There is a school of thought that believes the following: The Universe only gives us as much as we can handle.
If I were to hold a candle to such a notion, I would look to my own daughter Hillary as an example of legitimacy. For 42.75 years, I did not want to be a father. I even took my belief that kids are evil into the delivery room with me; as her infant head was crowning, my thoughts were: “OK, gross”—because I was watching a mixture of waste, blood, and a person exit my wife’s Honey Pot—and “What have I gotten myself into?”
(I almost threw an Arrested Development reference in there, but I wasn’t sure or not if it was going to be a “huge mistake” yet.)
Knowing my feelings on babies, children, and freedom, The Universe then blessed me with a baby I could handle. Hillary has yet to be colicky, and is already sleeping through the night (11+ hours at a pop) at three months old. By contrast, a couple Lydia and I know had a daughter within a two-day window of us, and they are still dealing with it waking and crying every four hours. If I were standing under that umbrella, I would be one frustrated motherfucker.
Continuing down that path of philosophy—“Get what you can handle,”—my mother must be striving for Sainthood. My actions under any other matriarch would have resulted in my being beaten like the girl in Pearl Jam’s Daughter.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, 2012, she decided to scrounge through the basement and pull out a large manila envelope I had never seen before. Its contents were memories; letters I had written, cards I had given, and pictures of my ugly mug from the time when film existed.
For anyone who says “Nathan cannot take a picture making a normal face,” I offer you this quote: pulling out a photo of me at age five, my mother laughed. “I remember this. Nathan said, ‘Take my picture, I want to make a face.” I then apparently proceeded to contort my features into an over-exaggerated combination of frown and scowl.
Those who know me understand all too well that I have not taken a “normal” picture since.
The real treasures, however, were my letters and cards; insights into how my mind worked from adolescence through early adulthood. In one birthday card to my mom, the internal Hallmark printing contained the words “With Love.” Me being the snot I am, I added a caret (one of these: ^) and inserted the word “out” above it, changing the phrase to “Without Love.” Happy birthday, mom! Thanks for the gift of life!
But that was nowhere near the coup d’état of the evening. No, that came from yet another celebration of… well, we’re not sure. It’s either for my mother’s special day, or Jesus’ Birthday. The card is technically a birthday card, but inside I’d written “Merry X-Mas, or whatever.” I have in the past been known to send “To My Proud Black Father” birthday cards to people for Christmas, and “Be My Twilight Valentine” offerings on birthdays. So which of the two holidays this particular dead tree represented is unknown. But that isn’t what’s important; the point of all this is the God-awful (yet hilarious) content contained within.
As a bit of backstory: my mom, bless her, is like any out-of-touch mom. She tries really hard to buy birthday cards that are funny, but always buys ones that are “mom funny,” meaning not funny at all. Every year she would get her hopes up high that she finally found something to make me smile, and every year would be crestfallen as I would roll my eyes at her offering.
Cut to the card in question here; this is what I sent my mother one fateful year during my college years:
On the front, “This is the INCREDIBLE INTERCOURSE BIRTHDAY CARD!! Stroke the front of the card three times. Kiss here. Open quickly!!”
And inside: “See? You’ve been fucked.”
But that’s not all; no, I also wrote a note to mi madre.
“Mom, next year instead of worrying about sending an appropriate card, just send something cool like this! Funny cards do exist, all you have to do is buy them. Anyway, you’re not 35, because Barrett* pointed out you would have had me at 13 or 14 if this was your true age. My guess is you’re 41 or 42, because that would make our age difference about right. What the fuck did you sign me up with (something we couldn’t figure out) on? I thought I got one free one, then end of story. She’s already sent me one for February, and a bill! I’m sending it back with a note that says, “Fuck you very much.” (or something to that extent) Finally, you didn’t get fucked. Here’s the melody you wanted for your computer. It’s called (inside joke)—speaking of which, WHERE THE FUCK ARE MY PICTURES?!”
I don’t believe in Karma, because I personally know complete bastards who have achieved enormous success. After reading that card, I better hope I’m right and there is no “come around” for every “go around.”
Because if there is?
I am going to be so fucked, soon.
Hillary will become the payback for all I ever put my mother through, and I will no doubt deserve every minute of it.
*Barrett was my college roommate. Oh blacks; you give your kids the most interesting (awkward) of names.