Personal Wild World

by jkatejohnston

10 September 2013

Dear Max,

Still reading Williams’s autobiography, slowly, slowly. It’s wonderful how he writes about the intensely private world of childhood. (Wonderful too how he’s the only person on earth who can get away with using exclamation marks. He always uses them incorrectly, and perfectly.)

My curiosity in these things was unbounded—secret, certainly. There is a long history in each of us that comes as not only a reawakening but a repossession when confronted by this world. To look up and see on a tree blooms, yellow and green, as large and heavy as the tulip, was something astonishing to me. The tassels of the chestnut—young and old trees, beggar’s lice, spiders, shining insects—all these things were as much a part of my expanding existence as breathing. I was comforted by them.

It was an unconscious triumph all day long to just be able to get out of doors and into my personal wild world. (The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams 19-20.)

Yesterday I came home from work and went into Enzo’s room to change out of my sweaty bike clothes. (September my ass. It was a hundred and two yesterday.)

He looked up from playing. “How come your closet has to be in here?”

“It just is.”

“I thought this was supposed to be my room.” I left to take a shower and he slid back into his vivid private world—I mean I guess he did. I wasn’t there.

I remember when he was a little over a year old, I’d meet him and Teresa at the capitol grounds after work, and he’d run on chubby legs across the grass toward me and my glorious boobs. We’d sit around together for a few minutes, do a little recreational breast-feeding, then Teresa would walk to her studio, and Enzo and I would go home on the light rail. My boobs and I and Teresa were the sun moon and stars.

Nowadays he still likes us, but we’re fading into the background, an occasional interruption. His private world is glowingly real. And the outside world too, the world of his friends, is all alive with possibility.

Reading that passage from Williams makes me think we have to move to the country so he can be in Nature. We are taking the wild out of him. But in South Lake Tahoe, where he’s in nature for hours and hours a day, there are no black people and Teresa is almost the only Mexican we ever see. It’s a bigger world but also a smaller one.

Enzo just woke up and started talking again about getting a screen-tent and putting branches in it for Duncan. I said that maybe this weekend we can set up our little tent in his room and put a few branches in it and the branches have to stay in the tent and not make a mess. He agreed and added, “But when I’m sixteen, I’m moving to a different house with a pool and going to China.” For a moment I thought that was it, but then he added, “I’m going to get a male and a female Chinese alligator to live in the pool. And they can also bask.”

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