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A Child is Not a Furniture

By Brian Doyle

One time when I lived in Chicago I spent an hour talking to a woman who was wearing a dress of the brightest red I have ever seen in all my born days and I have lived fifty years. This was on the Cicero Avenue bus at three in the morning. She said she was returning to the apartment where she lived with her husband. I inquired after children and she said my husband and I trying to welcome children but as yet we have not been blessed. I would like to have five children, she said. I am myself one of five. My husband however is an only child of complex circumstances. He has misgivings and forebodings. There are also financial considerations. But there are a lot of kind of considerations. I feel there are also spiritual considerations. My husband does not find a way to agree. He is a practical and pragmatic man. This may be because of his circumstances. For example he say where the baby sleep? I say the baby will sleep with us. He has misgivings and forebodings. He says what if it is twins? I say well then we blessed by twins. He cannot arrive at agreement. Now people say I should just have a baby and then my husband will adjust to the baby. But that is dishonest. You cannot be dishonest with your husband. Otherwise why have a husband? He is a good man despite his circumstances. He has risen mostly above his circumstances. Yet sometimes they drag him down. He measures and calculates. He arranges things just so. But you cannot arrange a child just so. A child is not a furniture. He says who discipline the child? I say we will do so together with the gentlest hand. He has misgivings. He worries things ahead of time. I admire that man fierce but you cannot worry all the time. You must ford the river with your head held high. He says where the boy go to school? I say the girl will go to the best school available to us at that time. He says money money. But money is not the be all. If it was the be all then what is the point? The point is what you do without the money. The point is what you do with dash and brass. This is who you are. You are not what you can buy. That is silly talk. He says the reason we are with each other is because I am fire and he is ice. Some truth to that. I zest him up and he calms me down. We fit together very nice. But in the end two is just two. There is no place really to go after two. At some point you have to be more than two. Now, there are many ways to be more than two. I know that and he know that. But he is careful pragmatic. He take one step at a time and then look around weary for trouble. That is who he is. I cannot change him. I do wish a child be granted unto us. Many a child. People say pray for the baby and the Lord will provide but that is not how things happen. You do not ask for things and you get the things. The Lord is not a suggest box. That is silly talk. You dream a thing and work for a thing and make the way easy and then maybe that thing come to you. This is how it happens. Some things I know. Here is my stop and I will depart. Let us shake hands. Ford the river with your head held high.


Brian Doyle is is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon.  He is the author of Credo (essays) and Saints Passionate and Peculiar (brief excitable headlong hagiographies) .  Doyle's essays and fitful poetry have appeared in The American Scholar, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Orion, Commonweal, and The Georgia Review, among other periodicals. His essays have also been reprinted in The Best American Essays 1998, and The Best American Essays 1999, Best Spiritual Writing 1999, 2001, and 2002, and in a gaggle of anthologies.



photo by Dinty W. Moore