I rise early, when the house is still dark. The clock ticks by oh so fast and soon it is 6 a.m. I hear rustling upstairs, movement of feet, shifting of hangers in a closet, opening (but seemingly never closing) of drawers. Doors open and close and I hear water rushing into pipes. Ever so slowly I hear your feet descending the stairs while the banister squeaks from all your weight in your hands–because walking is just too hard so early morning.
I greet you with a good morning and how did you sleep?
Good and I’m so tired are your typical responses.
The mornings are quiet as we exist together–you preparing for your day, me tucked in the corner, reading a book,–both of us watching the clock. Your sisters are still sleeping, it’s just the two of us.
When the clock reads 6:18, we both make our way out the door and stand in the darkness, waiting for the bus to arrive. You don’t need me there, but you like to have me there. I don’t need to be there, but I love to be there. Some days we talk about school, others soccer. Lately, we’ve looked up at the stars, startled by the clear dark sky. We search for the big dipper and then the little. Last week we saw a shooting star.
Down the hill we see bright flashing lights–the bus is arriving.
I give you a hug. Have a good day, I say. Okay, you say. I love you, I say. Love you too, you say.
I’m sitting in my office when I hear the engine of the bus roar as it turns onto our road. I look at the clock and it’s a few minutes past three. I listen as the bus stops and the engine roars up again. Moments later I hear the door open and although I can’t see you, I know what is coming.
HEEEELLLLLLOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Your cheerful voice calls out from the kitchen, drawing out each letter of your simple greeting.
Hi Charlie! I call back. How was your day?
Good, I hear you call back as you throw your bag down and go directly to the pantry in search of food.
This has been our routine for the last year and a quarter. From the day you began junior high and your schedule changed. These moments have been only yours and mine. These are two of my favorite moments of the day. They are so small. So routine. Incredibly unspectacular, but special, all the same.
I will treasure these dark, sleepy mornings forever, Charlie.
The sound of your afternoon HEEEELLLLLLOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!, I suspect, will forever echo in my heart.
It is incredibly hard to believe you are 14 years old today. I know you can’t understand this now, but perhaps someday you will–this time with you, goodness, it’s faster than I could ever have anticipated.
I remember a day, so many years ago–you couldn’t have been more than four or five–when I calculated the number of years until you would graduate. I still remember how the morning light shone brightly through the car window as I drove and we talked. While we chatted I did the calculations in my head. I thought to myself, he won’t graduate until the year 2024.
I breathed a sigh of relief–2024 is forever away.
What a fool I was.
This summer as I was driving you to soccer practice (because that is what we do now–we drive you places) my heart nearly jumped into my throat when I realized that we are only a year away from your Freshman year.
How did we get here? How did you grow so fast? As cliche’ as it is–where did the time go?
That’s neither here nor there, though. As much as I long to slow it all down, I know I can’t.
But there is more. The thing I couldn’t have known back in the car on the golden-lit morning when I calculated the days until your graduated, is the absolute joy it would be to watch you grow. Back then, your growing and changing and developing wings was something I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to look. It was a little like holding my breath and pretending that you would always be sitting in the back seat of my car harnessed in by a car seat. In those days, I held on to the illusion that I would always keep you safe, that I could control the outcome.
What I’ve learned, though, over these last several years is this–watching your wings grow has been even better than looking in my rear-view mirror and seeing you smiling back at me. Back then, I never could have known that watching you from afar is as much fun, if not more fun, than viewing it all from right next to you.
Charlie, the day you were born was as terrifying as it was beautiful. In a dark hospital room, late at night, the words it’s a boy struck me with fear. In those moments after your 5 pound frame was placed on my chest, I looked down and wondered, how will I ever raise a boy? I don’t know what to do with a boy.
I think back to that now and laugh. How silly and naive of me. What a gift I was given in you.
Back then I had no idea the gentle and tender-heart that beat in that tiny baby body.
Back then I could not have known the incredible joy tiny dimples could spark in my heart. . .
Back then I could not have known that the small frame laying on my chest carried within him a curious and open spirit that would welcome new and rich experiences into all our lives. . .
No Charlie, back then, I couldn’t have known.
I couldn’t have known that being your mom would be one of the most special, wonderful, challenging, exciting, and rewarding things I would ever do.
Charlie, I absolutely love being your Mom. And while I loved the two year old who used to toddle around our house, even more, I love watching the person you are becoming.
It is such a joy to watch you find your way and make your way.
You may be small in stature, but you stand so tall in character. And no matter where you go or what you do or how far and wide you travel–that character will always lead you right. That still small voice that echos from within? Charlie, you can always trust that.
Charlie, we are beyond proud to be your parents. We are so happy we get to walk through this life with you.
We celebrate you today, Charlie.
Happy 14th, Bud. I’m so thankful you are our son.