Issue #155: Refund

Our new issue, “Refund” was curated and edited by One Story contributing editor Karen Friedman, and so I am passing the blog-reins into her steady and talented hands. I hope you all enjoy this wonderful tale about the complicated role of parenting a gifted child.-HT

Both of my children look like my husband, my son in particular. (Although, at only 7 weeks-old, who knows how long this will last.) The thing is, increasingly I find myself fixating on the color of his eyes. Right now they are blue like my own – the same shade as my father’s and my grandfather’s eyes. Rationally speaking, I know it’s a little meaningless nothing, and yet, it feels like an important tether. An outward signal of other characteristics we might share. Of ownership. Of belonging.

“Refund” by David James Poissant explores some similar territory. Upon discovering that his son, Josh, has been selected to join the gifted class, the main character, Sam, struggles with his desire for his son to be “normal” instead, to be like him. While the outside world unquestioningly values the label “gifted”, Sam is dismayed. It delineates so starkly the differences between father and son – differences that Sam fears will ultimately take his child from him.

The beauty in Poissant’s story lies in his exploration of the intricate web of pride, love, and blame that accompanies raising a child and hoping to do the best for him, even when it’s not clear how or what that might be, even when it might be the worst alternative for a parent. For more information about how the story was developed, read our Q&A with the author.

As for my son’s eyes, if they turn mostly brown like my daughter’s, I’ll get over it. But both of them better love books.

2 thoughts on “Issue #155: Refund

  1. I read this story a few days ago and it’s still rolling around in my head. Poissant does a beautiful job crafting a haunted, flawed father. It really is a pleasure to read. Thanks for publishing this one!

  2. I raised my daughter, alone, from the age of nine months. It would have helped so much to have had a partner at times. But, even though there was an absence, I regularly realized that I did not have to consult another about her care. Making child rearing decisions was hard, but I often thought how much harder it would be if two people were trying to make decisions together. Couples, who were friends were continually disagreeing about childcare issues. Silent, stoney fights would break out. Friends, after numerous drinks, would say, “It was so much better before the kid(s).” I wonder how many marriages would have worked out well, were it not for “the children.” I also know several couples who married because of pregnancy, or, once married, got pregnant as soon as possible. They had little, to no time, to get to LIVE with each other. Have an adult life. Explore who they were together. Become a “team.” Play out all their couple fantasies. Travel. Stay out all night.

    When I read Poissant’s story, I was reminded of what I was spared by raising my daughter by myself. I was very moved by the loneliness of everyone in the story. Though I was alone with my daughter, and struggled with poverty for several years, I was never unhappy. Friends of mine, like the Sam and Joy, had lives so full of tension over children, for many of the reasons Poissant details: meals, treats, school, social efforts. The day-to-day events became so charged love was suffocated.

    It was hard to read this story. I have read Poissant’s interview. His thoughts about tending to go overboard with humor, made me smile. Because the difference between his story and a sitcom is instructive. Each is reporting the same agony. But the sitcom makes it bearable because it is built on a foundation of humor. And it is this ease of making events funny that protects us from the painful reality of how we really are together. Though Poissant really wants to use his humor, the restraint he mustered in this story seems agonizingly perfect.

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