The candles are out on birthday 36. I am fortunate enough to feel--no, I am fortunate enough to know, absolutely--that the life I have possessed for a time has not been wasted. Tonight, here in bed, while I was listening to the ballgame, my wife, Jane, was reading "Stuart Little" to our daughter, when she interrupted herself and said to me:
I turned down the volume. "What page?"
"Thirty-eight. It says, 'steet my ship,' when it should say 'steer.' "
She handed the book over for verification (a typographical error, in this household, doesn't count until independently corroborated), and while I noted the page number, the publisher (Harper & Row), and the edition (Book Club), Jane informed our guest that in my life, happiness is finding mistakes in print.
It has been a happy life, as far as typos go. The early years were unproductive, but whose are not? Mozart's? He had obligations early. Now that I think of it, I began coming into my own about the time our twins were born, in 1981. I remember sitting in the hospital with a gown over my clothes and Betadine smeared on my hands--just one of those hospital moments, wondering what day it was--and I happened to take a closer look at the instructions printed on the housing of the portable incubator parked next to me. They were in French (the machine was made in Canada), and where the preposition and definite article ought to have blended sweetly in an au was instead a discordant ou .