When my father’s father called me one day to tell me that he had found a small bound book of writing he had done in the sixties and seventies, I knew I had to get my hands on that collection. I’m always wondering about my family history. From the yellowing photos I have on my desk, the Lazar family seems as apple pie ordinary as a dented mailbox or a piece of wet meat on the countertop, regular, cut from the cloth of the millions of Americans that spring up from star spangled waves of grain with buttermilk coursing through their denim veins. There is one picture of my dad, ten-years-old with a bowl cut and a lute, at what may or may not be a renaissance fair, but I’m pretty sure that’s the only weird one. Even though it’s said that a photo can say a thousand words, I would really prefer a thousand words all written out, detailing the branches of my family tree. And that thousand-word account was within my reach. A whole plastic book of primary source pages, just for me! When my grandfather delivered it, I was practically blistering with anticipation. He turned the pages tenderly, going through each poem, each play, and each short story he had written to give me some kind of back-story. When I was alone with the book, I rapaciously dug into the ream of ancestral delicacies. Something smashed over my head like a splitting brick when I read the first poem, a sonnet about my father’s birth, which I’d like to share with you.
By Myron Lazar
When you had come from warmth and womb to find
A greater darkness than your comfort knew,
Your hands were blue-moist and with wrinkles lined,
They reached to nothing and from fear withdrew.
Then soft and plump you found my hand with strength,
You traced smooth worlds—left imprints on the wall,
Caressed dark pools—explored my face at length,
You kissed scrubbed palms and blew them to the hall.
The tightness of your grasp, a telling hold,
Secures you like rich leaves my fine roots feed;
Until bright glowers from your leaves unfold,
You cling to firmer branches for your need.
When you are ripened fruit and make demands,
Will your strong fingers clasp my brittle hands?
That poem just made me cry and cry. For the first time, I really saw my father—the bravest, most strong man I know—as a child, someone who had been infantile at one point in his life. I saw my grandfather as a mustachioed young father, venturing into new territory alongside his new baby, feeding off of the feelings of having his first child and hopeful that his son would grow up to care for him. For the first time, the Lazar family tree was no longer a series of snapshots in a jacketed album—we were scenes on the page, we were words spelling out feelings, we were the line of ants crossing your countertop, tracking through the jams and sticky custards you leave on the linoleum, stretching into infinitum, Lazar after Lazar after Lazar and still more Lazars to come. My grandfather’s sonnet could churn time. I heard soft slacks and tasted wooden cradles. I listened to gurgle of my father falling asleep under a blue-bath-towel-sized blanket and smelled the brightness of our impending future.