Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Son

My son turned 23 yesterday. He's an immensely tall, lanky young man with a square jaw, a razor-sharp mind and a soft heart. He has been one of the great love affairs of my life, along with his equally exceptional sister.

His arrival changed me forever, as I'm sure it does most parents. Until that point I was the most important person in my life. But he began to move into first place even before he was born; with every kick I felt, every turn, I knew there was a person in my life now who was going to need me to be a far better person than I'd ever been before. He was going to trust me to take care of him, keep him safe and help him navigate this confusing world and I couldn't let him down. I had to grow up.

I was struck yesterday with just how surprising life really is. I was taking a walk on my lunch break, walking up the hill to the state capitol where all the workers in their suits were lined up at the food trucks. I'm one of them now; me, the bohemian who conformed even while she railed against it. I finally know it's just a costume, one I take off when I get home. You bet I can wear your high heels for awhile, pal.

I walked down into the neighborhood where my son's father and I lived when we were first married and looked at the brownstone that was our home. And I wondered if anyone had told me everything that would happen in the intervening 23 years if I'd have panicked.

"You'll have two children and you'll adore them. You'll worry about money a lot. Your parents will get terminal cancer before they're 75 and you'll take care of your father after your mom dies, you'll get divorced. You'll get back into journalism, meet a musician, fall in love and live together. You'll sing back up on his new songs and they'll be on the radio. You'll host and produce a syndicated radio show. You'll write a few books and finally get an agent when you write non-fiction. Then you'll get a swank press job in a building where you need a security badge to get from floor to floor. And you're not done yet."

Much as we try, we really can't begin to predict where life will take us. And if we live by the eleventh commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Bore God", it's going to be a wild ride. But nobody said it wouldn't be scary, that it wouldn't hurt.

I imagine hearing all that 23 years ago, as I sat in my hospital bed with my newborn son in my arms. I suspect I'd have hidden under the covers. It doesn't sound so bad when I write it down, but having lived it, I know that it was more than I would ever voluntarily take on. I have never been that grown up, though I do my best.

Back then, that small person with the surprisingly wide eyes was all the responsibility I could handle. And even that was frightening some times, when I worried if I knew what I was doing, whether I was choosing correctly, whether my mom instincts were enough to keep him safe as he grew into the remarkable person I knew he was.

No, back then it was enough to hold him close and watch William Shatner overact in Star Trek.

"See, little man? This is fun stuff. You're going to like it."

He does.


Pauline said...

this made me laugh, made my eyes mist over, made me think about what I might have done if someone had predicted my life! love for your son shines through. but, high heels?

Susan said...

you bet, Pauline. No less than 3 1/2 inch heels. I am woman - watch me wobble.

Ruth said...

My goodness, life is strange!

You are so right. I heard a speaker at commencement yesterday talk about her wild ride too. She, an alumni of the college my department is in, and she told the students when she sat there where they were, she could not have predicted where she would be now: having a multimillion dollar ladies golf clothing line that she partners with Clint Eastwood. She grabbed opportunities that came to her.

Anyway, you aren't prepared for the moments to come until they come. Your son sounds lovely, and your daughter too, and I get tingles thinking about such relationships. I had not heard the eleventh commandment before, that's quite nice.

I love your writing. And I love picturing your life and where you are now after what you've done.