“You don’t raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes, even if just in your eyes.” – Walter Schirra Sr
See that gorgeous baby? Today he turns thirty-one – at around 10:47AM. As much as he will shake his head with disbelief and some embarrassment that I am writing about him today, he can be comforted with the knowledge that he remains anonymous to most who will read this. Truth is, it’s his birthday to celebrate; it is mine to remember.
I’ve assumed many hats in my life, and played at many roles. We all do this – it’s part of growing up. The one hat that I always wanted to wear was that of ’mom’. I couldn’t wait. I would admonish my six-year-old peeps if they were rough on their stuffed animals (my theory being that all these toys came to life once we slept, and their retribution would be fierce). I was a maternal kind of friend before I could spell ‘maternal’ - or even knew what it meant. Whatever I became professionally was serendipitous; becoming a mom was my touchstone. If I became nothing else, so be it.
Memory blurs years together which must be why they pass so quickly. One moment a baby is born and from that point forward time accelerates, making it impossible to isolate and hold each moment. I can still remember holding and bathing him, the smell of his neck…I thought his baby toes were replaced with ten little pearls. He squinted like Mr. Magoo, the lights were too bright. So I’d squint back at him and dim the glare. When he was nine months old he spent an entire night pulling himself into a standing position and then plopping down on his butt. The next morning, he held on to a chair as he rose and wobbled into the dining room. I was on the phone with my mom while I watched in disbelief – he had only crawled for four days! Where were these days going?
We developed our own language and as awful as it sounds, I reluctantly brought him for speech therapy. I wanted him to be able to converse with everyone; I wanted him just to talk with me. He had one of those baby laughs that bubble up from the belly and just erupt into the room. His grandmother’s toes were a real hit, don’t ask me why. I couldn’t get enough of this child – I still can’t.
He is of course now a man – a really, really good man. I respect him tremendously, though I love him more than that. I love his heart – he will dismiss this publicly and appreciate it privately. His sense of the greater good, his relentless work ethic. He’s loyal and highly principled. I love how much he loves his wife, how close he and his brothers are. He’s very handsome. I appreciate that he asks for my opinion though I fully expect him to do what he thinks is best. I understand that I had to let him go into his life, and he understands that in many ways it is impossibly hard to do. I keep trying to get that balance right. My sons have grown into heroes in my eyes – not because of me, but in spite of me.
There are days when I just want to stop time and make cookie pizza, hold one on my lap and the other under my arm and repeat the chorus from “Horton Hatches An Egg”. I want to watch a high school baseball game and learn secrets that most moms don’t get to hear (I am very very aware that I wasn’t told all of the secrets by any stretch). It’s okay to want all of this, but time has its foot on the pedal and is driving this train. So I’ll savor today and celebrate his birthday, from his first breath to the man he has become. May each day bring him all that he wishes for and may he wish for all that he has. I love him all there is – Happy Birthday..