Tuesday, January 28, 2014

about a boy

just before daybreak, the phone rang and i answered. a woman, asking for my husband. a reporter, she said, for one of atlanta's tv stations i recall. i pictured a well coiffed, sleek brunette in spiked heels just waiting to purr something seductive into my husband's ear. i shook him awake, handed him the phone and looked toward my feet, but couldn't see them.

just then i felt, well, a nudge. and when he hung up the phone from his seductress, i said three words:

don't go far. then four more. the baby is coming. 

i could feel it.

my husband dressed for work — he was in public affairs for a utility company at the time and there was some sort of nuclear issue, which is in no way as important as a baby, don't   you know.

i gathered my thick body in my quilted robe and put my alarm clock in my pocket. walked into my daughter's room, wondering what in the world i would do with her in these hours as i waited for this new baby to come.

she found my closet, right after breakfast, and as i timed my contractions with the pocketed tick of the blue plastic clock, she found my honeymoon shoes and pulled my 'Princess Diana' rehearsal dinner dress over her head just so. how i wish i had pictures. 

as my 3-year-old plundered, i crouched on my hands and knees, cleaning all the bathrooms because once again, my mother would be coming and things had to be right. 

a few hours in i called my mother-in-law, who was on her way to the beauty parlor, which would be the perfect distraction for a cute little girl who would greet a new sibling, we hoped, by the end of the day.

i called my husband. it's time, i said, and he left the carefully coiffed reporter and drove the 20 miles home to take me to the hospital and into our new life as a family of four.  

it was one year to the day, i remember, from when the space shuttle exploded on national tv.


last night we sat across from our son and his girlfriend sharing supper and stories. she asked what time he was born, he said: after Guiding Light, which is partly true. there would be no tv in the labor room that day, and GL was my favorite story, so i asked one of the nurses to find some way for me to watch. 30 minutes into Josh and Reva and this boy would have nothing of my distraction, breaking into this world so quickly that his napping dad hardly had time to put on his scrubs. i have to say my son has consistently interrupted my train of thought since. just when i thought i'd have a moment to myself, this quiet boy would say something that made me wish i had been paying closer attention.

he does so, still. 

it seems, looking back on it, as if he grew from two feet to four then to six overnight, stretching his lanky body at times in such awkward ways that you could almost see the paIN in it. as a boy, he craved independence, admired (and practiced) great wit, loved Harry Potter and studied how to build things. he learned how to be a loyal friend to many and a brother to the sister he adores.

some say he looks like me, which is a curse or a blessing, depending upon your perspective (his/mine). the two of us have had our moments. there were days when i thought, well, i will never be good at the mother/son thing, and others when i felt we had just about gotten it right. 

lately, though i don't see or talk to him every day, it still feels tenuous. i want to help him but give him space. want to soothe with my mother thing but give him breathing room. want to say i'm proud but leave space for growth.

in the last year, i have seen my son grow into a man. we walked, hand-in-hand, into his grandfather's hospital room and out again, both of us quietly weeping. we shopped for sofas for the house he was buying. i stood by as he walked my mother to the communion rail on Christmas Eve, her arm in his hand. he inherited my father's saw and is building a place to put it using plans he found online. he is kind and funny and quiet, and he can be quite charming, i hear. though he drives me mad sometimes, my love for him is fierce.


today he turned 27. Happy Birthday, G. It's a pleasure to know you.

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