Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Pond

(11 months)

Dear Trevor,

We have been to The Pond several times in the last week, and it is always a great time for us both. The Pond is the swimming hole made by damming a stream on the Waldorf School property. There is diving at one end and a great, sandy beach running the length of one side. You love the water and the sand. You don't understand yet about the slope of the bottom, so you go fearlessly in and I have to stop you before the water goes over your head. I'm pleased that you like the water. As a child there was no place I would rather be than at the beach or a swimming pool. You are such a lot of fun to be with on the beach. Everything interests you, even the taste of sand. You are developing fine shoveling skills. This happens during the same period you are exploring the manipulation of a spoon vis-à-vis food on a dish. I think you may have gotten the context confused. This occurs to me when you put a shovelful of sand in your mouth. What a face you make. I carry you into the water to wash your mouth, laughing all the way. You don't complain or cry, but you are happy to get the sand out.

The Pond is also a wonderful place for spotting airplanes. You have developed a habit of pointing at them. You spot them, and then track them across the sky. Smiling all the way. At first I didn’t get it. You point to the sky, I look up, there is nothing there and I look away. I learn pretty quickly that you hear them before anyone else does and before they are visible. You point, look at me and your mom, and pretty soon a plane appears. We are always pleased to be informed there is a plane in the vicinity.

Love, Daddy

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hurt Feelings

(3 years, 7 months)

Dear Trevor,

Night before last Mommy left us and fell asleep on the couch. Usually we sleep, me, mommy, you, and the barrier. So now it’s just me, you, and the barrier. You are unusually restive, or maybe I just don't know how you usually sleep, as your Mommy is always between us. At least until she sprints for work. Anyway, several times during the night I wake up with your feet kicking me in the side. I moved you over to your side and you don't wake up, or you do briefly and snuggled into the barrier and fall quickly asleep. Then, some time in the middle of the night, you crawled up to me, and in a move typical for you, press your head against mine. I adjusted. Then you rose up off the pillow and in repositioning your head bang your skull into mine. You do not seem to mind these head banging encounters, but I, groggy, and a little surly, am annoyed. I lift you none too gently and heave you over to your side again. This time you don't go right to sleep. You toss around a bit before getting up and going to Mommy in the living room. You tell her, ‘Daddy moved me over and he hurt my feelings.’

She says, ‘You'll have to tell him in the morning.’

You wake me up in the morning by saying, ‘Daddy, are you awake?’

You’re kneeling by my head, sitting on your heels when I open my eyes. I smile at you. You say, ‘You hurt my feelings when you moved me over last night.’

I remember the incident, and I remembered my annoyance. It didn't seem to me that I had been that much rougher than the previous times I had moved you, but there it was. You got it. You'd felt my impatience, and your understanding was dead on. It's not easy to be called to account for irritability first thing in the morning. I say, ‘When I moved you over to your side of the bed, I hurt your feelings.’

You say, ‘Yes.’

I say, I'm sorry I hurt your feelings.’

You say, ‘That's okay.’

I say, ‘Come here.’

I lay on my side. You put your head down next to mine, and roll into me, pressing your back against my chest. You grab my upside ear and began to fondle it. You say, ‘I like your ears, all the time.’

Love, Daddy

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


(3 years 6 months)

Dear Trevor,

The other morning you were standing between my knees when you asked where my daddy was. I have no idea what prompted the question. I said, ‘My daddy is dead.’

You said, ‘Oh, I'm sorry.’

I said, ‘Thank you. But you don't have to be sorry. My father was old when he died. Everything dies. If it lives, someday it will die.’

You asked, ‘Will you die?’

I said, ‘Someday.’

You asked, ‘Will Mommy die?’

I said, ‘Yes, someday.’

‘And I'll be all alone,’ you said,

I said, ‘You don't have to be concerned about that now. It won't happen for a long time. And when it does, we think you will be ready and able to take care of yourself. After all, being a child is just one step on a wonderful road of experience and achievement. When that happens, you will be a man. And it is a wonderful thing to be a man. Just as you now see it is a wonderful thing to be a child.’

You nodded.

You walked away and got involved in your trains.

Love, Daddy

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sugar Sugar

(3 years, 7 months)

Dear Trevor,

Jane Broady writes a column in the The New York Times about food and health. In yesterday’s column she wrote that the average teenage boy consumes 34 teaspoons of sugar a day, and a girl consumes 24 teaspoons. That’s amazing.

So in an effort to get ahead of the curve I have told you the story and cut out your added sugar diet. That means no sodas, or cereals with added sugars. If the sugar’s natural to the product, that’s okay.

So I’m standing at the counter putting sugar in my coffee and you say, You’ve got to cut out the sugar, Dad.

Love, Daddy

Thursday, September 23, 2010

End of Days

(3 years 5 months)

Dear Trevor,

Mommy got your Phases of the Moon poster framed. We hung it on the wall in the hallway at Trevor height, and you have become intensely interested in the calendar. You ‘read’ the months and count the days over and over.

I use quotation marks up there because I thought I was helping you with them yesterday, only to realize you have the months just about memorized. Today I’m in the kitchen and you’re lying on the floor in the dinning area, kind of half watching me. In general you are a busy guy. You’ve got your extensive train collections, your Stix, and now you are just getting into Leggos. But there are times when you are like you are now, which seem to me to be pensive. If I referred your current state to myself I’d call it contemplative. And damned if here it doesn’t come. ‘When we get to December,’ you ask, ‘what came next.’

That rocked me a bit, and I answered cautiously. I said, ‘Nothing comes after December, honey. What we do is start all over again with January.’

You come right back at me, ‘But what's the last day of December?’

‘December has thirty-one days, so the last day we call the thirty-first.’

‘And then do we die?’ you ask.

I knew something was coming. I think I have to give you the short answer, though I feel guilty doing it. ‘No,’ I say, ‘we don’t die. Days are just the way we have of keeping track of time. The days go on and on, there's no last day. There is always tomorrow, day after day. ‘Every year you have a birthday in August. So August keeps coming around. If August didn't come around you wouldn't have a birthday, and you'd always be three years old.’

You gave me a look like you weren't buying it. ‘Think of it,’ I said, ‘what would happen if we woke up and there was no more day?’

You looked at me for a few moments, then your face lighted up, ‘We just stay home,’ you said.

Love, Daddy

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First Pediatrician Visit

Dear Trevor,

We leave the house around nine. It’s a bright August morning. You are two weeks old and we are going to visit a pediatrician at Nyack Hospital. During the two hundred and sixty six days you were a guest in your mommy’s womb, right through your birth, midwives attended to yours and mommy’s needs. Never has a guest been treated more graciously, nor assisted to depart more gracefully. There is an old saying that a man needs a nurse until he’s ready for the doctor. Well, I think you’re ready.
The truth is, we aren’t ready. It’s embarrassing that in all this time we haven’t given a thought to pediatricians. I think we are delirious. I’ll call it expectancy-induced hysterical silliness. Each visit with the wives sends us back up the Palisades singing oldies. We just can’t wait to get home.

So it was just last week we dug out the phone book. I expected to find a long list of pediatricians. It does seem half the county is pregnant, and the other half is busy jamming the village sidewalks with strollers and baby carriages.

But no, all the pediatricians for miles around are stacked up in two clinics. There are a few hiding in the woods, but we figured, start close to home. I cold-called Nyack Hospital, which hosts a large clinic. They said, ‘Who is your attending physician?’ Rather than respond I said, ‘I’d like to make an appointment with a pediatrician for the first visit of an infant boy.’ There was a long hesitation. I thought, damn, she’s going to call the cops. But I did know I was being discounted. Man, its cold out there.

And here we are. And damn if it isn’t cold. The first room we enter is enormous. I can just see the top of a head behind a curved counter to our right. To our left are a dozen rows of empty chairs. The center of the room e opens on a long, wide corridor. Somewhere, way toward the other end of that corridor, a baby is crying heartily.

I had been told to come early, to allow time for the copious paper work. I stand quietly for a while looking over the barrier at the gatekeepers’ head. As always I’m vigorously dandling you. It seems you have renounced stillness. Finally I clear my throat and introduce us. Now, honey, I swear I have never seen this woman before, but she slings a sheaf of papers on the counter and instructs us with such enmity that a person might think I was her obstreperous son in law. What she does not know is that your mommy is to paper work what one of those four story tall combine harvesters is to a field of wheat. It’s all buzz and flying dust. When we gently drop the completed forms on her desk she flinches.

By now I really do not want to be here. In fact, everything inside me is screaming to just forget the whole thing. I do not see anything ahead but further pain. Yet I hesitate. We do need a pediatrician for you. The difficulties we are having with your feeding and sleeping must be overcome. And our failure each day is debilitating my general confidence, and it can’t be good for you. The stakes seemed so high, and this is the customary path. I have to fight my instincts, ignore the imploring of my soul. I feel I am being trapped by ignorance. I hate it, and I promise you I will figure out how to live our lives and not some role we are forced to fulfill. I think our survival depends on it. In the process I will do my best not to become an iconoclast and turn you into a recalcitrant child. Wish me luck.

In preparation for the pediatrician’s visit a nurse appears and shows us to a room. ‘Undress the baby,’ she says. I ask her why, and immediately I see I’ve done it again. Two up, two alienated. With one tiny word I have made it onto her shit list. Her body displays impatience, her face displays condescension. ‘Because I have to weigh him,’ she tosses at us just before the door slams behind her.
It’s a large room, almost empty, with a hard asphalt tile floor, and the A/C is cranking like a nor’easter slamming down the Hudson Valley. It is cold. I got a bad feeling. This is not good, I am thinking.

There is a counter with cabinets running along two walls and I sit you down on one, never letting go of course. It is August, so we did not dress you for this winter climate. Your immediate destination is on the counter opposite us. A bare stainless steel tray shaped to accommodate a reclining infant, rests on a shiny balance scale. I do not need to touch it. I know that to lay you naked on that bed of steel would be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done, and the biggest mistake or your little life.

I strip you down to your skivvies and we wait. When the nurse reap-pears, she says, ‘Take his shirt off,’ and takes up a position next to the scale. Now this piece of cotton she’s calling a shirt could be packed into a thimble. It’s so fine it could pass for threadbare. It’s so short it fails to cover your navel. If it was on one side of a balance beam and a diaper pin was dropped on the other side, it would fly into the air.

I say to the nurse, ‘I know you want to track his growth. I understand that, but when we come back in two weeks he will be about a pound heavier. So at that time I will have him dressed in this same shirt, and…. And then she was gone. Just like that. The sound of the door made me think of the gates of hell.

I zip you back into your little tracksuit, and we go out to the waiting area to encounter the doctor. He is relatively young and relatively good looking and has a relatively pleasant voice. He starts off by saying that we would be back in two weeks to begin your series of inoculations. And I say, ‘Doc, I was hoping we could talk about that.’ And he says, ‘Mr. Freeman, I think you would be happier some place else.’ I say, ‘thank you doctor.’

Now we can go home.

Love, Daddy

Monday, September 13, 2010


(3 years, 2 months)

Dear Trevor,

I pick you up at Nani’s. It is the kind of perfect autumn day New England is famous for. The sky is bright blue with a few puffy white clouds, the temperature is moderate, and the trees are beginning to dress in red and gold for their annual color pageant. As we are driving through Nanuet I realize I have some extra time before my next appointment and we decide to visit Nanuet Park. It is one of your favorites.

We enter the park and see four children running on the wooden palisades. They are a blond boy of about five, named Conner, who we’ve seen before, a girl of four, a boy slightly younger, and another boy perhaps two and half who straggles after them.

This is the park of large wooden structures built of fat woodpiles on Church Street in Nanuet. Its various parts are connected by sling bridges and elevated walkways, or I should say runways, some open, some enclosed, that travel all over the playground. It has turreted towers and narrow spaces you have to wiggle through on many levels. There are lots of hidden intersections, clear runs and bridges of truck tires connected with chains. For you, who could be correctly named Running-Climbing Boy, this park is Jubilation City.

You love to run, and most especially, you love to chase. We do not get to this park often. The children are running on the constructions when we entered the park and you quickly join them and give chase. Conner is the leader. You all make a circuit of half the ramparts, and crossing to the other set the younger boy bumps his head and is out of the running.

His crying brings three women, who had been sitting at a picnic table on the park perimeter, closer to the action, where he is comforted with words and food. Conner continues his run with the older boy following, but the girl pulls up to observe the drama of the injured boy. The older boy breaks away from Conner and circles back to the women. He’s rewarded with food and a container of juice.

You watch for a moment and then take off for another circuit. The girl follows you. And on you go scrambling up steep steps, crossing bridges, climbing ladders, circling through convoluted passages of irregular levels in narrow spaces. When you realize the girl is following you, you run like a gale, your face an expression of contained glee, lips spread, mouth open, jaw moving, as if chewing your happiness. Watching you at times like these I feel my¬self grinning, you are the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. You are Baryshnikov of the Palisades. Your happiness opens my heart like the sun causing a ripe tomato to burst its skin; I can feel the juice running through my limbs.

Skirt flying, the girl runs across the middle part of the construction. The boy, hampered by his juice container, follows her, but you quickly lap the pack and pass him. She chooses one of the paths you are most fond of, up several long steps, through a little house, out on to a platform and down a little slide into the sandbox. You are not too keen on slides, though sometimes they're okay. Now, when you come to the slide you take the alternate route, emerging on one side of the sandbox. Conner unexpectedly appears on the opposite side of the sandbox. The girl moves toward him. The boy emerges from the slide and follows her.
Speaking into some middle distance, but addressing the girl, Conner says, Why is that baby following you?

I feel it, as I know you were meant to feel it, like a blow to the heart, like a jackboot has squashed my tomato. But in this moment, I’m not exactly me. It is as you I feel the pain, as if I am you and me both. And it isn't my tomato; really, it is the perfectly open flower of your innocence I feel smashed. Crazily, I hope you haven’t heard it.

I’m nonplussed. I’m aching. I want revenge. I would never have imagined I could feel homicidal toward a five year old. Holy God, what the hell am I supposed to do? I understand right away I cannot follow my impulse and wring his filthy little neck. What? Cry to his parents? Even at that moment I know that would make me look foolish and accomplish nothing. I must have read fifty primers while you were preparing for your birth, and not a one mentioned what would be appropriate behavior in a situation like this. I do not for a moment, however, think I have stumbled onto a unique example of childhood deportment.

Strangely, or maybe not, I find myself frightened. I don’t hear any words, but the fear, I think it’s the fear, raises an impulse that cautions: Re-evaluate the stakes. Thank god for my training. I take a deep breath. I feel my belly; I feel the pressure of the earth against the soles of my feet. I pray not to fuck up.
The girl, steps out of the box to stand next to Conner. She immediately seizes his question and repeats it. I’m astonished. The boy, who is now on the periphery, is puzzled. He is about the same height as you. Who's the baby? he asks. The girl points to you and he instantly understands the game. Baby, he shouts at you. Conner and the girl run off and he chases them.

I'm not sure if you know what has happened. You hesitate, but then you run after them. Conner splits off to hang on a chinning bar, and the others mill around in a kind of distracted quandary near where the mothers sit chatting. You observe this dispersion and lack of activity for a moment, and then run off to the high palisades.
By the time you've returned to ground level, the three children are regrouped and you move to join them. Conner and the girl run up the tire pile and across a platform. You start after them. The boy, whom I hadn't been watching, appears on a platform five feet above you. Juice in one hand, a half eaten something in the other, he points at you, knees bent, body tense, arm and finger extended. His face is flushed, his voice loud, his mouth full of food. He jeers at you, There's the baby!

It is hard to accuse a four year old of being hateful. But if his act was played by an adult, no one would hesitate to supply the emotion of crazed accuser, shouting, There he goes, he’s the killer. And this time you get it. I wince as I see you receive it like a body blow, your shoulders hunch, you hang your head. Dear God I want to hurt this boy.

I am in the circle of benches next to the platform and above where you are now sitting on the lowest tire in the chain. I can feel your dejection and bewilderment. I start around the benches and am descending toward you when Conner and the girl run by me. They stop next to you. I stay a good six feet away, careful not to intrude on their space. I don't want them to feel threatened or run away. Conner swings from a post, looking out across the playground, but the girl looks right at you. You look up at her. I'm not a baby, you say in a sad voice, I'm a boy.
You're a baby, the girl says, looking right at you.

I call your name and you look up at me. I say, If you want to, you can tell her that she's being mean and nasty, and you don't like her.
You're being mean and nasty, you say, with very little inflection and no heat.
The girl, however, is shocked. She looks at me. That's a bad word, she says. I don’t know which word she is referring to. I say, It may be a bad word, but it's the truth. You are being mean and nasty.

She is aghast. Conner runs away and she follows. They ended up on the tire swing that hangs from one of the walkways.I tell you that they are being mean and you have done nothing to deserve their ridicule. Besides, they are really acting dumb.
You kind of nod and walk under the construction. I walk the other way to where I can observe the children on the swing. The boy has joined them.

You come around the construction and stop about fifteen feet from them. You pick up a handful of gravel and toss it at them, underhanded, with so little aggression it travels only a few feet. I step off the platform and start toward you. You throw another handful of gravel and this time it reaches them. I call to you across a bridge of chains. You come toward me with a fist full of gravel. I say, I know you want to throw the gravel, but it's not a good idea. I say, You're angry. And you nod. I say, I understand, it’s right for you to be angry. I say, You can say anything you want to these children, but you cannot throw gravel at them. It will get you in trouble, and they are the ones who deserve to get in trouble. You can say, You're not nice guys, and I don't want to play with you. So that is what you do. You turn to face them and say, You are not nice guys, and I don’t want to play with you. I was proud of you.

I take your hand. It is time to go anyway. We've done our usual fifteen minutes and you’re ready. We walk near the platform where the women are still sitting and chatting. I speak in a clear, moderate voice. I say, Are any of you related to these children? They all rise and as a chorus to let me know they are indeed connected to these children. I say, Are you aware that these three children have been tormenting this boy with the word baby? They have been doing their best to humiliate him, they have been jeering and taunting?

They respond like a chorus, but speak in a Babel of voices. One woman says, They are the same age as he is. Another says, They're only playing.
I don't get what the other is saying. I say, Ladies, we’d love to stay and chat, but we really must be going. Talk to your children.
I squeeze your hand we walk away.

Love, Daddy

Monday, August 23, 2010

Swimming at the club

(3 years 11 months)

Dear Trevor,

Sunday night showed just how silly a set of parents can be—we didn’t get much sleep. Mommy decided to stay home from work on Monday so she could spend your first ever day of summer camp with you at the Nyack Field Club. We have concerns about your ability to take care of yourself. The children at the club are not all darlings, and you have no unchaperoned experience with peers. In the sandbox you encountered many boys, a little older, a little bigger, who would have gladly left tractor tracks across your little body had I not dissuaded them. The voice and gestures you use with Mommy and me when you strongly disagree with us would be sufficient to avoid harm in all but the most violent encounters, but you lack training in their proper use. It’s interesting that the forceful expression of your needs and wants to us seems to have come to you naturally, but you do not seem to detect approaching danger in the form of a malevolent kid. Both your mommy and me are hyper alert, as are most of the people I treat in therapy. People raised without violence in their childhood are different.

Something just occurred to me: Right from the beginning people have responded to you differently than they do to most children. Every adult in whose care we have left you, even for a few hours, has commented positively on your deportment in a way that implicitly includes comparison to other children they have experienced. If I put this next to my recent musings about the perception of innocence as beauty, to which we are all drawn, and which I’m coming to think is the lure of the pedophile, I wonder if this isn’t a hidden factor of your effortless charm.
Anyway, so there we are in bed Sunday night chatting away to dispel our fear. I start to drift off and your mommy just starts speaking as if I am wide awake, which, of course, I become. I finally resort to a vodka and soda, but I think your mommy didn’t sleep all night.

I drop you both off at the club Monday morning and pick you up at noon. Watching you walk away through the parking lot holding hands, the little tennis racquet swinging at your side, was a charming moment.

Yesterday was my turn. Mommy gave me a favorable report about yesterday, and I especially wanted to watch your swimming lesson, hoping to pick up ideas about how to teach. I was late getting up and we had to fly through Brush-Teeth, Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum, and Get-Dressed. But we made it on time, just.

Your swimming lesson surprised by being an organized, professional presentation of a well thought out technique. I was impressed. At one end of the pool the water is three feet deep, but quickly gets deeper. A wide staircase of deep, shallow steps is set into each corner like a fan. There you sit, ten of you, facing your instructors who are standing in water up to their waists. First thing to learn is how to blow bubbles. To do this you must put your face in the water. You pick your head up to inhale, and put your face in the water to exhale. After practicing that for a while you add wind-milling arms. And then it gets fun. Your teacher stands off about five feet, and says, Come to me Trevor, and you leap forward toward her. Before you need to take a stroke, she scoops you up with all the appropriate squealing and congratulatory sounds that let you know you’ve just pleased her beyond her wildest expectations. She then turns you around and launches you back to the steps. The names of these sweet eighteens, your teachers, are Dawn and Jessica, and they are a couple of clever lasses.

In conversation Dawn refers to you as an angel. Jessica calls you angelic. As your swimming instructors they have a close, personal relationship with you. Now I’m not saying you run a number on these sweet things, but how do you manage not to show them any of you other facets? Are you never cantankerous with them? Aggressive? Obstreperous? Furious? Stubborn? Obdurate? Uncooperative? Utterly selfish? Well, not yet anyway.

We eat lunch in the shade of some oak trees, and then you have your tennis lesson. It’s a group lesson. And it resembles nothing so much as a Laurel and Hardy routine. There are four contiguous courts in the practice area. This is where the pro gives lessons, or a person can use the ball throwing machine, or a large number of kids can run around like positively and negatively charged sub-atomic particles careening off each other in a hilarious dance of tennis wand waving—to the goddess I assume.

After that we go swimming for an hour. Then we play in the sandbox till four. We then go home, take a shower together, which is always a hilarious time, and prepare supper. You’re an ace at peeling and chopping garlic. Not a bad day!

Three Weeks Later:
I'm blown away by the progress you've made in swimming. The fact is that you have learned to swim in three weeks. When, at the end of the first week you were still unwilling to put your head under water, I was concerned. Then suddenly, toward the end of the second week, we went into the big pool and you swam to me under water. This is how they teach all the children to swim. I was absolutely delighted. You launched yourself off the stairs and swam to me as if you'd been doing it all your life. But equally impressive, was your delight. You were thrilled with your ability.

The water is just deep enough at the end of the pool that by squatting I can form a shelf with my thighs. You swim to me, pull yourself up, turn, and launch back toward the stairs. Then, on Friday, you showed me you could swim all by yourself by coming off the stairs on one side of the pool and swimming in an arc to other side.

Your teacher is impressed with your progress. She told me that it is unusual for a child still short of four to use his arms like you do. I think you will be swimming on top of the water very soon.

Love, Daddy

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How I Met Your Mom

How I Met Your Mom

(in situ)
Dear Trevor,

This is the story my sisters and I begged our parents to tell. Just a few years ago I was fine with the idea of not having any children, relieved in fact, that the question was no longer pertinent; it just didn’t arise with the women I dated.

At age nineteen I had decided it would not be a good thing for me to have children. I met a guy one year older than me, who became my friend, who had three children. It was a shock to realize that I was now old enough to be a father. That was different from being old enough to make a girl pregnant, very different.

My new friend taught me how to dive with scuba gear. On my first dive we just flopped over the side and followed the anchor rope down one hundred feet to a coral reef where we shot black snapper. He also taught me how to water-ski. I stood up on my first try and was on a slalom before the day was over. We ate a lot of deep fried fish and hush puppies together, and drank a lot of beer. He was just another young man, and yet he was a father. I thought there was something profound about this guy that I didn't understand, and all the time we spent together I was studying him. I also studied his wife, who I fell in love with, and I studied his children, the first I'd ever known. The main purpose of all this study was trying to understand how I felt about being a father.

I'd only been away from home a couple of years, and what education I had came from reading in the base library. But I had already done enough reading to know that my path was fractured, and that I was out of step with mainstream society. I had no idea why this should be so. When I thought of my father I got only the most vague of images. Not that I couldn't visualize him, but I had no idea what his life was about, why he'd had children, no less four of us. I thought of him as a kind man who had done his best for me. And I thought that if I was the best he could do, what chance did I have of doing better? I concluded none, and settled the issue of having children for the next thirty-eight years.

Even after I met your mother it was a while before the idea arose. And when it did it arrived in a kind of backhanded way. I remember walking up Main Street toward my office, and I remember the sun was shining, and I remember being happy. And then, out of the wild blue yonder, riding into my brain came this thought: Well, if she hasn't gotten pregnant by now, it’s got to be at least four to one that she never will—what a shame that all the things I’ve learned about life, that I have paid so dearly for, will end with me.

Up to that moment I wasn’t even aware of what I was thinking. And then I was, aware that is, of my thoughts, and that stopped me dead in the middle of the sidewalk. I was stunned. I understood that what had surfaced I must have been thinking about on a level I’d hidden from myself for quite some time, perhaps since I'd met your mother. Why not? She was all woman and very juicy.
To discover that I wanted a child, that I'd finally found a woman I wanted to have a child with, and to conclude that we would not have a child, was a terrible moment. I didn't want to cry, and above all I didn't want to be bitter, I'd been though that. Letting go of bitterness had enabled me to restart my life by going to graduate school. And so I let go of that sadness right then, before it could wreck the best thing I'd ever had, the joy and deep healing your mommy brought to me.

There were also some facts: she'd had two operations to remove cysts from her ovaries and she was going on forty. Also, your mom-to-be and happiness were my close companions. My practice was growing, my yoga classes were growing, I had a great woman, and we tripped the light fantastic.
We had such a happy, complete, comfortable little life.

We met while I was studying for a Masters degree at the Columbia University School of Social Work. I was fifty-three. Mommy was thirty-eight. I was taking classes two days a week, doing a clinical internship three days a week, and teaching Hatha Yoga three nights a week at the New Age Center in Nyack.

Mommy remembers our first encounter in the lobby of the New Age Center. I was checking the bulletin board when she came through the entrance and hit me in the back with the door. She was startled, apologized, and says she got such a shock from our exchange that she told a co-worker, That man is going to play a role in my life.

My first memory is seeing her in the studio in the spot furthest away from me. She wore tights and a leotard, and I remember thinking she was in great condition, strong and shapely. I was attracted to her, but didn't do anything about it for months. Had she been a little older I might have moved sooner. I was finding that my major research interest in school was the field of child sexual abuse. I identified with the children and my reading of the professional literature was confirming effects I had discovered in my own psychotherapy. Also, I was keenly aware that every type and level of the Eastern religious movement in the United States was being racked with sexual scandals where teachers had taken advantage of students. I hated the teachers for their treacherousness. I understood the power of the teacher. After all, if I told my students to stand on their heads, they would do it. So I was scared. And I waited.

Came Christmas, the class your mommy was in bought me a gold chain for the jade Buddha I hadn't been wearing because the necklace broke and my jeweler wouldn't repair it, saying it was too stretched out and he was afraid I'd lose the jewel if it broke again. And then a few days after Christmas I got a gift certificate from the Columbia bookstore signed by your mommy. I was even more scared.

I talked things over with my psychotherapist and decided a movie and right home couldn't hurt anything. When I picked your Mommy up she was wearing a fancy sports warm-up suit of a type that was fashionable at the time, in bright teal and cream, and white sneakers. I was flabbergasted. Fashionable, yes, that was my type of woman, but sports! Lord, I thought, she's an athlete, this is going to go nowhere. But it was a pleasant evening, we had some laughs and I was still attracted to her when we said good night.

So a week later, after class at Columbia, I drove down to 52nd Street and Third Avenue to pick her up. This time she climbs into the car sporting a power suit with padded shoulders, corporate jewelry, stockings, heels, and a stylish coif. She's carrying a maroon leather briefcase and I'm wondering just what the hell did I expect. I'm in dirty jeans, a jeans jacket and boots. I have in mind to take her down to The Fish in SoHo, a scruffy bar for young artists and dissidents that's all leather and puncture wounds and weirdness that I enjoy because it reminds me of some of my old hangouts in North Beach in San Francisco when I was a student. I see it's all wrong for mommy, but I'm geared for that place and I can't think of where else to go. So I take her anyway. It's a big mistake.

We have a quick drink, and at her suggestion we're on our way to the South Street Seaport. Ye gods, I'm thinking as we walk around this fast food haven that used to be a dock. We settle on a second floor restaurant with tables on a deck overlooking the East River. The food is terrible and the service is worse. Only later, much later, does she tell me it was a mistake. The ground floor of this place is a hundred bars jammed during the week by young professionals, and it was a place she’d hung when she was in her twenties, when she worked for a hot young publishing house. She hadn't been there in years.

Well, that made us even. We bumbled along like this, and the odd part was that the glue got stronger. After I don't know how many months she invites me to dinner at her place. I bring a bottle of champagne because I know she likes it. I'm drinking very little during this time, so after a bottle, I'm high, but I'm still unsure if I should make a move. I can't remember being so nervous. I don't think I ever was. Mommy solves the impasse by opening a bottle of Perrier Jouet she tells me she's had in the refrigerator for a long time.

It's a warm night and her terrace overlooks the Tappan Zee and we're having a roaring good time. We're telling stories and laughing and I'm thinking maybe. I'm really enjoying this woman, but when the bottle runs out, I'm still scared. If I'm mistaken it will be a disaster--I lose a woman that I like, a budding friendship, a good student. And I become the thing I hate most, a predator.

Mommy to the rescue again. She finds a lonely split of champagne in the fridge. By the time that's dead we're plastered and fall wildly in to each other’s arms, laughing and stumbling and pawing and way too far gone for anything but serious giggling. The great thing is that we fall asleep laughing with relief, with ourselves, and with each other. Also because we know tomorrow morning is going to be one great morning.

Love, Daddy

Monday, August 16, 2010

Counting Buses

(2 years 9 months)

Dear Trevor,

We had a wonderful time in Nyack’s Memorial Park this morning. You love to bury things in the sand box. Today it was your dump truck. Then, for the first time you ask me to get on the seesaw with you. I'm going up and down, you say. We're playing see-saw.

We leave the park, and you spot a school bus on the corner of Broadway and DePew. Further up the block, in front of the Child Care Center, you say, There are two buses.

I say, We saw one on the corner, and then two more. That makes three. One plus two equals three.

Then, crossing Franklin, you hail another one.

We saw three, and now one more, I say. Three plus one equals four. We've seen four buses since we left the park.

A few blocks later, turning on to Route 9W, another bus appears and you call it out. Wow, I say. We saw four buses and now one more, how many does that make.

I look in the rear view mirror and you are holding out your right hand, fingers extended, and you count, One, two, three, four, five. You say five with a ringing finality.

We swing onto the Thruway and you spot still another bus. I go through the routine again and you come up with six.

Then on Route 59 in Spring Valley you call out another bus. I acknowledge the bus but forget we’re counting. Probably because I'm always cautious navigating that complicated intersection where we make four turns and change lanes several times to get to Pascack Road. So I was surprised when you called out, That makes seven buses.

I think that's pretty good going for a guy your age. I say, Good job.

Love, Daddy

Thursday, July 29, 2010


(3 years, 11 months)

Dear Trevor,

Tonight we are meeting the Members Committee at the Nyack Field Club. It is the final stage in our application for membership. Present are three members of the Committee, our sponsors Joel and Carol, and you, me, and Mommy. A big part of the presentation is telling us the location of places and things. After the presentation they ask if we have any questions, and we chat a bit around a few topics. We do not really have any questions.

Then you speak up. ‘Excuse me,’ you say.

Bruce, the head of the committee, said, ‘Yes Trevor?’

You say, ‘Where's the sandbox?’

Bruce points at the windows behind him. He asks if you can see the tall trees. After you assented, he tells you the box is to the right of the trees.

You then say, ‘How big is the sandbox?’

The adults all exchange glances, recognizing the pertinence of the question.

Bruce explains that it is twice as big as the table we were sitting at, which is pretty big. You accept that.

Then you ask, ‘And where do you keep the pails and shovels?’

Bruce fields that one with perfect attention. He then asks if you have any more questions, and you say, ‘Oh no.’

Love, Daddy

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sleeping Through

Sleeping Through

(18 months)
Dear Trevor,
You are some kind of guy.
Here's the story. It starts about two weeks ago. One night you wake up around midnight, and right away start crying hard. You tell Mommy, ‘Up.’ She lifts you to her body, your head on her shoulder. Then you cry for a bottle. (Your current word for bottle is bobby.) Mommy rocks you, and talks softly, but you continue to demand a bobby and she gets one for you. The same thing happens the next night.

We are concerned. You've been teething on and off lately, sometimes with a low fever and a rash on your bottom. It's a real struggle for us to see you in discomfort and feel helpless, so when we talk about what is going on we keep considering that you are maybe having a tough time over something we don’t understand. We’re committed to making your trip as painless as possible. And we’re dead set against letting you cry into a void. The way we look at it your mom and me represent the world to you. So if you cry, and the world doesn’t respond, we think that can become a conditioned expectation, and you will stop expecting that the world will meet your needs. Our experience in this world leads us to believe that if you don’t squeak you don’t get oiled. At the same time I am a follower of the Middle Way. That means if you squeak in a balanced, reasonable way you have every right to expect, and demand, if necessary, a reasonable response.

Last night you again wake up in the middle of the night and are a real pain. Mommy gets you a bottle, and after a few swigs you are still unhappy, and expressing it loudly. You want to be held and carried around, to do the kind of things you used to do on the mornings when Mommy didn't go to work, like wreck the jewelry stash in the top of the high dresser. Nothing pleases you, and Mommy has a miserable night until she finally takes you out to the living room and you sleep on top of her on the couch.

We talk about what might be going on with you, and I lean toward the theory that you w enjoy being up and don't realize what a drag it is for us. You just want what you want when you want it. Well, nothing wrong with that, except that mommy needs her sleep and there has to come a time for you to learn that, cute as you are, the sun does not rise and set exclusively on you. Now seems to be as good a time as any.

Also, I have been frightened by a story Andrew (not his real name) told in my men's group. His ten year old son is verbally violent with him and his wife. I think it must preclude their having a relationship of any intimacy. That scared me. If our relationship is not intimate you will fail to benefit from our experience and our love. There is so much we want to give you, that we believe will benefit you, that will be lost if our communication isn't open and loving.
So when you cry out tonight shortly after we settle down to sleep, I feel challenged to help you in the best possible way. You sit up on the pillow, tears flowing, crying loudly, and say bobby, cry some more, and repeat, bobby. Mommy gently tells you it isn't time for a bottle, and you don't want to hear it. You scream bobby at her, in a tone and at a volume I'd never heard from you—angry and demanding.

Mommy is sitting on her heels, I’m resting on an elbow. She looks at me. ‘What should I do?’ she asks.

Well, we'd made an agreement that we were going to do something different, and I think she is asking me to do it. I’m nervous.

I clasp your arms to your sides and lift you down to a lying position on your side, facing me on the pillow, and you really don't like it. You wail. My heart quakes. I hold your arms tight to your sides. I put my lips a few inches from your ear and in a lowered, but straight-forward voice, I say, ‘Trevor, listen to me.’ You become quiet right away, and I keep right on speaking. ‘It is the middle of the night. It is not the time for a bottle. It is time to go to sleep. We all have to go to sleep. Your mommy really has to go to sleep because she has a long commute. You will have a bottle in the morning. But now we must sleep. We are all here. Mommy will hold you, and we’ll all be quiet. And we'll go to sleep together.’ I release your arms.
By this time mommy is lying on her side behind you with her hand on your belly, and you reach up to fondle her ear, which is a favorite thing for you to do. You are stone quite, your eyes are closed, and in a few minutes you are asleep. We all sleep through the rest of the night. And through all the nights from then on.

Love, Daddy

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We Are Pregnant

We Are Pregnant

Dear Boy or Girl,
It is passing strange to write a letter to a person I know nothing about—whom I’ve never even seen. I don’t even know if you are a boy or a girl. But I don’t care about any of that, not a bit. My baby, boy or girl, come on down. What matters is that you are my child. And I promise you this, I will do my best to take care of you, in my imperfect way of course, but here’s what I do know, we are going to have a good time, you and me, oh yeah.
This is how it begins: December 18, 1992
I’m alone in my Nyack office this afternoon, and at 2:30 your mommy to be calls me from her office. Now your future mom has a certain way of delivering information that I’m still getting used to. Maybe it’s from working in the world of business, but when it comes to facts, she serves them a-la-carte.
I say, ‘Bill Freeman.’
She says, ‘Hello Bill.’
I say, ‘Hi, what’s up?’
She says, ‘I’m pregnant.”
My mind flashes and fills with glitter. Nothing coherent occurred to me, so I said, ‘I’ll call you right back.”
A thrill flows through me. As if silk ribbons stretched through my body are being corrugated by an electrical wind. Gentle thrills pass in waves from my head to my feet. And back up. Or maybe they are continuous and run both ways at once. It is a wonderful, exciting experience. I have never thrilled before. The news of your arrival has whisked me into a new state of being. The feelings drive me to my feet and I pace the office, exalting over my fortune, yet a bit frightened to grasp it fully, afraid that in a moment the phone will ring again and some voice from the cosmos will say, Only kidding.
I call back and your soon to be mom and I flop around like a couple of kids who have just received a gift tree loaded with every kind of tinsel and decoration and present the world has ever contained—all sparkle and shimmer and light. It’s a wonder the telephone wires don’t explode, because we fire through them roman candles of laughter, cherry bombs of joy, skyrockets of silliness and ecstasy in reds and greens and blues and yellows. We blabber for a long time.
I’m back to pacing. Winning a lottery can’t possibly put a person through such ecstatic stress as this. And then I’m afraid of falling down and turning into a piece of blubbering blubber. Sweet reason arrives with the message, Good God man, get a grip.
Wow! Setting forth is always an act of bravery. During that first intoxication I felt like I had done some great thing. Like won the marathon. An idea your mother disabused me of a few weeks later when she was going through a spate of nausea and accused me of knocking her up. I had to admit that rather than a reward what I was looking at was an unearned gift, a blessing. So I went from hero to humble. That’s okay. For me being grateful is like donning a brand new suit, it feels good, and I’m sure it will feel even better as we go along—I just need to break it in.
So here’s the deal. You are my first and only child. The same is true for your mother. I’m fifty-six and she is forty-one. As the enormity of your imminent arrival impresses itself on me, I have come to the enlightened conclusion that: This Changes Everything. I couldn’t resist riding that old horse, and if it isn’t literally true, it’s got to be ninety percent.
I close my eyes and boost the various aspects of our lives into the firmament, like placing stars in the sky. Then I hoist you into a prominent position and everything scurries to reorient itself to the reality of your sun. Then I just start tossing up other stuff and it finds it own space and everything else shuffles to accommodate the new resident. There’s limits to how much stuff I can support at one time, so then I’ll just look at it. Here’s a funny thing, if I fall asleep, when I wake up, nothing has moved. That’s good. Because then I’m real quiet, and I can figure out what needs to be done in the world to get into harmony with the model.
So, anyway, the point is I spend all my thinking time puzzling about how to support your welfare. And also, what could I give you that would be special, that no one else could.
What pops up is a mealtime scene from my childhood. Me and the three girls who will be your aunts are gathered around a table at mealtime. Mother stands at the stove and Daddy is in the corner. And the four of us are clamoring for stories. Mom doesn’t tell many stories, but Dad is full of stories and he tells them well. More than anything the stories we want to hear concern how they met and their early life together, but, and most of all, tales of our own early lives. We learn one wonderful story about their early adventure, but about ourselves, zilch, nada, zero, nothing. So it occurs to me that when you turn twenty-one, or eighteen, or whatever, you might appreciate receiving a small bundle of letters about some of the early activities and experiences you are destined to forget— how you handled yourself, and what you thought, what was hard and what was easy. Maybe help you to understand who and what you are and how you got that way. I hope, for you, these letters will be something of value.
Love, Daddy

Monday, June 7, 2010



(4 years, 11 months)
Dear Trevor,
Yesterday we were in Turiello's Pizza. Nino cut your slice into ten pieces, but some of them were still too big for your mouth. So when you started struggling to cut one with the side of your fork, I pitched in to help. I hacked up one of the pieces with my espresso spoon and slid the halves toward you across the aluminum platter. ‘Here,’ I said, ‘tackle this.’
You forked a piece into your mouth and said, ‘What's a tackle?’
Chopping at another piece, I said, ‘That's what football players do when they want to stop a guy that’s running.’
‘What guy,’ you inquired reasonably.
‘The guy with the ball,’ I said, ‘when he's running to make points, they tackle him to knock him down.’
‘Well,’ you said, ‘do they eat him?’
Love, Daddy

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Penis Lifting

Penis Lifting

(3 years, 9 months)
Dear Trevor,

I’m reading The New Yorker and having my second cup of coffee this morning while you’re wandering among the profusion of wooden trains, tracks, trucks and building materials all over the living room floor. Then I notice you are trying to put a yellow plastic nut over your smartly erected penis. It doesn't fit and you give it up. A few moments later you're walking toward me saying, ‘Daddy, look.’

You've got the tin train engine with a golden cord, that’s a Christmas tree ornament, hanging from your penis. ‘See,’ you say, ‘I can hold it up with my penis.’

‘Indeed, you can,’ I reply.

Love, Daddy

Smart Kid

(3 years, 2 months)
Dear Trevor,

Today you are three years and two months old. This morning, coming down in the elevator, you asked me a question I couldn't answer.
‘I don't know,’ I said.
You said, ‘Why?’
And I said, ‘Well, I don't know everything. Do you know everything?’
You said, ‘Sure.’
By now we are off the elevator, walking toward the rear door. I said, ‘Do you know why the sun comes up?’
You said, ‘Sure.’
I said, ‘Why does the sun come up?’
‘Because it's daytime,’ you said.

Love, Daddy