Every morning I sit at the kitchen table with an alarming level of gratitude for coffee, while gazing out at the two crab apple trees we planted when Col was just a wobbly ride-along. These trees are the very definition of dynamic. In spring they erupt into a pink riot of petaled fluff. Next, a prolific hatch of shiny green leaves fool me into believing in permanence. In fall, the trees flare with color. And now, in January, they’re bare, slicked with snow.
The children are like this, too, their own mysterious seasons spiraling them out into ever-new incarnations, parts of them continually blooming and withering before our widened eyes.
Col burrowed in bed with me a few days ago, and I blurted that I loved not only his ten year old self right this minute, but all the versions of boy he had ever been.
He became interested in these variants on the theme of himself, each now as unimaginable as a herd of fanciful extinct animals galloping across the page of a children’s book.
There was the two year old Col who pilfered bottles of his grandma’s forbidden vitamins, tearing through the house shouting, “Uh oh! UH OH!” much like the criminal who turns himself in preemptively, just for, you know, the fun of it.
Or, the five year old Col who’d rise regularly at 5am, gaze outside and announce wistfully, “That’s morning star. I’m in love with her.”
I like to think of all these renditions smoldering inside the internal compost pile of our selves. Into the pile goes the mischievous toddler, the poetic five year old, and the seven year old who regularly searched for snakes in a patch of backyard soapwort, recording pertinent scientific data: “no snaks faund.” I will never glimpse each self so clearly again, and yet they all still exist in some essential, molecular way.
It’s so crazy, this time passing. Even eight year old Rose, on New Year’s Eve, said, “2015 just went by so fast.” I don’t tell her what it’s like for parents, watching kids shed layers like snakes, blithely leaving behind their latest, cast-off skin, the one that contained Rose’s concern that if she put a box elder bug outside in the cold snow it would become isolated. (Ice-o-lated?) If I could, I’d make the kids sign a binding agreement stating that they’ll always love playing at parks, snuggling with parents, and will forever go to bed at the same time in their bunkbeds, so I can kiss them, flip off the light and know that everything that matters is in that room, safe and accessible.
But really, what can we do but love all the iterations of our children, and then meet them on the path of today, because that is where we all reside. Time ticks forward despite our devotion to the past, or our beliefs that any particular stage was best, easiest, most fun. Snow falls, then melts, all the way to the next flush of May blooms in the crab apple. There is no better way to appreciate these growing children, no matter the age, than to be here noticing and celebrating this particular curve in the ever-widening spiral.
Happy birthday to my 11-year old boy.
Col, at his 11th birthday party, held in the air by his Uncle Ben of the ohana* variety.
- Part of Hawaiian culture, ʻohana means family in an extended sense of the term, including blood-related, adoptive or intentional. (This is one of our family’s greatest treasures).