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Friday, 23 February 2018

Stories from the Home Front: James Arthur Allen and 'the ghost of two years' previous'

The series of responses to All Quiet on the Home Front with this lovely contribution from my fellow Bath resident, Jame Arthur Allen, the besotted new father overtaken and overcome by fatherhood. I recognise the sentiments so much.

I’m many things: a Husband, Brother, Friend and most recently a Father. I wouldn’t say I’m a selfish person, single minded maybe, stubborn, a definitive yes. I’m eager to share and I care for those close to me. I’m useless with money, talk too much and obsess over things that to the majority hold no importance or consequence. I have fears that revolve around other people’s and my own perception of success; like everyone else I also have dreams.

Minnie Mae came screaming into the world in early September 2016; it felt like a dream. With her arrival came many things, questions, truths and struggles. 

It’s no longer my hopes and dreams I have to contend with, in truth they have become secondary. I chase my aspirations, projects, commitments and work covertly. I steal windows of opportunity for myself, I feel guilt when I go to work leaving my wife to care for Minnie in the full knowledge of how relentlessly hard it is. 

I sneak off to make pictures, like an addict the more I withdraw from the previous incarnation of myself the more strongly I feel the need to chase the ghost of two years previous. I have become secondary to the mundane cycle of routine, a facilitator of needs, a constant assuring presence at the centre of Minnie’s Universe.  To my daughter I am everything, a sun around which she revolves. 

I realise that this seems negative but it’s not. I realise that like all suns my brightness and wonder will slowly diminish in my daughter’s eyes, my importance will fade into the background of her own life. But that’s ok, I know that many before me have trodden the same path and understand what it is like to love something with every fibre of your being. To have something that you would die and kill for with out a moment’s consideration, it’s a shared experience that for many is the very essence of life. My own mortality walks beside me now, my biggest fear is not seeing Minnie be independent and happy; my own preservation and goals are shaped by this. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is life’s most ironic joke.

As a disclaimer I live around the corner from Colin, we share the same landscape and the same lifestyle. We are both photographers and teachers and have spent time discussing fatherhood both before the arrival of Minnie and after. We have a shared experience. All Quiet on the Home Front talks to me in many ways, it’s a road map to fatherhood, and enabled me to articulate my feelings and the changes I have and will tackle in my life. I have shared it with others and all have gleaned sage advice from the pages and images. I see Minnie in Isabel, I see myself in Colin, my phone is full of pictures of Minnie, tokens and totems of fleeting moments that I have now lost, memories that have been replaced by shopping lists and deadlines. 

Most importantly the pages let me know that it will be ok. That I am destined to continue striving to realise my dreams whilst managing Minnies’. Perhaps most reassuringly the pages communicate that the present will pass and I will change, that I will one day face my own mortality but it’s not yet. 

We have far to many adventures to have before then.

Other Stories from the Home Front:

 #1 Emilie Lauwers

 #2 Benedetta Casagrandre

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