Thursday, July 7, 2011


When I was an undergrad studying in England ten years ago, I had a tutorial in the Romantic poets. Like a lot of young, single, helplessly hopeless college-age students, I fell in love with them and with what they told me about love.

And beauty.

Keats's line, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever" stays with me from that tutorial not just because I thought it was a remarkable line but also, I confess, because it appeared in the film White Men Can't Jump. So we begin today's blog with Keats's analysis of beauty: that it lasts forever. Onto that premise, we add Tyler: age two and a half, in two scenes from our day today.

Scene One: The sky wavers regarding its decision to rain. Dark clouds hover like middle-aged men at a poker table, unsure whether to bluff this hand through or fold. Patches of blue open up like doors held ajar for visitors. Tyler swings with abandon. Beside him is Analin, a four year old girl whose mom has brought her to the park after picking her up from nursery school.

Analin's mother and I make small-talk. The usual. Yes, we're from Boston. Yes, I like being a home-dad. Oh? Your daughter has a scrape on her knee? (Tyler announces that he has a boo-boo on his foot, joining the discussion.) Analin's mother blushes. Yes, we call them boo-boos in America. Silly, I know.


The kids swing. Higher and higher. I smile.

Tyler stares at Alanin for a long time as her swinging comes to match his (or vice-versa). Then, he turns to me and says, "Her dress is pretty, Daddy."

Yes. It is . It is beautiful. I smile and Analin's mother reports, "He's already a charmer, isn't he?" When I glance back at my son, the smile he wears charms me and I respond in the affirmative.

Scene Two:

Bath time. Pasta sauce covers Tyler's face, having taken up residence there about twenty minutes ago when Tyler decided that a fork proved too cumbersome a device with which to do all the heavy lifting of his pasta. Instead, his clenched fingers made a much better tool.

Tyler stands naked before the tub, hot water coursing in like our very own Niagara Falls on Lesley Avenue. Then Tyler: "I have to do some poops on the pot!" It is a triumphant realization--a joyful occasion, and not just because he learned that by doing poops on the pot he would be rewarded with a blueberry muffin after he had done a plentiful amount. Somewhere along the line, he came to feel a certain pride about taking part in such an utterly human endeavor, and in doing it so well.

"Okay!" I reply. "Let's do it, dude!"

Tyler hops onto his potty seat, and the plops are immediate. One after the other. And again. And again.

As he conducts his bathroom business, Tyler likes to talk. He enjoys discussing memories from the day, our favorite colors (his: yellow; mine: blue), and generally making observations regarding changes in the general bathroom dynamic ("Where did those stickers go that were right here this morning?").

After pushing and chatting for a while, he lunges off the toilet and then does the inevitable turn to take in the full image of what he's accomplished. Tonight, he is particularly proud.

"Look at all those fixed poops! None of those ones are broken!" (Lingo: fixed = long ones; broken = small bits)

"I know! Wow! That is awesome, Tyler! Well done, son!"

Tyler stares down at the bowl. I offer, "Ready to watch them get flushed down?"

Tyler thinks for a moment, then replies, "No, I want to look at them for a little bit."

Scene Two, Part B: A little bit later.

"Ready to flush those fixed poops down now?"

"NO; I want to leave those poops there so I can look at them some more after my bath again. That's okay?"

I look back at my son. In the same day, he's found beauty in the summer  dress that a four-year old girl wears, and in the poops his little body has crafted. I think for a moment myself.

Then I say what any father who has studied Keats would say.