Today call me changed. Fourteen years ago today, to be exact. That’s the day you took apart the whole of me to be pieced back together in a puzzle I hope will never be completed.
You were my life’s great surprise, usurping this body before I’d finished writing thank you cards for wedding gifts. Unable to breathe out the words “I’m pregnant,” I sucked in the sentence that couldn’t possibly be true.
I told your father the news on an inhale.
We prepared ourselves. With car seats and swings; tiny socks and hooded towels. Diapers and board books and nasal aspirators. And yet. I could not have been more unprepared.
For stubby feet like new potatoes, your shock of hair falling out in tufts. For endless rocking and crying, for bubbly smiles and gurgling discoveries.
You gnawed on a wet fist and I tickled your belly as it collapsed with hiccups. I buoyed you on my lap and marveled at the fierceness of my feelings. I couldn’t get enough of your skin against my hand.
Then touch gave way to sound; your gruff voice asking questions. Tirelessly. What’s that? And Why? Always the why and a curiosity that had no patience for satisfaction.
You were Buzz Lightyear and Peter Pan, cloaking yourself in their greatness, the belief that you could fly. You looked sideways at the frailty of heroes, confident that reality was overrated. Your sense of justice balanced tenuously in a world that wasn’t fair.
You sorted through overturned buckets of Legos; Barbie shoes and Polly Pockets attending the mix. A friend shouted, “No girls!” as your sister entered the room. You said, “Yes. Karly can play,” without looking up from your game.
Our nights were often painful, bedtime battles perhaps the hardest. The fear and hurt of your day multiplied in the darkness. I couldn’t make it right and you couldn’t let it go. Our current peace arrived late and the memory haunts me still; but such shadows steal away in the daylight of this life.
Do you remember making products to sell for 4th Grade Business Day? You spent your “income” on gifts, sharing half the bounty with Karly. You couldn’t see my tears of pride through the shut bedroom door. You didn’t know I told your father of generosity on the exhale.
Today you are fourteen; a soul selecting his own society (the chosen few who remain close, sought after, allowed). Like your mother, you seek solitude. We do not answer the phone readily, you and I.
We’re also quick to embrace frustration, disappointment, stubbornness; our similarities catalyze the friction. Such likeness strips me of my defenses, exposing a bald hypocrisy. For this, I am sorry.
I’ve wished to spare you (and myself) more of my weakness; and yet you’re already so much stronger than I in ways that matter most.
You make unlikely choices and do not worry what others think about your differentness. You analyze rules for their intentions and are deliberate with your things, knowing their purposes and whereabouts always. Such conscientiousness is a mystery to me: the Mistress of Lost Possessions and Carelessness.
You are, at times, competitive; but when you do not wish to win, you surrender the victory; succumb to silliness and give up the fight. Sarcasm sings on your tongue; wit spreads across your cheeks in crooked grins. You know you’re funny. And smart.
But oh, my dear Jack; believe you are extraordinary.
You’ve catapulted me to new depths and heights; engendered in me both pain and joy. I was changed by your birth, trading in the girl I was for the mother I hoped to be.
Soon, before I am ready, you’ll be a man; gone in a whiff of gasoline and a screech of tires. I can only hope that when you leave, a piece of my unfinished puzzle travels with you.
And even as I spend my days stringing together words to please people I’ve not yet met, know this:
I will never again create a work as wonderful as you.
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