August 31, 2006

At first his eyes were blue-grey, although it was hard to tell. They were often narrowed against this strange world. They became hazel, a confusing kaleidoscope of colors, as though he was flipping through his choices: now greenish, now amber, now slate. Now they are brown, like my own.

His hair was red for a while. We shook our heads and grinned with helpless, silly pride (redhead!), then we did the same thing when it turned blonde (towhead!). Maybe it will turn purple and we will smile and say, oh, well, purple, now that’s something.

In a year he has learned to laugh, to clap, to scream, to crawl and stand. He can say “backpack” (ba pa!) and he can give me five and he can stomp down the hall, a mini Godzilla, while holding our hands. Every day there is something new. Every day. It is like peering into a shell, turning it in your hands and following its whorls; it is like some great and glorious flower unfurling before your eyes.

(The everyday things you do, Riley, sometimes make me blink back hot stunned tears of pride. I marvel at it all, because you did not receive the memo that said your development is not unique, that this is not worthy of openmouthed joy. How could we be anything but amazed by you, when you are so amazing?)

In a year I have learned so much. I have been strong and I have been weak. I have been an imperfect mother (is there any other kind?), I have been proud, I have been festooned with guilt.

(Oh, but you can be a misery. You can be a pill, little boy. Sometimes I heave great sighs and pinch the bridge of my nose and I ask no one in particular what your problem is, because damn. You are willful, short-tempered, demanding. You force me to dig within myself for hidden reserves and strength. You are the brightest, most beautiful of challenges.)

I have grown, and my love for my boy has grown; it is a breathtaking thing, holy and fierce. I daydream about him, I moon, I miss him when I cannot see him. I kiss his face and feel as though I could shatter into a thousand pink balloons, just from the touch of his skin. I want a magic wand to wave over his future, I want to whisper promises of a charmed life into his ear.

My thoughts go in dark corners and I think of adults who hurt children and how if that ever happened to him I would break laws and bones I would oh I would how could you not.

I hold him at night when he is tired and we read books together. He burrows his head into my chest. I tickle him and he screams with laughter. I chase him, arms outstretched, while he rides on his dad’s shoulders. I hold my arms out to him and he runs on the tops of his knees, straight into my embrace. He reaches gentle fingers up to touch my hair.

It is so big, this job of being his mother. He is pure, innocent, he embodies a sweetness of life that we humans try to define with gods and myth. Here is my wish for his happiness, and my breath on the candle. Here is the gladness that spills from me. Here is my promise: that I will carry him with me, wherever I go. Here is my plea: that I will do right by him.

In a year so much has happened. It went by so quickly. I say, stop the earth from spinning and time from passing, for just the briefest of moments, for today is my son’s birthday.

(My heart is full, my life is rich. Happy first birthday, little one.)


(Alternate movie link. Music: Carl Orff’s Gassenhauer.)


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