Fifteen years, two days, one hour and sixteen minutes. That’s how long I’ve been a mother. Fifteen years, two days, one hour and sixteen minutes ago I watched as my flaccid, unresponsive son, his tone a sickly purplish gray was whisked from my body and to a far corner of the delivery room. There, an army of attendants cajoled him into being; their nervousness betrayed by voices unnaturally loud. My mother tells me she saw it coming, but I had been clueless. When they turned down the volume on the fetal heart rate monitor, it’s normally reassuring “clippety clop” alarmingly slow, when two nurses appeared out of nowhere to push on the top of my belly, when all manner of instruments were used to drag him into the world, I was mostly unaware of the gravity of the situation. Nobody told me. Nobody had enough respect for that nineteen year old girl to fill her in.
I looked into my Mothers face in the moments after he was born, while we waited for his cry, mostly confused. She reassured me that he was beautiful, perfect. She smiled and her eyes were filled with tears. I think I asked if he was okay. He was. He was beautiful and perfect indeed. They wrapped him in his little receiving blanket, covered his little cone head with a hospital hat and placed him in my arms. I looked down into his blinking eyes, his sweet face searching for the voice he knew so well, for the voice that told him he was safe. His bottom lip was tucked all the way inside his mouth so he looked like a little old man, and he had some red marks on his tiny swollen cheeks. I don’t remember what I said. I don’t remember what anyone said. But I remember the enormity of the feeling. It wasn’t overwhelming or frightening, not even as young as I was. But there was a fierceness to it, my complete and perfect devotion to this little soul. And then the breathtaking realization that he was everything.
We’ve travelled the years at lightening speed. Every long newborn night, every doctor’s office struggle, every harrowing toddler tantrum and nineteen hour plane flight, the harrowing tantrum on the nineteen hour flight seemed never ending at the time. But the good stuff, it’s all just in snapshots. They’re shuffled all wrong and I can’t piece them together properly into a coherent story. But oh they are wonderful to just spread out on the floor of my memory, a big messy pile. It’s achingly sweet to pick them up, squint at them, try to see deeper, to remember what his sweet toddler hair smelled like, how it was to hold his hand in mine as we crossed the bridge at the park, how our feet sounded together as we stamped loudly across it to scare away trolls. Can I recall how his breath sounded when I knew he was asleep and I could safely retreat from the room? How did his voice sound as he played pretend with his toy trains? I can almost hear it, but not quite. They told me it would go fast. I didn’t listen. I couldn’t have understood. Listen, watch, pay attention. Soon it’ll all just be snapshots.
On his birthday I made him a mountain bike cake. Mountain biking promises to be a lifelong passion of Aidan’s if this year is anything to go by. He is an athlete, and a boy scout. A freakin’ boy scout! And a loving, if mischievous, big brother. He is a prankster and he has a wicked sense of humor. You may or may not be able to tell, but I am insanely proud of him. He is heading into high school this year and I am helping him to navigate scheduling, relationships, responsibility. This is the dreaded year he will learn to drive.
My role in his life has recently shifted dramatically. I have a measure of trust in him that I wouldn’t have thought possible a few short years ago. Don’t judge me. This is the kid who I am ninety nine percent sure pulled the fire alarm at the Extended Stay hotel in Nashua, New Hampshire causing dozens of guests to stand outside in the cold while we waited for the fire department to arrive. He still won’t own up to it. He’s the kid who had his father running laps around said hotel after him before pulling said fire alarm. He’s the kid who would steal and hide my keys in restaurants and then watch me frantically turn the diaper bag inside out, all the while insisting that this time it really wasn’t him.
We also seem to be coming out the other side of the whole “parents are embarrassing” phase. I am often surprised to learn that I’m invited to his school or scouting events and, happily, hugs in public are no longer verboten. When I speak to him now I am acutely aware that I am speaking with a young man. We can discuss politics, music, or the most recent episode of The Walking Dead with equal candor and I am finding out what an utterly cool human being we have raised.
To Aidan, who will read this before it is published; I can’t tell you what a privilege it is to be your mother. Maybe the Waldorfies are right and from somewhere out there you chose me. More likely we just ended up each others people by random chance out here in this fantastic universe. Either way, holy crap I am glad you are you, I am me, and we’re together.