time after time.
--Tegernseer beer, pure Bavarian Helles, from a lake that will break your heart, and a sledding slope that will break
everything else.
--The mystifying and immediate feeling when you cross between France and Germany. Even the air is different. How do they do that?

Happy new year, everyone.

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