The Holiday Family: Part One

I’m sitting in a coffee shop. An unusual place for me to do work. In fact, I’m not doing the work I should be doing. I am writing this instead. Not that my work is boring. I enjoy (on occasion) the work I do for my MFA classes. Read your friends’ essays and short stories, sounds good. Read published work by great writers, yeah that sounds good, too.

But there are many distractions. Such as these two men who sit in front of me. The café is packed today. It’s the holiday season so people are on break; students are waiting for tomorrow to work their way home, and school children have a half-day.

Because of the tight setting and amount of people drinking lattes, I sit at the only spare table in the center of the room. And I can’t help but watch these two men. Both are stay at home dads. I can tell from the babies strapped to their chests. One is dressed in a sweater and camouflage pants. He has thick black hair and long-wide mutton chops. He wears both in a style a la Wolverine. I have no issues with men being stay at home fathers while their wives are at work. It’s 2010 and you would think people would be more excepting; more of an openness to change (you would think). What is so odd to me about these stay at home dads is that they speak like stay at home moms who go to coffee shops every Tuesday…in an ABC Family sitcom.

So what do I make of them? What am I saying about them?

I am saying that this is family. A new family. So many people look toward the holidays as a time of family feuding and stress. I never have. In fact I think it has been the opposite for me with every holiday I have ever experienced. It is the time of year when my family, surprisingly, is actually at it’s closest. Just like the endings to ABC Family sitcoms want life to be like. That this happens is something of a surprise to me. It is a family of divorce for my mom and her two sisters. A family where the economy tanking, took a piece of our sanity and had us reevaluate how we take care of our dollars; sons and daughters on all fronts waging miniature wars in defiance of parental rule.

It’s all the typical family woes. I have always felt like I am floating somewhere above it. But these two dads who meet for coffee with their young children while the women are out struggling to make it work show me a new side of change, the side we sometimes forget exists. It is the side where pain and the hard crust of life still exist. Change doesn’t happen quickly and it isn’t effortless. But it is more than just a mask to wear. And there is of course the question, what will happen next?

Wolverine dad takes his baby from its sling. He bumps it on his knee and asks, “Why would you want to do anything else when something like this enters your life?”

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