The First Life of Edison Hartwell

(from The Five Lives of Edison Hartwell)

It's difficult to say when the first life of Edison Hartwell began. For although an official birth certificate lists a time and date, many who knew him found this approach to establishing existence arbitrary. His mother's sister, for instance, knew Edison long before his birth date. Regularly playing violin to her sister's swelling belly, Matilda understood Edison's responsive kicks to the emotionally cathartic playing as appreciative applause. As such, when she could finally put down the violin and hold him in her arms, it was more of a meeting with an adoring fan than a first-time introduction.

For Thornton, however, Edison was a presence weeks before even Matilda knew him. Thornton had realized that Jane was pregnant even before she had. And why wouldn't he? Who else would be the first to notice the glisten and blush of one body becoming two? Who else could most make sense of his wife's broken orbit of emotion? In a way, Edison's life began when Thornton understood, with great trepidation, that he was suddenly a father.

The patriarch, "Old T" as his family had been known to call the grumpy ex-sailor, argued that Edison was actually his long dead brother returned to a new body. So strikingly similar in eyes and gaze was the child to Old T's younger twin that the now grey-bearded war hero gasped with shock upon first meeting his only grandchild. It was as if he had suddenly become a twin once again. Over the years, Old T would nickname the child with the same moniker his brother Lloyd had adopted, "Lo", although many in the family felt that this was in some way unhealthy and preventing Old T from ever really seeing Edison as his own person.

But despite the family's competitive claims, it was Jane's grandmother who had first met Edison. She liked to tell of a dream where while picking oranges from the sickly tree in her yard she had suddenly spied an oddly shaped fruit. In the dream, weeks had elapsed when after much patience she finally plucked the orange from its branch and began to peel back the rind. What she found inside was a key, but to what she hadn't yet known. She next took the key to her bedroom closet, the one where she had kept her family's old trunk. Inside the delapidated leather chest was a small locked notebook, the key's companion. With a quick stick and twist the pages suddenly opened to reveal images of Edison as a newborn, a toddler, a child, an adolescent, and so on. Grandmother Tullah had leafed through her grandson's photo album in a dream while at the very same time, sperm had met egg.

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The First Life of Edison Hartwell

(from The Five Lives of Edison Hartwell)

It's difficult to say when the first life of Edison Hartwell began. For although an official birth certificate lists a time and date, many who knew him found this approach to establishing existence arbitrary. His mother's sister, for instance, knew Edison long before his birth date. Regularly playing violin to her sister's swelling belly, Matilda understood Edison's responsive kicks to the emotionally cathartic playing as appreciative applause. As such, when she could finally put down the violin and hold him in her arms, it was more of a meeting with an adoring fan than a first-time introduction.

For Thornton, however, Edison was a presence weeks before even Matilda knew him. Thornton had realized that Jane was pregnant even before she had. And why wouldn't he? Who else would be the first to notice the glisten and blush of one body becoming two? Who else could most make sense of his wife's broken orbit of emotion? In a way, Edison's life began when Thornton understood, with great trepidation, that he was suddenly a father. (more…)

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