Our birthday boy is now 6’1 and needs to shave. It’s much more difficult to nag and scold a boy when he towers over you. In any case, there’s far less cause for nagging or scolding these days…To my great joy, nowadays more often than not our conversations are easy and filled with laughter.
Other things have changed too…Every once in a while, my son used to sing with a beautiful, pure countertenor voice that would make me drop whatever I was doing to listen. I had to be surreptitious about it; he would immediately clam up if he thought anyone was paying attention to his singing. When his voice fell, the sweet tone that once held me spellbound became harsh and ragged. He still hasn’t been able to find his singing voice, but he’s still making beautiful music…These days he can often be found at the piano or at his laptop with headphones on, creating beats.
Some things never change…We sent our son off this morning on a trip with friends. Packing this morning involved lengthy and heated negotiations. As we stood shivering in the unseasonably cool weather, waiting in the designated spot where his friend’s dad would be picking him up, I realized I never retrieved from the dryer the one pair of long pants he was planning to wear – a pair of jeans I had stayed up late to wash and dry for his trip. While we stood waiting for his ride, we made idle talk. He described to me at great length the bout of “sleep paralysis” he had experienced for the first time this morning, complete with a hallucinated “dark figure”. He was freaked out initially, but then exhilarated for having experienced a phenomenon he had only ever read about. My side of the conversation was far more prosaic and pretty much boiled down to the same request phrased in different ways. “Cool story. Hey! Remember to text the woman who gave birth to you to let her know you’re still alive. You owe that much to her. Oh, wow! You felt like the dark figure was sucking you in, but you couldn’t move?! Must have been so scary. So anyway, I’m sure you can find time to send me a one sentence text or even just a photo once or twice a day, right?” (It’s 9:30 pm and I haven’t heard a peep from the boy)…
I re-read this post from April 25, 2013 and had to smile.
The past two weeks have shaken us all to the core and have left us feeling raw, exposed, and vulnerable. There was the vicious bomb attack at the Boston Marathon, the devastating fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, and the catastrophic earthquake in China. Closer to home there have been great sorrows that have not made it into the news cycle, but have made the people around me painfully aware of how precious life is and how cruelly capricious the tides of fate.
This morning I realized how much these events have crept into my psyche. I had been up to 2:30 am (the only time I could find to write) and had woken up at 6 am to help my son get packed for his three day school trip.The night before, when he had announced that he was too tired to pack and would wake up early to do so, I knew with absolute certainty that this was a terrible idea. I knew this morning would not be pretty, but I didn’t have the energy to argue the point or to start the packing myself.
So this morning at 6, I sat on my bedroom floor with an open suitcase and my laptop opened to the emailed packing list my son’s teacher had sent.
“Bring me three pairs of long pants and three long-sleeve shirts!” I called out to him.
He slowly shuffled into my bedroom with one pair of pants and one t-shirt.
“THREE pairs of pants and THREE LONG-sleeve shirts!'” I bellowed with exasperation, “CHOP CHOP!”
Seasons changed, my skin began to sag, and more grey hairs sprouted as I waited for him to reappear. Finally he showed up bearing…another t-shirt and a sweater.
When I protested, he claimed that he couldn’t find what was asked for in his drawers.
I rifled through his drawers myself and discovered one or two of the things he needed, but confirmed the fact that the rest of the items simply weren’t there. They were buried deep in the mountain of unwashed laundry that I hadn’t been able to get to all week.
You can probably imagine the snarling and generally churlish behavior that ensued, but we finally did get him packed. Already running late, I began getting myself ready for work. As I was getting out of the shower, I could hear that my husband was about to leave the house to drop him off at school for the field trip.
There was one crucial thing I had forgotten, and I didn’t want to miss my chance. If I’d learned anything in these past two weeks, I’d learned that sometimes you never do get a second chance.
I raced out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around me and my hair streaming with water. At the top of the stairs, I barked out his name.
He turned around, and from the bottom of the stairs he looked up at me with a doleful stare and sighed, “Yes?”
The word was imbued with that unique teenage inflection that makes it abundantly clear that behind that monosyllable is irritation, a lifetime of suffering, and the sure expectation of more unreasonable parental behavior…
I tried to modulate my own tone, but failed.
“I LOVE YOU!” I snapped.
A momentary flicker of surprise registered in his eyes and after the briefest pause, he muttered “Love you” and ambled out the door.