I also remember what your scabs taste like. My therapist will be billing you for that later.

I can hardly remember how you laughed, but I remember the taste of your blood like it is still hot on the tip of my tongue. I watch you bleed over and over and over and over again in my dreams, and I can't make it stop, ever. I try; I keep trying to get enough cherry juice stains on my shirt that they will believe me when I tell them I drank it, and you will finally have one quiet night in your life. 

I can hardly remember how you laughed, but I can see you under the surface of your childrens' smiling faces, like they are reel-to-reel films of the life we used to dream about people living when we hid in the back of that tiny, dark closet covered in the salty paste of sheet after sheet of the Publisher's Clearing House stamps we pretended tasted like candy with each lick. 

I can hardly remember how you laughed, but I remember the way your hair smelled, and what your voice sounded like whispered through a hole in a wall, and I remember precisely what if felt like to be safe under your left arm that was just enough bigger than me that I knew there was one place on earth I would always be okay.

I remember everything about you. I remember things you can't, and won't, and shouldn't. I remember mostly that you are the finest human I have ever met in this life, and that I am the luckiest person in the world, beccause I have gotten to take this entrie journey with you, save the 16 months you had without me. 

That just means you turn 40 first. Neener neener.

Happy birthday, Eddie. You were the best present our parents ever gave me. 

I love you. Like, a lot and stuff, yo.

Another Fourteen

I missed your birthday once, because of a very noble and solemn situation and also stupid Donald Sutherland, and I swore that I would never again not be there to say goodbye to the child I was tucking into bed for the last time, nor miss greeting hello with a small birthday cake and a kiss the new child I was meeting the next morning, another day older and wiseasser. 

You seem to have forgetten this, mostly I believe because at 11 you don't realize you're supposed to be keeping a running tally of all your parents' failures for your future blackmail and/or therapy. I doubt I will be so lucky in life twice, however. 

I left for Montreal yesterday, earlier in the morning than the sun even begins to wake, and so I will never know how you spent even a moment of your last day as a 13 year old. I hope you had fun. I hope you cruised around on the skateboard I bought you (with a little help from my friends, who love you as much as I do, and I just want you to know that they do) and felt like the king of the world. As far as I am concerned, you are.

I hope you enjoyed the movie your grandmother took you to see today, I hope you enjoyed talking to your father this afternoon while we sat on a French Canadian porch and tried to sort out what happens next with us. I hope you enjoyed getting your first anime books at the bookstore today, and I hope you enjoyed your first ambulance ride this evening. 

I suppose old women falling off of curbs and breaking their feet isn't the worst thing that can happen to a kid on his 14th birthday, especially if that means he gets to ride in an ambulance to the hospital with said old woman, spazzing out six year old sister, and totally-unable-to-process-current-events 12 year old brother. 

I also, with all the sincerity in my heart, would like to thank your grandmother for going to such great lengths to make sure that you'll never, ever forget your 14th birthday. You know, the one I wasn't there for. Well played, Grandma. WELL PLAYED.

I hope you know that I have laid in my hotel room bed each night and taken inventory of every minute of you. I hope you know that you are the single greatest catalyst on earth, and that everything I became when you did is because of you. 

I want you to know, even though you will think that it is oh my gawd sooo naaaasty mawm that when you fall asleep on the couch because you are so quickly becoming a man that your body simply cannot keep up, that in those moments I kiss your temple and smooth your hair and whisper in my ear that you will always be little to me, and always be loved by me, and always be every good thing in the world as far as I am concerned. I whisper that you hold a place in my heart that no one else ever could, that I don't care how quickly you are trying to outgrow my heart - it will just keep getting bigger to accommodate you. I do this because you would probably punch me a little if I said it to you awake. 

Moms always get their way eventually. We know where you sleep

You are one half of one inch away from being as tall as I am and most likely already wiser than I will ever be. You are funny at all the right times, and funnier at all the wrong ones. You have discovered the person that you would like to be, and it has been the greatest privilege of my life being able to feed and nurture and support this discovery. Every moment I know you, I stand in total and complete awe, whether it be of your aspirations or your compassion or your intelligence or that smell inside of your hats. 

When I laid in a hospital bed 14 years ago, swollen and beaten and tired and terrified, I thought I had given birth to my son. What I didn't know is that I had actually given birth to pure, unadulterated wonder, and that I would get to spend the rest of my life watching it radiate outward. 

I marvel in you. And I always will, even when I'm not right there. 

Pinky promise. 

Doce

Twelve years ago, we were laying together in my bed, your head on my chest, not asleep so much as suspended, paused, an inhalation of time

    held

      and held

         and held

until you father said something or the other, what it was doesn't matter at all, and you turned your head all the way around until you faced him. Your bright blue eyes flickered open, reseting the clock on ours lives, and you didn't say a word, or even make a sound, you just looked at his voice.

You were four minutes old.

Babies aren't supposed to do that, you know

I knew you the second I met you in that hospital bed in that birthing suite in that city at 5,280 feet up into the sky. I didn't just know you like, "Oh, he looks enough like his father that I don't think we'll have to eat this one" know you, I knew you like I wasn't at all surprised today when you came home from birthday shopping with a cross-stitching kit instead of Legos. I knew you like I know when you're in your room crying at night. I knew you like I do every single second of the day that I cannot ever unhear the pounding of your tiny, precious little heartbeat.

You were the first person I'd ever met in my life that I felt that familiarity with, and it was the most comforting feeling I've ever know, knowing without any doubt that I was meant for this person, and he for me, in some unseeable, indefinable way. If you decide to believe in magic, it's because we are both Pisces, and so we've done this a few times already, and if you decide to believe in science, it's just that you got a little more of my electro-genetic batter in the bowl, and if you end up believing in a God, it's because He was looking out for us and made sure that we had each other. 

I am never going to be able to answer the how, and I probably will never answer the why, but you - simply by existing - have undone more damage than you will ever fathom could be done to another person. You sitting across a table from me, flaring your Angry Nostrils just to make me laugh, has covered multitudes and multitudes of other people's sins. The hardest thing I ever had to let go of was my faith, and your being gave it back to me thousand-fold. 

You made me believe in something well beyond myself, or this world, or any other thing made of man.

You are twelve years old.

Children aren't supposed to do that, you know

Undequadraginta

I love this picture because of everything it isn't.

It isn't anywhere close to the best picture I've taken.

It's blurry

                  It's grainy

          The colors are all off

                           Oh my god, the sneakers.

But when I look at this, all I can see is the sound of laughter in the air, the feel of cold on my skin. I see, with crystal clarity, one gloriously perfect moment that flew past you both so fast it bent and blurred the world in its wake.

In that fleeting moment, I see you. I see you joyous, and I wish you 39 more years of it.

9 + 10 + 11 = Happy 30th Birthday...And Shots For Me.

At the end of the school day today, approximately thirteen boys ranging in age from eight to twelve will descend upon Chez Mr Lady for something in the neighborhood of 20 hours for a 9th, a 10th and an 11th birthday party all rolled into one.

There is not enough Febreeze in the world to make this okay.

My sons have birthdays one month to the day apart from each other, and since they still have more-or-less the same social circle, we save ourselves and everyone we know a whole lotta headache by just throwing them one big party together.  My neighbor's son's birthday falls right in the middle of my boys, so we lump him in with the group, too.  It's like a bandaid; the quicker it's over, the sooner we can start pouring the drinks.

It's not just because we get away with the 2-fer that we do this, though.  You know how Christmas day, your kids tear through a stack of presents and then totally sugar crash, just without the cavities?  And your Jewish friends have these blissful children who've had eight days of one gift at a time, and they're all calm and serene and grateful and you start wondering if you could really give up bacon and how you'd look in a yarmulke?  Yeah, it's the same thing here with the birthdays.  We get to buy each boy ONE gift on his birthday, and then they each get ONE more at their party.  It's spaced out,and  it saves us from over-doing it. (Correction: it saves me from over-doing it. My husband isn't overcompensating for his crappy anything with our kids.)

So my neighbor and I have been "planning" this "party" and by "party" I mean we're throwing all the boys in my basement with the big tv that I just got done dragging out of my living room down to the basement, a bag of Doritos, some pillows, a Wii, a GameCube and all the National Treasure movies.  And 18 air fresheners.  By "planning" I mean we've sat on the phone and said, "Um....?"  a lot.  

It's interesting, planning a birthday party with another parent.  My neighbor and I both share the view that once they hit a certain age, the pomp and circumstance can take a flying leap and be replaced with reality.  She didn't bat an eye when I suggested that each kid invite only 3 friends.  She agreed that the idea of just having a sleepover sounded like party enough.  She asked what she should get for the goodie bags and when I told her I didn't do goodie bags, she said thank god and what would we get for a bunch of 10 year olds anyway?

I didn't have birthday parties as a kid, and I didn't go to any either, so I really have just winged the crap out of this whole thing for the past decade plus.  It seems to me like the whole idea of what IS a birthday party has a lot to do with what everyone around you thinks makes a birthday party.  If everyone in the class invites everyone in the class to every party, maybe you feel the pressure to do the same when your kid's birthday rolls around.  If everyone does Something Grand, maybe you feel like you have to do Something Grand, too.  Ever try to take 30 kids for laser tag?  And then make your mortgage that month?  Yeah.  If every time your kid goes to a party, he comes home with a bag full of plastic toys that end up in the dog's food 2 days later, maybe you feel like you'd better have some at the ready as well.  If you have to stay and make awkward conversation with a bunch of parents you don't know for 3 hours while your kids throw water balloons at each other, maybe you find yourself pricing a keg the next time you throw a birthday party at your house.

I can't keep up with my inbox, let alone The Jones'.

Do my kids need some huge party every year on their birthdays?  Hell no they don't.  They get the big, bright, thematically correct (and totally made from scratch; I'm so cheap) parties when they're little, when it's all still magic, and then once they hit 1st grade, we go to a movie.  Or we have a sleepover.  Or we have a cupcake decorating and subsequent eating extravaganza.  Because when they're 9 years old?  11 years old?  They don't need all that other stuff, do they?

I don't think they do.  I think they want to have one day or one night when they can feel a little grown.  When they don't have a bedtime, and they do have Nintendo, when vitamins don't show their ugly faces and soda pours like rain from the heavens.  When their parents leave them alone and they can watch their movies and listen to their music and be dorky kids together.  When they can just be and do what they want to be and do and not be scheduled or managed, just supervised.

That's what I remember wanting when I was 11, at least.  So that's what I give them.  I give them a lot of laughter and a little freedom and a bit of a break from the rules and the time to be themselves.  

And lots of air fresheners.