And A Child is Born - 10. Summer Delight
Matan found it hard to believe that he and Yonatan were having the best time of their year together. There were no stressors unless you would say that having two new-born babies was anxiety-producing. Luckily, Jan and Nash were there to help until they returned to school in the fall. Plus, Matan’s parents came to Brussels every weekend and insisted on helping with their grandchildren. Judy was very nurturing and insisted on feeding Ossie and Juju and rocking them to sleep. Herbert looked at the babies, suggested they were beautiful children, and said they would grow up to be very successful. Matan recognized the same attitude toward his children that he had experienced growing up. There was lots of love – at an arm’s length. Matan realized that his father’s upbringing had not taught him how to be nurturing and caring. There was lots of love – in a way that Herbert could give. Each Sunday afternoon, when Judy and Herbert would head for the train station, there was almost a sigh of relief from Herbert that he would be immersed in his familiar legal treatises the next day.
Matan suggested to Yonatan that he invite his mother over to meet her grandchildren. Yonatan’s reaction was volatile, and Matan was taken aback when Yonatan said, “not in a million fucking years, not while I am alive, not near our children even if we die, fucking never.” Yonatan clearly still carried some hostilities about his parents. Mrs. Ward had sent Matan a letter saying that she had rights as a grandmother. When Matan showed the letter to Yonatan, he immediately called her. It was the middle of the night, her time, but Yonatan didn’t care. He was truly unkind. After that piece of business was taken care of, they didn’t hear from her again while they were in Europe.
All of the adults in the house stayed a little groggy. Matan was often amazed that he was now considered an adult. He thought he had missed part of his teenage years and the purported wild life of college students. He weighed those thoughts against being with Yonatan and having two children and decided that he got the better end of the deal. He was an attentive father, but Yonatan surprised him with his obsessive behavior. Both had grown up as only children, but it was as if Yonatan had a genetic predisposition to be a father. A very possessive father.
Whichever child awoke first and started crying to be fed, the other would immediately join in the wailing. Yonatan could differentiate their cries, which the others could not. If Juju cried, he would jump from the bed, go to the nursery, and tell her that everything was okay. All he had to do was look at her and she would start smiling. Matan wondered how it was that a one-month-old baby girl already had her papa wrapped around her finger? If Ossie started crying in the night, Yonatan would roll over, poke Matan, and tell him to take care of their son. Matan didn’t bother to point out to Yonatan how he was discriminating by assigning a child to each of them. Ossie often had colic and was a fussy baby, which meant Matan had many midnight walks up and down the hallway cuddling his son. Ossie would quieten but still be fretful by the time Matan would put him back to bed. Yonatan forbade either child from sleeping in bed with him and Matan. Their bed was reserved for two things: sleeping, but more importantly, making love.
A trip to a pediatrician confirmed that Ossie was lactose intolerant, and once they got him off of cow’s milk, he was fine. The midnight strolls became less frequent. Nash suggested they all stop drinking cow’s milk and perhaps look at vegetarian diets. Yonatan asked what the football coach would think when Nash refused a big slab of steak after a game. After Nash tested some different dishes, Yonatan agreed that he felt better without eating a lot of beef. The children were too young to try anything other than the goat’s milk and nutrition supplement.
The worst thing for Matan was changing diapers. Matan knew every parent said that but OH MY GOD, he thought, how does such a tiny thing produce such vile, reprehensible, vomit-worthy excrement? Yonatan would laugh as Matan would gag. Sometimes, Yonatan would jump in and complete the smelly task but more often relished watching Matan gag and get watery eyes. He would tell Matan that it was good that the children’s digestive systems worked so well. To be such a big guy, Yonatan was so gentle with the children. Sometimes, he would just stand in the doorway to the nursery with a look of complete awe on his face. Matan would hang on his shoulder, and they would look at their little darlings. Both men were smitten. The children were already spoiled by their overly attentive fathers. Yonatan said all of that would change once they returned home and they were in school. Then their schedules would be such that they wouldn’t have as much time with their progeny.
Their daily routine became very structured. The guys would be up in the morning, have breakfast, and then go into their library, where they both had desks. Yonatan would work on family law documents, and Matan would review museum documents and photographs. At 11 a.m. Yonatan would pause for an hour of Hebrew lessons. A member of the local synagogue came over each day to instruct him. Lunch at noon was followed by a nap when the entire household grew quiet for ninety minutes. The afternoon would find Yonatan and Matan back in the library while Jan and Nash would take the kids for an outing. Matan said it was important for them to start hearing other languages and seeing other things besides the four walls of the apartment. Matan insisted that the children would be multi-lingual.
One day Jan and Nash were late returning with the children, and Yonatan paced until the apartment door opened. He was so relieved that he completely forgot the diatribe he had been spouting for thirty minutes. At dinner, he did ask Jan and Nash to call if they were going to be late. They could see the anguish in Yonatan’s face and promised to call. Already, he was setting times for the children to be home. God help when they became teenagers.
Their routine was broken the first week of August when the first of their summer visitors arrived. Matan and Yonatan wished they had brought a camera when Tim, Jeremiah, and Bobby arrived at the airport. There were lots of photo opportunities. Black had been antsy that morning and was bouncing on the balls of his feet, waiting for them to pass through customs. Yonatan and Matan were both sniggering. Tim was a tall man, but Black twirled him around in the middle of the concourse. Jeremiah and Bobby both kissed Black and called him Baby Daddy Black. It was questionable whether Black had ever grinned so much.
They arrived at the apartment and Jeremiah’s mouth fell open. He wasn’t expecting such luxurious accommodations. He immediately fell onto the couch and said to Bobby, “Beulah, peel me a grape.”
“Yes, Jeremiah. But you’re no angel.”
The boys burst into laughter. Those were lines from the movie “I’m No Angel” starring Mae West.
Jeremiah was boisterous while looking at the salon. Finally, Jan came to hush everyone and remind them there were children in the apartment. Matan led them on a room-to-room tour – every room except the nursery. They kept their voices down so that Jan did not have to speak to them again. Matan said that they could see the children at lunchtime. Jeremiah declared them the most beautiful children in the world. They didn’t necessarily look like siblings but more like cousins. Ossie had brown eyes and a head of curly auburn red hair. He was much longer in the body than Juju and looked thinner. Juju had bright blue eyes and blondish hair. Her laser-like gaze was more determined than Ossie’s. She also would be found holding Ossie’s hand in the crib they shared. Yonatan had already decided she would be the one to take care of her brother.
Jeremiah and Bobby decided they wanted children also when they finished college. They each argued about which of them would carry the children. They were being silly, which was charming to Matan and Yonatan.
Black had the week off from work, so he and Tim decided to get a hotel room for a few days. Black said that Tim would be embarrassed for others to hear their lovemaking. Jeremiah and Bobby had no such scruples. The two boys were a quivering mess of hormones during their first European trip, and their nighttime forays made Matan smile, thinking about him and Yonatan.
Jeremiah had researched where they wanted to explore each day. He and Bobby would take off each morning after breakfast and not reappear until dinner time. One night they came back and were in a very somber mood. When Yonatan asked what was upsetting them, Bobby told us of their trip to Ypres with Black and Tim. Black disclosed that his great-grandfather was buried in the cemetery at Ypres and had shown them his grave. Both Yonatan and Matan were startled by that revelation. Black did not disclose that type of information to them. Jeremiah, however, was Black’s son, and he was learning the family lineage.
That night, the guys played a game of poker, and the Jeremiah they knew and laughed at instantly reappeared. He was not above cheating, and he was good at it. Luckily, they were using centime, the equivalent of a U.S. penny. It was a rowdy good time. Jeremiah would howl with laughter when he won another hand. Matan matched Jeremiah yelp for yelp. Finally, Nash appeared in the salon and reminded them that the children were sleeping. Matan was chagrined that he, once again, had to be a responsible adult instead of a teenager.
Matan’s parents arrived on the train at lunchtime on Friday. Jeremiah was the first of the group to greet Judy. She was wonderful with him. She held his hand and appropriated his time as they sat in the salon and talked. Late that afternoon, Yonatan suggested the entire family go to the Friday evening Shabbat service.
Jeremiah was fearless as he led the family into the synagogue. He was greeted in Hebrew and responded in kind. He then spoke in French. The service was in a combination of Hebrew and French. Jeremiah and Matan were the most comfortable, with the rest stumbling through the service. Matan realized his parents were more cultural than religious Jews as they depended on their son to help them find their place in the Siddur. People greeted the extended family afterward, and everyone wanted to see the children. They were confused when both Yonatan and Matan professed to be the papas. They arrived back at the apartment and had a late dinner before bedding down for the night. Yonatan and Matan were thankful that Oscar and Rebekah Feldsher had requested that Dr. Arendt find them a large apartment in the 1930s. The first time Yonatan and Matan walked through the building, neither thought they would ever need so much space, but now every bedroom room was filled.
There were many tears at the airport when Tim and the boys left on Sunday morning. Black held his emotions in check and reattached his mantle of being a security guard. His entire demeanor changed. He was friendly but very reserved. He also looked sad that his partner was gone. Yonatan reminded everyone that in a few weeks, they would be back in the states.
They rushed home from the airport and started washing sheets and towels. The guys had put them in the laundry room, but Matan told them not to bother with the washing machine. Now Yonatan and Matan were cleaning the apartment, putting out fresh linens, and replenishing the kitchen before their favorite beach guys arrived the next morning. They joked that it was like turn-over time at summer camp.
Pate and Timmy were so pleased to be invited, and Matan was especially grateful for the time with Timmy. He and Timmy planned to spend the entire week in museums and galleries. First, though, Matan and Timmy spent the entire day on Monday looking at the artwork in the apartment and discussing the various paintings. They would sit on the floor and discuss the particulars of the artwork that captured their imaginations. The next few days, the two men were artists let loose on Brussels and Paris. They constantly talked over each other as they viewed paintings and sculpture. Matan was so thrilled to have someone with him who viewed and talked about art the same way he did. They spent a night in Paris that upset Pate and Yonatan. Matan chuckled that their big, butch handsome partners could not function on their own. Timmy filled a book with sketches and drawings while in the French museums. Each day he glowed brighter with delight at viewing some of the great artwork in Europe. His need to see artwork was as voracious as Matan’s. They had each found an artist compatriot. Both men decided that they would make regular trips to Paris and Brussels as they had only seen a fraction of what was on public view. When they arrived at the private entrance to the Louvre, they were given their own tour. The security guard was the same one who had accompanied Yonatan and Matan when they had first visited. Matan had been to the Louvre many times as part of his internship at the Musee d’Art et d’Historie du Judaisme, but it was Timmy’s first time. Matan found that he had to give Timmy lots of time to examine the paintings as his friend was only familiar with the color plates found in the books published by the museums. To see them in person was another matter altogether. The art books couldn’t capture the size, scale, and visual space of the paintings. Timmy would gasp in surprise when viewing some of the paintings. He would stand with his mouth hanging open when he was standing next to some of the sculptures. They were much larger than he had imagined.
Yonatan and Pate were left on their own and found they shared a lot in common. In many ways, they were two country boys who had found personality doppelgangers. When Timmy and Matan arrived home from Paris, the two men were kicked back in the salon drinking beer, eating pretzels, and talking college football. Yep, the good ole country boys were enjoying themselves even if they were in Brussels.
There was an uncomfortable silence their final night in Brussels when the four men were sitting at a café having dinner. Yonatan had brought up the fact that Todd was too busy with school to visit, and the other guys decided to wait until another time when they were all free. Yonatan caught the look between Timmy and Pate when he mentioned that Todd had been someone distant and cool the last time they had talked. Yonatan said he didn’t know if he had done something to offend the guys. Matan was quick to point out that Todd was immersed in his pre-medical school curriculum and didn’t have the time to visit. Pate quickly changed the subject because he knew they were in uncomfortable territory. He didn’t want competing alliances to form with him and Timmy caught in the middle.
The third week of August was upon them when Jan took a few days off to go to Paris. She said that she couldn’t face people at school if she spent two months in Europe and not traveled to Paris. Mrs. Jennings invited her to stay in their apartment, but Jan declined and said she had found a room in the Montmartre neighborhood. She wanted some time on her own. Nash and Yonatan said they were up to the task of taking care of the children.
Jan was not in Paris for more than 24 hours when she met Tyrese Napoleon. He was an Ethiopian refugee who now lived and worked in Paris. Tyrese’s father was in the French Foreign Legion when he met a beautiful young Ethiopian girl. Tyrese was born in Mek’ele. His father had moved on to another assignment but had left written information on his whereabouts with his girlfriend. After a difficult birth, she contracted an infection, and Tyrese became part of the community of children without parents. Tyrese was an incredibly handsome child with green eyes and a lithe body. People were naturally attracted to helping this young boy. A woman in the village always made sure that Tyrese knew who his father was and that he was of French nationality. When Tyrese became a teenager, he decided to find his father and traveled through Liberia before crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Marseilles. He carried the tattered paperwork from his father which acknowledged his parenthood. After much wrangling, Tyrese was given French citizenship. Again, it was his beautiful looks and quiet demeanor that made people want to help him. He was artistically gifted and won a scholarship to the Sorbonne. He met Jan at the Louvre one day, where he was interning. The electric spark when they looked at each other almost lit up the entire gallery. They had dinner together that night, and both declared that fate had stepped in and that they had found their mates. It was two days later that Jan and Tyrese made love for the first time. Three days later, they found themselves weeping at the station as Jan boarded the train to Brussels. Each swore they would stay in touch and find a way to be together.
Nash left for Oxford before Jan arrived back in Brussels. He was already late for football practice at William and Mary but had gotten permission from the coach to miss a few practice sessions. The coach had told Nash he wouldn’t be playing the first few games until he was fully integrated with the team. Nash knew that he wouldn’t have played anyway because the senior squad was outstanding. The only way he would play would be if a senior player were injured.
Nash took Oxford by storm, or maybe it was the other way around. Nash couldn’t get enough of the university town. It felt like the town drew him into his inner desires of belonging academically. Every waking minute was devoted to immersing himself in the life of the colleges. He would startle people by being so open and friendly. The British were much more reserved than this bright college student from Virginia. Nash knew he looked like a big blond galoot, but when he would ask questions, his enthusiasm would overwhelm people, and they would help with everything he requested. He spent an afternoon at the Bodleian and decided there was no greater library in the world. He met one of the law librarians who took a fancy to him and gave him a private tour of the library. He was utterly fascinated when they were in the law library and discovered people restoring books from the 1500s. Nash would have stayed all afternoon talking with the restorers but was gently ushered on his way. It was in the Eagle and Child as he ate a ploughman’s lunch with a pint that he knew he had found his academic and emotional home in this university town. He decided that he was going to try to become a Rhodes Scholar. After all, good ole Cecil was a poof just like him. He sent postcards to all of his friends and colleagues. Dr. Emmanuelson received a series of cards written each day that Nash was in Oxford. He wanted his mentor to know his enthusiasm for history.
Nash was in a quandary when he headed to board the bus for Gatwick Airport. He wanted to stay in Oxford but knew that he had to leave. He had found his lover – it wasn’t a man but rather this academic village. He could envision himself living at one of the colleges to teach and study. He wanted to wear an academic robe to class. He wanted to go to Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday. He wanted to sit at the Eagle and Child and have serious conversations the same way that Tolkien, Lewis, and the Inklings did. His heart ached for his new lover, and he hadn’t even boarded the airplane.
Across the channel, Matan and Yonatan kicked back before they packed up the apartment and realized this had been the perfect summer, but it was now time to return to school. They were all grown up or practically grown up. Matan had just a few more months, and he would be majority age. Somehow, he felt so adult, yet also so much like a teenager. Since he had been with Yonatan, he had become a grown man. It was hard to believe it had only been a year. He remembered how he pitched a fit about high school and Yonatan’s acquiescence, which was his first step in becoming a man instead of a teenager in love. Now he was a partner, and a daddy, and an art student, and suddenly the possibilities felt endless.
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