27 April 2013

by jkatejohnston

Dear Max,

Yesterday on beautiful, clear, cold Lake Tahoe, Enzo and I were paddling in a raft, and we grounded when my butt scraped over a rock.  “Fart, dude, and crack the rock in two! Get it? Crack.”

I thought it would also work to use fart-propulsion to power ourselves off the rock. But I was too mature to say so. Also did not think of it until later.


I’m reading Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon. I read his book on depression about thirteen years ago. I had a toothache, and we didn’t have any money, so I couldn’t buy it. Teresa worked at Borders, and they were allowed to borrow books. She borrowed The Noonday Demon: an Atlas of Depression for me. I rocked myself and drooled and took painkillers and read and read and read. It’s a great book. I drooled on the book, but we returned it anyway.

The new book is about kids who are really, really different from their parents. He got interested in the subject because he’s gay and his parents aren’t.

I haven’t read enough of it to know how good it is. But just the subject makes me think about how much I am my parents’ child. My dad is a lawyer. So am I. My mom is bookish. So am I. My mom likes to cook, and they’re both good eaters. And so am I. We all get the New Yorker and complain about it. One time when Annie and I were probably in our twenties, we came home at the same time. Todd came into the room. “What a Johnston scene,” he said. There we were all in the living room together, silent, noses in books or newspapers.

But even though I can see that I’m like my parents, I still have this teenagerish feeling that I’m better, funnier, more surprising. (Sorry, mommy.) I also think they know me very well, and they still like me.

Teresa is a stranger to her family. There’s no official estrangement. Everyone sends all the proper cards and presents. But they don’t know each other. Her family is  Catholic and conventional. She is gay and an artist and difficult. The fact that she looks a little bit like some of them comes as a shock.  It seems lonely to be that way.

I don’t want Enzo to turn out like us. I just want him to like us. Doesn’t everyone hope their kids surprise them? And it never occurs to me that I might be closer to Enzo because I’m his bio-mom. These days he usually calls me Dude. He calls Teresa Mom, or Mama, or Mama-Teresa. They have their own ways, and they’re together all the time.

But I can see that his temperament is closer to mine and to his donor’s (our patron saint), and I’m grateful for it.

He’s easy. Get it? Enzo Zepeda. E Z.

Good thing he’s a boy.