We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.
T.S. Eliot — “Little Gidding”
We lived in a house until my father died, then a series of apartments. I hated them. When I could afford it, after I became a doctor, I got a house. Not as nice a house as the one I used to live in, but a house anyway, though I’ve never been happy with it.
The yard is cramped. I don’t like the way the stairs spill down out the front door. Don’t get me started on the bathrooms.
I realize I’m lucky to have a house, and that it makes me sound like spoiled child to complain. Nora has made it charming, even beautiful. But I keep picking at it anyway, like a scab. It’s never going to be right.
No house is ever going to be right.
When Superboy’s childhood house landed intact outside Smallville, he couldn’t go inside. Everything, walls, his crib, toys in the nursery, had turned to Kryptonite. The population of Smallville lined up to see where Superboy had been born, but Superboy himself had to keep away, using his telescopic vision to see.
His father, the scientist Jor-El, had left him a message.
To My Son,
If by some chance, this part of Krypton survives . . . I wish you to do three things so that the memory of our great world will survive in men’s hearts. Build a suitable memorial to Krypton. Find and save another planet which, like Krypton, is about to be destroyed. Read all the great classics of Krypton so that our culture will be stored in your heart.
Your loving father,
I drive by my old house. I wait for it to go on sale so that I can walk inside it again and visit my old room, second story on the left.
Whoever lives there now must be pretty happy with it. In all the years I’ve been looking, no “For Sale” has ever appeared on the lawn.
I tell myself I should take a walk down the sidewalk in front of the house, where I learned to ride a two-wheeler. I don’t do it.
When I dream about the house, it’s like this:
I am invited in by the current owners. They show me the work they’ve done, which is still in progress. The house is barely recognizable, much larger, with expansive rooms and exposed beams. One thing I feel bad about is the back yard, which has shrunk to accommodate the additions. The grass is gone; only a concrete patio remains.
Sometimes, I buy back the house, and move in with my sister. Sometimes my mother still lives in the house. Never my father.
I got the Adventure Comic pictured above around the time we moved away from my old house. Somehow, it survived the catastrophe where my mother had me throw out my comic collection. Along with some Supermans that were spared, it endured, forgotten, at the bottom of a cardboard box in the garage of an aunt.
I have three things that belonged to my father. His wallet. His watch. A poem he wrote on yellowed paper.
Have I read the classics of Krypton?
I think so. I have dug and dug into the history of my family.
Have I built a suitable memorial?
Well, I have my words.
And what about finding and saving another planet, which, like Krypton, is about to be destroyed?
A huge, foolish thought, that.
Still, it makes me think of my son Nick, adopted, and how he came to us, plucked from another life, the day he was born.
A child is not quite another planet. But not quite this one either.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
Michael Chabon’s Goodreads page. Author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, this wonderful writer has made a career out of his obsession with comics and alternative universes. Summerland, which Nick loved when he was seven, makes for good bedtime reading for kids.
Thoughts about your past? Dreams of houses? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)
If you like this post and have a Facebook, Twitter, or other social media account, please consider sharing it by clicking one of the buttons below: