Fourteen years ago today, I was being driven to the hospital because I was feeling the most godawful pain I had ever experienced in my whole life. Those eight hours of unremitting pain were terrible, but they were undoubtedly worth it. They were part and parcel of one of my life's greatest blessings: my son.
One afternoon, about ten years ago, we were walking along the street. Suddenly he looked down, looked up at me and said most casually, "Mama, I have a wound." I looked and was horrified to see his right slipper all wet and red with blood. I picked him up in my arms and hobbled the best I could home (I have scoliosis and carrying anything heavy makes my back hurt something awful). I brought him to the bathroom to wash the wound. I barely noticed the bolts of pain that were playing tag in the region of my lower back, and the trail of blood behind us; all I could think was "Dear God, the blood!" which played like a litany over and over in my mind. I wasn't a nervous wreck, my hands were steady as I washed the blood away, but there was this cold stone in the pit of my stomach that felt like it was growing larger by the second, threatening to cut off my breathing. Good thing the bleeding stopped; I could feel myself starting to want to scream.
Turned out a shard of glass had made its way under his foot despite him wearing slippers, and that's what caused the wound. Unbelievable how so small an injury could cause so much bleeding. I read later that lots of bleeding can occur in the extremities, even if the wound is small.
Throughout the years, I saw how good he was at writing--much better than me when I was his age--and how he has a talent for drawing as well. That's good; I can't even draw a straight line! And he was such an affectionate kid when he was growing up; always hugging and kissing me. He and hubby have a great relationship, but I was the one to whom he entrusted his emotional side: sharing his writing, crying in my arms when he was hurt or disappointed. He thinks and acts methodically in many ways, like his father. His sense of humor is fantastic, he says witty things that make us all laugh out loud. But he's also such a sensitive soul, up until now. He and I are uncannily alike in that aspect.
To this day, he's still affectionate. When I pass him as he does his homework or while he's watching TV, he always stands up and comes to me to give me a hug and a kiss.
One day, about seven years ago, he and I were going to school. I forget the reason I went with him, probably a PTA meeting. Anyway, there we were holding hands, about to enter his school. All of a sudden he yanked his hand from mine and walked hurriedly ahead of me. I was a bit bewildered--until I heard him greet some other kids. "Aahh," I thought, as understanding dawned. He doesn't want to be seen holding Mommy's hand. It made me smile, even though my heart twinged a little in pain.
Fast forward to last year. He was 13 years old, a high school sophomore. The school was holding an event in which his sisters (ages seven and five) were participating, and I was there to watch them. I went up to my son's classroom after the event and caught him and some of his classmates lounging outside (they were in between classes). I saw him dart a glance at me and then, to my utter stupefaction, he shifted his glance away and pretended that he hadn't seen me. My eyes narrowed to slits, and I started to see red. I called to him, he came over (of course, everybody was looking at us). I gave him my message and walked away, nonchalant, not motherly at all.
Later, when he came home after school, I sat him down for a talk. I told him that I wouldn't dream of acting like a crazy mother in front of his peers, but that if he ever treated me that way again, I would do something to embarrass him to no end: lavish him with kisses, call him my baby, talk baby talk to him--all in front of his friends. I think I got my message across because he never again treated me that way, as if he didn't know me.
Last week he and his classmates came over after school. I peeked at them as they were sitting in the garden, drinking soda, shooting the breeze, just laughing. And something in me wanted to cry out of love and sheer wonder. Where did all the years go? The chubby little boy-toddler was no more.
Instead, there's this male specimen whose voice is starting to change, who's growing at what seems like an inch per second, who's starting to sprout facial hair (I don't know if he has hair down there already--he won't let me look). He's becoming more independent, his horizons are expanding, and all his parents can do is to give him their support and love as he tests his boundaries and capabilities and starts exploring life.
But (and don't tell him I said this) though he's turning into a man, he will always be my baby.
Happy 14th birthday, my funny, darling man-boy. I love you more than words can ever say.