Forum — From the August 2015 issue

Self-Portrait with Daughters

Download Pdf
Read Online

It was summer and I was a new father, to eight-month-old daughters. I was the pilot of a car trip: New York City to somewhere near Lake Michigan — a town called Watervliet (half-rhymes with Wounded Knee) and a lake called Paw Paw.

But first we had to get there. Every second my daughters weren’t sleeping, they were crynin’. That’s what my girls used to call crying, although that summer they couldn’t yet speak. They could only coo and cry; there was lots of crying, especially when we had to drive somewhere. The only thing that soothed them was Dylan’s tune about the horses and how tired they are. It was the only song that they’d let me play without them going nuts and hollering. All the tired horses in the sun, how’m I supposed to get any riding done?

In Michigan we were to rendezvous with my in-laws at a lakeside house they’d rented for two weeks. There was a one-room cottage behind the house; my wife and I were told we could sleep there, and our daughters would sleep in their crib inside the main house. And when, in the wee hours, the girls needed changing or feeding, the in-laws would gladly volunteer. The idea was for my wife and me, but especially for my wife, to get some sleep for the first time in eight months.

The second morning in the cute little cottage, there was a tornado. No one knew it was coming, so no one knew to take cover. I was brushing my teeth, and my wife was in the main house already.

The tornado ripped a tree out of the ground and dropped it on the roof. Our cute cottage, destroyed. No one was hurt, but the power was knocked out for the entire lakeside town. So my wife took the kids to her parents’ house in not too faraway Mishawaka, Indiana, and I stayed there, at the lake, waiting for power.

It took a while for the power to come back. For four days, I read my book in the hammock out back, by the destroyed cottage, and when I got tired of the hammock, I paddled the kayak out onto the empty lake.

I enjoyed reading my book while lying in the kayak on the lake. Very much, in fact. I liked to close my eyes behind my shades and nap.

Previous PageNext Page
1 of 5

You are currently viewing this article as a guest. If you are a subscriber, please sign in. If you aren't, please subscribe below and get access to the entire Harper's archive for only $45.99/year.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Download Pdf
is a poet who lives in New York.

More from A. Balkan:

Forum From the August 2015 issue

How to Be a Parent

Get access to 168 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada


November 2018

The Tragedy of Ted Cruz

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Rebirth of a Nation

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

Sign up to receive The Weekly Review, Harper’s Magazine’s singular take on the past seven days of madness. It’s free!*

*Click “Unsubscribe” in the Weekly Review to stop receiving emails from Harper’s Magazine.