A List of My Utopias

A collection of utopias and a reflection of life.

  • Love looks like the creation of a utopia.
    Photo by Getty Images/Juhku

The Blue Utopia

My mother is a wood thrush, and my father is a great snipe. They aren’t my parents in this utopia. They’re birds who met once, then drifted apart, as birds do, so they could lead their own lives and become who they were meant to be. They have no children, bird or otherwise, tugging them in a different, boring direction. My father, who can fly for thousands of miles without rest, flapped away years ago in order to see all the places he never got to see in his actual life: other continents, the Black Sea, Russia. This self-propelled mode of flight is ideal for him, as my dad has always hated plane travel—not the flying itself, but all the rules. He has never been one to follow rules that aren’t his.

I remember, as a child, being buried in rules. I think this is how my father showed he loved us. His rules gave our house a fragile rigidity: every item in it, even the macramé hangings in the kitchen, appeared breakable or about to break, and I broke things. It’s unlikely for a child in such a situation to be able to obey every rule. (That’s my opinion, not my father’s.)

My mother the wood thrush, finally responsible for no one, has the time now to build a nest just how she always wanted it, smoothing the mud over dead grass and leaves for days, weeks if she wants. Do birds grow old? What does an old bird look like? I suppose it doesn’t matter, because my parents will not grow old in my utopia. My father will not lose sight in his right eye after a botched cataract surgery. My mother will not have a lump removed from below her left ear.

She spent so much time researching that lump. For months it was all we talked about on the phone: the different kinds of lumps, the various surgeries to remove them, the types of incisions she was considering. Her surgery lasted three hours. In the weeks that followed, we talked about the side effects: Her earlobe was numb. Her smile was crooked. She texted me pictures of her crooked smile. She should not eat sugar anymore (for a different health-related reason), but when my sister came to visit, she texted pictures of everybody’s desserts: the dangerous chocolate cakes; my mother grinning beside a deadly, dripping ice-cream cone.

In my utopia my bird mother grows plump if she wants, eating the delicious elderberries. Nobody—not my father, not her doctor—will comment on her weight, because nobody cares whether her body can still properly process sugar. There aren’t mirrors hanging in the birdcages. There aren’t even cages, only miles and miles of woods ending in the unexplored mountains.

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