Bloomsday & Father’s Day

These two are aptly paired up for me as I learned about Bloomsday — this Irish holiday celebrating James Joyce and his Ulysses — from my father. I was probably 4 and sitting on the living room floor with my sister, a predominant childhood place involving wooden blocks and tiny dolls. My father was listening to NPR and mentioned the day was Bloomsday. Such a pretty word, I remember thinking. Much later, in high school, my sister and I devoured Dubliners and Portrait of an Artist.

James Joyce, so infinitely complex and rich — which, perhaps, pairs up perfectly with parenthood. Happy Father’s Day!

Welcome, O life!

— James Joyce

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Photo by Molly B.

Anniversaries and the Children

Anniversaries held keen importance to James Joyce. June 16, Bloomsday, was the date he and Nora Barnacle first went walking. This date–September 16–marks a different kind of anniversary for me, the date of an accident in our family a number of years ago, a genuine shifting point in our lives. I wrote an essay about that accident, which was published, and I was paid a good amount of money for it.

While the experience was excruciating, so much came out of that night, like a fount of energy, a swirl of all kinds of things. Looking back now, I see how, even then, in what appeared to me a stillness of stupefying suffering, our very lives continued to pulse, to throb on with the very things that make us human–desire and love and laughter. Much as I might have longed to retract into into my own misery and fear, I was pulled forth by the insistence of such simplicity as hunger, dirty diapers, a child’s hand in my own.

….and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes….

–– James Joyce, Ulysses

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