Our first parent teacher conference was a surprise to me. The teacher had mark our eldest son’s report card with such a consistent score of “average” that it almost felt that the entire thing could have been done over Netflix’s and chardonnay, and when we went to see her the news was much the same. I learned that if you wanted someone to say that your child is brilliant in every way take them to a grandmother; schools are often there to say what isn’t going well.
“He has no real interest in music or art,” she said, which stung a bit. Our youngest loves music especially if it is off the sound track from Zootopia, but our eldest hadn’t sung at home any of the songs he was being shown at school.
Until one day, he started singing Moonshadow by Cat Stevens. It was only the slightest semblance of a melody, but it was music. I put the song on our home stereo, and slowly we learned the lyrics together. Our youngest also chimed in, and of the handful of words he has two of them are “moon” and “shadow”.
And so we entered into our autumn singing a song about decapitation.
Sometimes it takes a while to get somewhere.
Next week I am returning to the place that I started - 2### Clay Street, San Francisco CA 94115. It is where I came home from the hospital 48 years ago. My parents moved out of the place when I was just a little bit older than David is now. I have no memory of living there, and I know that our memories of Steiner Street will fade from our boys. The stickers of monkeys and elephants that we put up for them will be pealed before the new tenant arrives. The carpet where they first crawled and later walked isn’t coming with us to clay street. We are leaving the swaddles and swings that soothed them.
The new place has a tiny back yard, and there will be tricycle races and easter egg hunts there. The boys’ room is going to have balloon wallpaper, and the carpets in the new place will get stained just as much as the carpets in the old.
The distance between the two houses is four blocks so the places we eat and shop will be the same. The distance I will have traveled in my life is five feet from the infant’s room to the master bedroom, which I know isn’t very far.
But it has been a circular journey.
One night at the Clay Street house 47 years ago, my parents woke me to watch Neil Armstrong climb down a ladder. Waking an infant is something you are never supposed to do - far better that they can sleep so you can get yours.
It was time to see a man who had travelled farther than any man ever has, a time to watch humanity’s desire to explore the world, a time for parents and a child to share a moment of wonder. My parents still remember the large cardboard box I played with afterwards which I pretended was a rocket. Some houses aren’t forgotten.
And so I am going to return to the place from my distant past, a place where I watched someone walk amongst the shadows of the moon. I am still learning the melody of being a father and a husband, but the lyrics of life sometimes has a familiar refrain.