January 3rd, 2006

Back in Mind

I'm rearranging the cabinet underneath our front bathroom's sink. There are items there that haven't been touched in years. But some of them hold a peculiar staying power. Seeing the changing pads, "emergency" diapers," and a random cotton square -- I used to sing, "Here comes Peter Cottonsquare, wiping up the. . ." -- brought to mind an everyday life that feels both hundreds of years away in mind and palpably now in body. Skylar walked in to show me the progress on her book and was also taken with the items on the floor. Although she clearly remembers some things from that period in her life, the trauma of needing parental assistance with bodily functions is not one she cares to remember. Is that repression or something else? I'm not sure. In my own case, I had the advantage of being able to establish a new relation to the paraphernalia of bathroom duty when my sister was a baby. The "talk table" and its sticky white vinyl top was thus pried loose from personal associations with a lack of control and displaced onto the specter of my sister's immaturity against which I could feel good about my own progress. As an only child, Skylar hasn't had that opportunity. Now that she has a new cousin, though, she is at least thinking about the time when one is a baby and toddler with greater regularity. Time to head back to the pile. . .

Paternal

I'm watching Penn State play Florida State. They're in overtime, because the freshman kicker for the Nittany Lions missed a 29-yard field goal. I want Penn State to win badly, with all due respect to ACC suporter pissang, because A) their coach Joe Paterno is a former English major and remains a supporter of the humanities; B) because the Joe Paterno Professor of English is presently Michael Bérubé, one of my favorite people; C) because I'm recalling my childhood watching Penn State play on dreary egg-nog days, when they were without a conference and therefore always fighting an uphill battle for national respect; and D) because my father got his Ph.D. at Penn State and always followed them closely during my pre-teen years. I can feel our old living room, the eighteenth-century beams, the way the nail bumps of the oak flooring felt on my sock-covered feet. Florida State missed wide right while I was typing this. Penn State now has another chance to win with a long field goal. And the kicker missed again. It's a war of attrition at this point. But I know where my allegiance lies, regardless of my mild antipathy to the Big Ten. Oh, and in case you were wondering, this is not an allegory of my personal life. Or, to be more precise, it's not an allegory I'm performing consciously. I'm too well versed in the workings of the not-so-conscious to declare that there's nothing beyond the surface in my football watching.