Sarosy shares stories from his life as a father and teacher in this debut memoir on parenthood set from 2015 to 2017 in New Mexico.
On a perfect October evening, the author helped his 4-year-old daughter, Agnes, and her friend Sully rake crisp cottonwood leaves into a pile and jump into them. Another evening, Agnes told her father that she “no longer needs shushes,” the calming sounds he had offered her since she was a baby, causing him to feel the heartbreak of a father whose child is growing older. In the fresh January snow, Sarosy attempted to coax a wayward child back into a group pretending to be horses while pulling a sled. Collected from the two years Sarosy spent helping to run a “forest kindergarten” (an exploration-centered preschool conducted almost entirely outdoors) in northern New Mexico, these short essays explore his life as a father and teacher, both to his daughter and to the other children in his care. In some ways, he was part of a supportive community, living on a commune that shared chores and food among the many residents. In other ways, he was a single father attempting to raise his daughter the right way. Sarosy expertly depicts the rhythms of the natural world: “Cottonwood leaves are heart-shaped, with crenulated edges reminiscent of the course of rivers, or the movement of snakes. Turning gold in the fall, the trees, a cousin of aspens, are radiant and noisy, showering leaves like gold dust whenever a good breeze picks up.” The best essays, like “Catcher in the Rye,” (which contrasts his joy at catching sledding children to keep them from sliding over a river bank with the commune’s inability to discover what is killing their turkeys), make thoughtful arguments about the difficulties of raising children in a dangerous world. Most, however, are simple vignettes that read more as diary entries than fully fleshed-out treatises. Sarosy doesn’t answer all of the questions readers may have about his commune lifestyle, but parents with hippie-ish inclinations may find inspiration in this work about giving one’s children a highly tactile early education surrounded by animals and nature.
A sincere, often thoughtful (if very crunchy) memoir about fatherhood off the beaten path.