March 2000

Joys of Progeny

Some time back, my friend Peter wrote me about teaching a class on Romeo and Juliet, steamy teenage passion and all that, to his son’s high school English class and mentioned the son’s describing the event as his “Day of Humiliation.”

Or consider my prematurely-balding friend Jürgen, who recently went back to Germany to visit his parents after an absence of several years. He was innocently sitting there reading the newspaper at the breakfast table when his mother came over behind him, giggled at her first sighting of his bald spot, and leaned over and kissed it.

I got rather a kick out of both of these and used them in an email to a number of friends dilating upon this joy of parenthood that I missed: embarrassing one’s children.

Then again, my friend Jim recently forwarded me an email from his thirtyish son Mark, an utterly delightful young man who seems to embody his father’s finer qualities while avoiding the other ones. This email was the excellent sort of thing I would have expected Mark to send his father. In it he discussed some splendid wedding pictures Jim had taken and then artfully arranged with delicious captions on several web pages. However, Mark’s comments included a line which gave me more and more pause as I dwelt on it. He wrote: “You still take good people pictures.” Now some people would take this as a straightforward and accurate compliment of one’s father’s photographic ability. It came to me, though, that here was revealed yet another serpent’s tooth. At what age, I asked Jim, was he when Mark started reassuring him that he was… still…retaining his abilities?

I should find this quite tiresome in my progeny.

Perhaps it’s best after all that I avoided them.

Self portrait with artichoke blossom

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