Category Archives: Families

The Man Who Made Up His Family

Once there was a man named Santino who didn’t have a family — so he made one up.

“Maya”, he said to his wife, “would you mind getting me a piece of the cake you made today?”

“Certainly,” she replied. He got up and got himself some cake.

“Yosef,” he said to his son, let me see your homework. Ah, you are doing a paper on the sociology of interracial intimacy. One thought is that you focus on the varying interpretations of father craft within these families.”

He pulled out his tablet and looked up several websites on the sociology of fatherhood within the bourgeois family.

“Interesting,” he said to himself, “the pervasive maternal dominance when it come to parenting.”

“Lilit,” he said to his daughter, “If you and your sister Saki would like, I will take you out this evening to get ice cream.”

That evening he went out and got himself an ice cream. He sat alone eating it.

“Saki,” he said to his youngest daughter, looking up from his ice cream. “How are you doing with that boy at school, the one who told you he liked you.”

He sat quietly for a moment. Another family sat quietly nearby.

“Well,” he said gently, “this can be quite sensitive. I wouldn’t say that to him, but it would be best to be honest. You don’t want to lead him on, give him false hope. That isn’t kind. It’s important in life to be honest, but not too honest, if you know what I mean?”

Santino looked up. The nearby family — a father, mother son and two daughters — were all staring at him.

He looked at them, and catching the father’s eye, said in a clear voice. “The fathering, it just never seems to end, does it?”

The other father, not knowing what to say, looked down.

Santino, looking around the room, smiled, and said to himself, “I just love being a father.”

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The French King In China

Once their was a French king who had three daughters. One was beautiful, one smart, one loving — all were his raison d’être.

When they were little, he braided their hair, practiced their alphabet and hugged them when they cried. When they were half-grown, he dressed them de rigueur, walked them to school and danced with them in the great room. When they became women, he told them they were wonderful, sent them each to a université.

With them he was bon vivant and  au courant. He loved being a father. When his daughters married, he lost them a little, but loved them still, pulled it off, accepted their husbands and delighted in their children. He got down on the floor with his grandchildren, as in the days of old and called them mon petit chou-fleurs.

And then he decided to pass on his inheritance to his daughters, early, before he was gone, to see their eyes bright, their banks full and love made safe.

There was several other reasons. He tired of state, of intrigue, of debt fatigue and of the stress of the big league.

It was a disaster.

His beautiful daughter feared he would prefer his loving daughter and sued him. His loving daughter believed he loved his smart daughter the most and refused to see him. His smart daughter believed that his beautiful daughter would get everything and arranged a meeting of all the daughters.

“I think he might be losing it,” the beautiful one said.

“I wonder if we could get him to see a doctor,” the loving one said.

“Let’s see if we might get him into a home,” said the smart one. “Then we could have our lawyers meet and work everything out so everyone is happy.”

They arranged a meeting with him.

“My dearest little girls,” he cried out. “Whatever in all the wide and crazy world has happened to us? I’m your père. I will never be anything more. I am not your master. I am not your malfaiteur. I am not merely your bienfaiteur. I am your daddy! I love you each one of you with all my heart. Different as you are, yet you are each one to me the crème de la crème, the very sweetness of life itself.”

And with a cri de coeur he fell down before them. “Qu’est-ce que c’est?”

“You aren’t well,” they cried.

“You aren’t,” he shouted back at them. “En garde!”

“What?” screamed the smart one. “Will you threaten us?”

And with that the king rushed from them, out of the great palace. It was raining. He ran out into it. He tore off his clothes.

“Beauty comes of beauty,” he shouted at the sky,” and love comes of love. Smart come of smart, but what comes of greed, of jealousy and rivalry? Nothing,” he shouted, “nothing comes of that yapping, clawing, scrapping quintessence of nothing.”

“It is in a father and a mother to give their daughters faces, and to put some eyes and ears and mouths on them. It is ours also to give them legs, feet, arms, hands — to give to them of our own fingers and our toes. We give them these great things with but a moments passion, and with nothing more than love’s embrace, we also give them minds and souls and wills with which to love us back, or to turn us out. Terrible power of choice! It is in a father to give his daughters more than this. And when he does, when he has given them the greatest gift he has, his heart and all his amour, having given them so much, it is his tragedy to fall on the aching, empty, airless side of getting it all back.”

His daughters found him in the storm, raving as he went, and wrapping a tarp around him, they led him home and put him in his house.

He cried out as he went, “When parents die, their children howl and blow like these great winds; we had rather in the storm of life that they cried those tears of love before our deaths, while we could yet see and hug each other safe again.”

The next day they sent their avocats to his house.

He wasn’t there.

A few weeks later, each of his daughters received a letter from him expressing his love and asking if they would visit him soon at his new home.

It was in China.

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Jealousy

Once there was a young woman who grew up wanting. It was the kind of wanting that leads to aching which leads to more wanting.

She wanted to be given the same favor that her older sister received from their parents. She wasn’t.

She wanted to be strongly disciplined like her older sister, with the kind of discipline which attends strong expectation. She wasn’t.

She wanted to be sent to the same elite school as her older sister, but she wasn’t. She was sent to the mediocre school near her family’s home.

The upshot of this down-shot was that she was shot-through. But she didn’t tell her parents that, and she didn’t tell her sister that, and she didn’t tell her friends that, and she didn’t tell herself that either.

Off she went to college to try her luck there, excelled, graduated, got a job as a professional, got married, had two daughters, went back to school for an advanced degree, moved up the professional ladder, switch to the same profession as her sister, succeeded, and was left — still wanting and not knowing why.

She had a conflict with a rival at work. She went to therapy.

She talked, and she cried, and she talked and she said, for the first time in her life, “I’m jealous of my big sister,” and she hid her face.

“Why am I forty-three years old and for the first time in my life I am admitting to an emotion I have had since I was two?” she said with sobbing voice.

“Because,” said her therapist, “to admit to jealousy is a social crime. Jealousy, when exposed, is always punished severely, with disgust. We all know this, although we have never been told this. You are no different than the rest of us in this. Jealousy is the emotion everyone experiences but no one admits.”

“What do I do?” she asked her therapist.

“We may become thirsty in one place,” said her therapist, “but find that there are other places to get a drink.”

So she went home. She cried. She got up from her tears. She was resolved.

“You,” she said to herself, “are the little girl who needs to be special. And so, I need to tell you,” she went on, “that you are special, just as you are, to me, and I love you very much!” She said this to herself in the mirror, and that night, she got on the phone, and invited her parents and her sister over for dinner.

“I love you,” she said when they arrived, and welcomed them into her home.

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The Woman Who Took Pretty Good Care of Herself

Once within the once of the very essential once, there existed a nice-enough young woman who, after she had given birth to a beautiful baby, liked it so deliciously and lip-smackingly much, that she decided immediately to have another one.

Her boyfriend didn’t seem to mind at all.

She noticed that the superlative thing about having babies lay in how it changed the basic way other people treated you.

She had grown up in the middle of war, a twenty-year pitched battle between her mom and step-dad, but after she was pregnant the world seemed to still and calm around her, as if she were in the eye of a storm, and she felt more normal than she had ever felt in her life.

She had never been one that anyone took particular notice of, even her boyfriend, but pregnant, the kid who sacked her groceries in the supermarket insisted that he help her shopping-cart her goods out to the car. The ladies where she had her nails done wanted to touch her tummy, and her boyfriend quit asking her to do drugs with him.

The rounder she grew, the better it got. Random people would smile at her across a room; women she didn’t even know would approach her and ask when she was due. And men were particularly appropriate around her, and kept their distance better. Other moms came over for coffee and told her their birthing stories. She told hers.

And then there was the sitting time, when she was nursing, and pregnant again, just sitting, with no one expecting anything from her except that she, “Take it easy.”  In the evening when she and her boyfriend were watching TV, and she was holding the baby, she could even ask him to get her a snack, and he would get it! Babies made him a better man. They made her a better woman.

Sometime during her third pregnancy her boyfriend’s addictions worsened and he stopped working. But she noticed almost without thinking about it that this turned out well for her also. Now he was around more to help with the little ones.

After her fifth baby, she received government housing and food stamps and she and her boyfriend ate well and were happy and got a truck and settled into life, except when he would leave for a week only to return home and sleep for another week. Then they would fight, like her parents had taught her, viciously, and she hated him.

“You stupid drug addict!” she screamed. “You don’t think about anybody but yourself. You are the most irresponsible person I have ever known!”

When she had her sixth baby her own family pretty much stopped coming by. But that meant less stress, because they were always implying, with this or that remark, that she wasn’t doing something right or that she might be doing this or that wrong. During her seventh pregnancy she didn’t even tell them she was having a baby. At least her boyfriend remained loyal to her.

After her ninth baby, she swore she was done.

After her twelfth, she knew she was done.

After her eighteenth she was done.

But, upon giving birth to her twenty-fifth child, she knew she wasn’t.

It still felt normal to her.

Upon bearing her thirtieth child she took an oath to quit, and she told her boyfriend, in one of her everyday fits of rage, “I hope that you die at work!” He was working again. She didn’t like that.

That was the year that her boyfriend disappeared.

After popping out her thirty-fourth baby she swore off having them forever, although she knew that it would be a fight, and she had her tubes tied.

But by then the whole baby thing had become impossible, and she had no choice but to turn the lot of them over to the foster care system; although she kept the youngest one to hold and nurse, and she also kept a few of the older ones to help her cook, do the dishes and go to the grocery store. In his manner, she was able to maintain the life-style she was accustomed to, her sitting time and her exquisite and delicious sense of normality. She was at peace with the world.

She lived on, and then on, and on, and then on some more, eventually to the ripe-melon old age of ninety-eight, and by the time of her death she had the distinction of having three hundred seventeen grandchildren and one-hundred eighty-nine great-grandchildren.

To the very end, she looked rather good, considering her usage and her age, and at her somewhat unattended memorial service, her friends who knew her well, remarked quite nicely on her.

One stood up and with much approval from the people gathered in the church, noted wisely that “Her riches were in her children, and in her many grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.”

Another said this, to sum her up, and got it quite right, “All things considered, she did a pretty good job of taking care of herself.”

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