Matthew Stafford Baby

There in a North Carolina Hardee’s where my family and I have stopped, a Karmic bond awaits: not a baby in a wooden highchair who looks like Matthew Stafford as a two-year-old, but a two-year-old who looks like Matthew Stafford does now.

God trifles with designs and we all look like someone else. But this. It is a miracle of reincarnation.

The baggy eyes. The small, sly mouth. The hair parted on the right and the bangs smoothed like Sunday school in Dunwoody, Georgia. The Dalai Lama Matthew Stafford. My family and I stare like pilgrims, watch the baby scanning secondaries, his elbows up, his sippy cup at his mouth like the point of a pigskin.  

His young parents eat quietly in the fuse-box light that flickers in this false place. They’re hipster farmers who grow barley and buckwheat? She makes tinctures of polk berries? He fixes wagons, curbs and repairs wells? 

We have our order and my family leaves. In the van, my wife passes out our food. I wait in the driver’s seat and watch the restaurant, thinking yet again that at this age, my life is no longer ahead of me. I look backward more than forward now, and I feel no wiser than I did at ten when my father congratulated me on having common sense.

Finito for becoming what I should have been all along. Nice try, tiger.

My Hardee's Double Thickburger is nothing like the advertisement that drew me to it. Of course. I chew nevertheless. One more moment not so much squandered as inattentively digested.  

In a similar, disinterested manner, Matthew Stafford grips a french fry in his small fist and slowly pokes the fry, adorably, at a cheek. His mother helps him find his mouth. Amen.

And from the hazy trance of a two-year-old ready for a nap, a last parable on the humble privileges of this meager life: Oh traveler, enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. But for now, we all eat what we must eat.

Bird Report

A phenomenon of late summer: a flock of robins in my backyard. Thirty or more of them, I don't know why, waiting for a sermon.

I quote St. Francis from the deck.

"Beware the sin of ingratitude," I say.

They bow and nod and fly off.