How I Met Your Mom
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.