Friday, September 01, 2017
21 years minus 1 day ago, I was desperately hanging on to my will to live between excruciatingly painful contractions while the hub hovered over me in the delivery room, trying to feed me an apple because the dangerously misguided man thought I needed energy to give birth. No honey, I needed all my energy to keep from hurting you for distracting me from trying not to die!
So tomorrow that unusually large baby, who has grown into a very tall young man, turns 21. I remember our bringing him home when he was only a day old. Both our families were far off in our home countries, and we hadn't cracked open a single parenting book. We felt the hospital was criminally reckless in allowing clueless us to take our kid home. And yet - we had already fallen madly in love with him. We had these insane conversations:
- "He's perfect. I mean, genuinely perfect. An unusually flawless specimen of the human species."
- "Yes, I agree. And we're professionally trained to be objective, so our baby's perfection is a genuine fact."
- "You know, we need to protect him. Others will try to exploit him. They won't be able to help themselves. He's that perfect."
- "Yes, we will have to be vigilant."
All this was said repeatedly, in genuine seriousness. Years later, when much of our sanity had returned, we looked at his newborn pictures, with his ruddy, blotchy face, his cone-shaped head, and acknowledged that yes, our child was born looking a bit like an alien, but he had grown into an irrepressibly adorable little boy.
Today, our eldest is over six feet tall, lanky and bespectacled. We've shared 21 years of hugs, tickles, and giggles - how lucky am I? So many years of swimming, baseball, and soccer, so many band performances, so many proud moments. All those dinners out, enjoying concerts together, birthday parties, family vacations. I like to say that the hub and I were happy together before, but became truly *joyful* when we became parents. And our son, who taught me to be a parent, is also who first brought that unexpected, true joy into my life.
My life is so rich with memories. I remember our son's first few months, when I spent most of my days holding him in a worn handed-down rocking chair, gazing at his perfectly serene face, marveling at the paradoxically innocent wisdom I thought I could see in his eyes, and wondering how in heck I was going to help lead him safely through childhood. I remember silly singing and wild dancing in the house, shopping cart races in parking lots, and so many snuggles on the sofa. I remember long drives to soccer games, when we would debate the existence of antimatter, of souls, of whether the biological limitations of the human mind mean that we will never have an accurate understanding of the universe. It has been an amazing, thrilling journey with this kid, who has taught me more than I have passed on to him.
So here we are, almost 21 years later, and I am still madly in love with this kid. He's not perfect, which is expected since I am so far from perfect myself, but he has inherited the best of both me and the hub. He's on track to complete college in the spring, and then will be launched out into the big wide world. I'll have to learn to love and support from a distance.
But tomorrow? The kid is coming home for dinner. He's agreed to let us celebrate his birthday, and he's bringing some college friends. I've ordered a cake. The hub has his marching orders to clean the house and yard. I will buy an obscene amount of groceries and cook up a storm, making our kid's every favorite dish. I will sneak in as many hugs as I can without embarrassing the kid too much. When he was very little, I used to tell the hub: birthdays should be celebrations of the parents, since we are doing all the work! But no, I was wrong. Our kid's birth was a tremendous gift in our lives, and I am going to have a ball celebrating it again tomorrow.