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The First Family

After the Parent gave birth to them, He settled down contentedly to watch their innocent gambols in the Garden. He’d warned His young Adam and Eve against the usual hazards of childhood, like running out into the street, avoiding snakes, not touching dangerous objects, and in their trance of innocence they’d nodded agreement to the Parental instruction. Eve and Adam luxuriated in their easy life. Instant snacks, for the taking. No question about how to cook or clean, no tooth decay, no trips to the doctor for inoculations or ear infections. School was unnecessary. They had all the knowledge they needed. Paradise.

The Parent breathed a great exhalation of relief. His Labor over, He could contemplate the pleasing beauty of the creatures He had produced and the ideal circumstances into which He was able to place them. After all, He had waited until reaching suitable maturity and means to bring the children into the world; He knew what He was doing, and He had by now a proper home for them in an advantageous neighborhood. He looked forward to their companionship in His old age. He had nothing to think about, no worries, no contingencies to plan for.

But children will be children. Unlike her Parent, Eve was young and had energy to burn. She tasted, discovered, explored. After a while, she discovered her Self. She had a mind! She had a will, which urged action. Eve indulged in a frisson of boredom, excitement.

The Parent perhaps had theoretical knowledge that this turn might, could, someday, come about; but when Eve actually walked over to the Tree and took the Forbidden Fruit, the Parent felt struck as if by the tooth of the serpent. New emotions welled up within the parental Being. How could this be, He wailed. All of the Plan, so perfectly idyllic, so obviously Good, was lost and gone forever! He was angry at Himself: Why didn’t I see it coming? What should I have done differently? Angry — furious — at the Children: Ingrates! Fools! Why didn’t you listen? You’ve ruined everything!

The Parent, heartsick and in turmoil, was unprepared for conflict, divergence of purpose. He responded to Adam and Eve without giving due thought to the consequences of declaring war. (First, though, He did have the good sense to elicit a confession and establish wrongdoing.) After some elaborate finger-pointing, the Children did understand that they had opened the way for a terrible breech. They, too, were angry: “Why did you put it there if we weren’t supposed to touch it? Why did you make us the way we are? — You’re always reading our minds. How could you let us do it?”

As if by instinct, the Parent soon understood that the situation could not be left in its current muddle of rage and mutual recrimination.

It would be intolerable to have the Children moping around idle right under His nose, unweaned from their sense of entitlement, all the while cursing Him under their breath, the breath He had lavished on them. Oh, the pain of it all. They would be guilt-ridden, defensive, even while seething with anger at Him. In the best of cases, they’d bemoan their undeserving yet continuing enjoyment of — and dependency on — the continuing Parental largesse.

“Get out,” the Parent said. “Do it your way. Go to work. Feel for yourselves what it is to labor; to give birth; to create and shape; to love; to one day get to know your thankless children.” He covered His mirrors, so as not to be reminded of what He had made in His image; for a week, He sat on a low stool.

Confused and miserable, Adam and Eve argued and wept. Then they left, stumbling, in disarray. The Parent could only hope that in the depths of their hearts they understood the rightness of His judgment, that someday they would come home and apologize.

What was the Children’s eventual experience of parenthood? We don’t know much. We know that their two sons were very unlike each other — one a farmer and one a herder — and that neither lived the way their parents had, grazing and gathering in the Garden. Did Adam and Eve prepare the boys adequately for life? Did they do better than their own Parent? Eve and Adam surely had their troubles with the boys.

Naomi Myrvaagnes, a poet and fiction writer, is a resident scholar at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center.

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