My wife made an interesting point to our son on the advent of his twenty-first year. She said that she was tempted to spend a lot of energy and time re-living the past two decades and change, through pictures and videos and stories. Because we have a lot of them. As an only child, he has never suffered from an attention deficit, externally anyway. But she didn't want to focus on all those memories. Instead she encouraged us all to look ahead at the next phase of his life: adulthood. Which I understood, especially since each new day brings a little more of that future to light.
Which does not mean that I don't find myself staring down into that well from time to time. I take a lot of pride in the childhood that I witnessed and helped construct. The man that my son has become was shaped by the boy that he was. A pediatrician once suggested that there was a lot of music in our son's head. This didn't turn out to be a prediction of his piano prowess or his fondness for classic rock. It was a way to explain the way his brain worked, with a nearly constant soundtrack as an accompaniment to the adventure that was his youth.
The music is still there, but he now has a better handle on the volume, though he still likes it loud. I take responsibility for that gene.
It's the kind of thing a parent can make themselves crazy doing: taking credit for the way their little weed grew. Each little bump and scrape was my fault, but so were the triumphs. There were plenty of times I know that my wife and I were taking proud satisfaction for providing the inspiration for the same landmark. We all took piano lessons. We all drew pictures in the margins of our notebooks. We all rose up from a remarkably similar pool of genes.
Which makes those slight divergences from the path we drew so long ago such a surprise. All the comfort we might take at knowing just exactly where our little boy might be at any given moment goes out the window when we can't find him on our map. A million years ago, he used to cry when his mom would leave the house for any period of time, and needed armloads of assurance that "mommies always come back." Now it's his parents that need that reinforcement. He'll be back. And he'll have stories to tell.