Today I will start changing my answer to the question, "Do you have any kids?" I can now say that I do not. I have an adult. The little boy whose hand I held crossing the street for so many years is a memory now, one that returns to me on most every street corner. Before that I can remember carrying him, like a football, then a sack of potatoes, too tired to take another step. Either one of us. But we did. On a path that took us here. Now. Twenty-one years later.
How many nights did we wander around the night kitchen, waiting for sleep to come? How many mornings were celebrated with Warner Brothers cartoons? How many miles of train track, of various gauges and materials were laid out in the living room? How many different vehicles, starting with a jogging stroller before you were born, did I help construct before you were putting brakes on your own car?
I have lost count of all of that in favor of keeping track of all the years we have spent together: Twenty-one. It is convenient because it also serves as a career-tracking device for my years as a teacher. I have been working overtime to keep up with you. All those years of Legos and theater tech have turned the tables and now I find myself learning from you when we build things. I just stand back and watch you grow.
I also know that this is a mile marker. It is by no means the end of the trail. I will continue to give you advice, wanted and unwanted. I pine for those days when you could be amused by tossing a blanket over your head, but I am exceedingly pleased each time I get a new bit of off-color humor from you to share as my own.
There have been plenty of times, over the years, when someone has asked me "why didn't you have another kid?" The answer is pretty simple: Because we did such a great job on the first one, thank you.
And thank you for inviting us along on this journey we have been referring to as Your Life. I am as proud of you as the day is long, and I love you even more than that. It is a life-affirming feat to feel that small echo of yourself out there, but I am even more pleased to know that the noise you are making is entirely your own.
Happy birthday, my son.