In this installment of “Love, Recorded,” Matt puts baby and cats together. Go ahead, internet, explode. Cute video included.
I’ve been writing about revision all month, how to take a story that isn’t working and make it into something that can pass for truth. The word “revision,” of course, is fraught with meaning. Re-vision. Re-seeing. Though doesn’t everything, to a new father, seem fraught with meaning?
My daughter is starting to walk. Or, at least, starting to walk well. Now, she is everywhere. You turn around and there she is, right behind you. Or a hundred feet away.
But there are some revisions that you make and some that are made to you.
The cats have dropped out of this column recently. If you’ve been reading along for the past year, you might not have even noticed them. Two years earlier, and the cats were a constant. Our poor neglected kitties.
Boise has been throwing up a lot lately, has been pooping on the bath mat, in the tub, has been trying to voice an opinion. He used to be Cathreen’s baby. He’ll never get over that. Before the baby, before the cats, I had Cathreen all to myself.
Sometimes the cats are a reason. For why we can’t travel. For where that extra money went. For why we can’t have another child. One Grace is a lot of Grace.
(It’s hard to ignore the fact, someone told me recently, that my wife and I have named the baby a trait we hope she aspires to. An abstract noun; in ESL, they call it an uncountable noun.)
Though sometimes we remember that the reason we can’t have another baby is: pregnancy. We remember the morning sickness, all day. We remember the ER visits. We remember the cold allergy (which never went away). We remember the PUPPP rash, the itch. We remember the fear. Occasionally, it feels as if I am the one who remembers most clearly what happened to my wife’s body. She is revising her pregnancy, in her mind, into our baby, whom we couldn’t be happier with. Even if she is still in pain.
Or maybe her pain is from carrying the baby always on the same side, a shooting star in her leg.
Every night, I give Cathreen a massage before I fall asleep. She will stay up hours later, reading the online message boards, holding our daughter’s hand. Grace will open her eyes in the middle of the night, just to make sure we are still there. Cathreen is the one who puts her pacifier back in her mouth or hugs her to her or touches her feet the way she likes. Cathreen is the pacifier.
Sometimes, we think we want another baby. It’s hard to tell.
I accepted a book deal, recently, for a novel in very short pieces. 115 one-page stories that make up the arc of a year in a man’s life. Starting with when a boy shows up and says the man is his father.
I started the book before my wife got pregnant. I revised it after the baby was born. I had to make it fit together, make those moments add up to more. I wonder how being a father changed that. I am sure it did, in some way I can’t put my finger on. I was reconfiguring the arc with the perspective of being a father myself, but of a baby I knew I had.
When the offer came for the book, I had to negotiate. I had to stop seeing the book as my baby and see it as a product. That’s what we do, as writers, we make babies we have to sell. We make new babies in the space left behind by that transformation.
The cats have to learn to live with Grace. We tell them how much fun they will have, when she gets past the age of terrorizing to the age of loving. She already wants so badly to play with them. She wraps her fingers in their fur. But it takes a while to learn the pressure you can apply with your own hand. How to touch something and not go through it.
We have a cat toy that is basically a long felt ribbon attached to a plastic pole. The cats go crazy for this thing. It is like catching a very long (somebody else’s) tail. Sometimes we bring this out while Grace watches, wonderingly. Recently, she claimed the toy for herself. She smoothed the felt in her hands and smacked the plastic against the floor. The cats watched enviously, especially the younger one, Bear. Then, one day, she put it together. She walked over to Bear and swung the toy in front of him.
Now this is their thing, the thing I hope will draw them together. Something that will help them make their relationship work. A ribbon of felt. Or a line between them, not separating, but going from one to the other.
—photo Flickr/JuliÃ¡n Ortega MartÃnez