Editor’s note: Each Thursday, we feature a throwback piece from Topology’s predecessor, catapult magazine. In this poetic essay, Chris Smit riffs on a theme flowing out of a father’s love for his adopted son—love that both transcends and faces differences of race and physical ability. The accompanying photo was taken by Melissa Diekema.My boy will know the sound of squeaking tires, ones that carried him as he cried and giggled for the first two months of his life. The first two months—a strange menagerie of items that clicked and twitched before his new imagination. My boy will know the silver and clatter of chains, the lift that picks up dad and helps out mom. The smell of wet vinyl slings, the mustiness of rehabilitation. He will know the click, the whoosh, the motion, the corners, the sound of wood splintered, the feeling of his wheelchair, his grand chariot.
My boy will know intimately the face of the woman called mom, the smells and contours painted together, blurry at first, yet intermingled now to create a sense of safety and warmth. My boy will know the scratchy, scratchy beard that presents a Great Wall of China of whiskers between his small face and the chin of his dad. He will know the wet noses of the four-legged monsters that creep slowly upward on the bed—the one who is a dinosaur and the one who is a lamb. Certainly he will remember his taste for the latter.
My boy will know of his birth mother, her strength. He will know details of that January morning, when the angel met the shepherds and said, “Don’t be nervous.” Of soulful music, and historical roots, of the way she laughed about her favorite foods. My boy will know the planets shifted to make him appear from her, and then reappear to us. Three parents.
My boy will know the sound of knowledge, screamed from the lips of Mr. Wonder, Mr. Cash, Ms. Franklin, and Ms. Dee. He will remember the soothing bumbling of Buddy Holly, our first song together. Or maybe, like me, he will actually remember that James Taylor sang for us through dad’s mouth—“Sweet Baby James”—while mom went to the bathroom. My boy will remember the touch of grace and hope from Dr. West. A festival of happening, a festival of joy.
My boy will remember love, joy, laughter, tears, warmth, pacifiers, and parades of people who love him.
My boy will know this day, when we wrote together for the first time. On my chest, the microphone so close that its technological eardrums inadvertently pick up the in’s and out’s of his almost-silent snoring breath. Remember this, my boy: that you are creation and creator, that your hand, now on my chin, will be fierce and powerful, tender and true, triumphant and resistant, creating things that matter.