Early Days

“Falling in love as a parent is not like any other love I’ve known. There is no uncertainty in it, no distance.”

“Early Days” is essentially what it says on the tin. It was an attempt to capture the first chemical rush of my passionate love for my child in the first week of their life. It’s gone through edits in the subsequent months, but always with an eye on maintaining and, where possible, heightening that dizzying sensation. Falling in love as a parent is not like any other love I’ve known. There is no uncertainty in it, no distance. It is all action, no information. The child is here and they need your total commitment to them, for life. So you give it, without even wondering who they are. Like many of my ideas, “Early Days” started as a “what if” that made me laugh. Eating the potato salad in the diner that features prominently in the piece, I thought, “What if this is the framework for how I tell the story of my son’s birth? My deferred craving for potato salad, as if the birth of my child was incidental to a history of my desires, as if this person I’ve been living my whole life up to this moment to bring into the world was just a bump between me and scratching an itch?” The piece in general I see as trying to balance between that selfishness and hunger, and the expansive melting into community and family that is having a child, the way I felt suddenly at peace and connected to all the generations of my family. Instead of highlighting that “contrast” I tried to portray them as one feeling, the feelings of those days. Wanting potato salad, exulting in my child, worry and joy and wholeness and fleeting moments of self-care. The ending in an injunction, a piece of advice, a moral, “do this,” I would normally attribute to my history of writing Divrei Torah, small sermons for Shabbos morning services, but I think in this case has more to do with the onset of paternity.

Early Days
I’m writing this Monday, July 24th. On Thursday, July 20th I woke up craving potato salad from this diner on 181st Street. I finally got to eat the potato salad on the evening of Saturday the 22nd. In between, on Friday the 21st, I stayed with my wife all through labor until our son was born weighing six pounds and ten ounces. I don’t know how else to tell this story but the way I have already begun this. Hunger defines so much of my life now. My son is growing and he needs to eat. I keep skipping meals, most of which are cooked by my mother-in-law, who was kind enough to come live with us for his first few months. The food is good, a little plain, but filling and welcome. My mother-in-law suffers from hypertension, so salt is often in short evidence. I miss salt. I love my son and wife and my whole family, wide and wonderful. My son has a cleft lip. We knew about the cleft lip from the ultrasounds, and worried for months if he’d be able to latch onto the breast. When my wife fed him for the first time she was so proud and defiant. His cleft lip makes it difficult for my son to connect to my wife’s breasts. Sometimes both mother and child are so frustrated they cry. Breastfeeding is an intense moment between them, something I cannot share. I do not find it difficult to connect with my son. I am in love. Life has taught me what I can and can’t share. This is a happy story. How could it be anything else? I’m writing from deep within early-stage sleep deprivation with oxytocin thrumming in my veins, in love with a three-day-old and trying to remember the feelings and sensations of the past few days. The potato salad was good. It’s always good at that diner. I think they make it with sour cream—maybe full-fat sour cream?—and dill. Maybe just dill and mayo. It’s always so cold and slightly tart and delicious. I could eat it probably every day. Every day I am a father from now on. I can’t just go buying as much potato salad as I want, I have to save money for this kid. My wife’s insurance covers all three of our health care, so that’s good. What a joy to refer to myself as the three of us, maybe because it means I am more than the three of us, I am her mother and my mother and our fathers and sisters and all the people who will help raise this child. For years I was very depressed. For years I found it difficult to connect to anyone. I thought my life would be just me, forever, a desolate solipsism enforced by my own unlovability. Now I have the love of my life next to me, and our child to carry. My wife doesn’t like that potato salad as much as I do, but that’s okay, life has taught me what I do and don’t need to share. I need to share this with you: happiness is a matter of little things lining up into bigger things. Eat. Drink. Be Merry. Hold your lover. Hold your child. And use full-fat sour cream and dill in as many dishes as possible.

Mordecai Martin is an Ashkenazi Jewish writer and experimental translator working and living between NYC and Mexico City. He would like to use this occasion to call attention to the many wonderful Palestinian writers, poets, translators and reporters currently being attacked in a genocide by the Israeli military, and to encourage all to seek out the work and stories of Gazans at He is receiving an MFA in Creative Writing at Randolph College, and has published in Honey Literary, Manyworlds.Place, HAD, Catapult, and other literary magazines. He is on social media as @mordecaipmartin, and his website is


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