A weeklong electronic journal.
Oct. 31 1998 3:30 AM


       Early last year, my true love, Caroline Mailhot, and I told a few close friends and family members that we intended to get married. We've traveled quite a lot during our five and a half years together--Italy, Greece, Spain, Morocco, Anguilla, various domestic destinations--and for this occasion, we decided, we would head for Scotland, where there is no mandatory waiting period for a marriage license, and tie the knot with, perhaps, a hotel concierge and a courthouse clerk as our official witnesses. Then, a couple of months before this was to have taken place (we happened to be in New Mexico at the time), she wisely asked, "Do we really want to do this?" Each of us had been previously married, I for 20 years, she for seven. Our relationship was humming along harmoniously. Why were we trying to fix it?
       In the impenetrably medieval medina of Fez, Morocco, a year ago, a guide led us through a low, dark doorway into a cavelike chamber, where a bare incandescent bulb suspended from a 15 foot tether cast just enough light to illuminate two men in a pit another 20 feet below. One lay swaddled in a blanket, asleep, while his companion silently fed scraps of cedar through a small metal vent, providing fuel for the furnace in a public steam bath next door. Given the way medina life is organized, I knew that feeding the fire was each man's life's work, and it occurred to me that if I weren't standing there looking at them, our existences would defy the principle of six degrees of separation.
       The choice to have a child, far more momentous than our vacillation over marriage, was of course a decision to launch ourselves upon a permanent new journey. Since bringing our newborn son, Paul, home a week ago, Caroline and I have made only a few brief forays out of the house. So how is it that, on a leafy street in a New York commuter suburb--a setting not as far flung as, say, the furnace fuel pit in the Fez medina--everything that was familiar has suddenly acquired a revelatory exoticism?
       The bedroom where Paul was conceived and now, at 5 a.m., lies swaddled in a blanket, sleeping next to his mother, contains as much mystery as the July sunrise that once struck us dumb on a volcanic island near the coast of Tunisia, or the ruined Greek temples that dwarfed us in Agrigento, Sicily, a few days later. The daylight view from our window is of turning oaks against a shifting sky, their yellow foliage as radiant as a Gustav Klimt painting. And down the hall, the other day, I found my 12-year-old son Reid cradling his baby brother while standing in front of a stereo that was playing the Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 8 ("Pathetique")--Paul's introduction to music. Along came Reid's twin, Timothy--the stereo is in Timothy's bedroom--and pronounced this a gross aesthetic offense; Paul's first music should have been "Ants Marching," by the Dave Matthews Band.
       We're a family; there are bound to be some discordant, dismal days ahead. Even at those moments, though, I hope none of us has trouble remembering what I now know more surely than ever. Why are we here? To love each other. And where does the safest journey always lead? Home.

Mark Singer is a staff writer for The New Yorker. His most recent book is Citizen K: The Deeply Weird Journey of Brett Kimberlin. He is the father of four sons, including Paul Mailhot-Singer, who was born Oct. 21, 1998 (7 lbs., 10 oz.).