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.