If you’re a person who writes a blog and if that blog should talk about your children if you have them (or your pets if you don’t, although really it’s about the same thing, isn’t it?), then the occasion of a birthday – theirs or yours – might call to mind a blog post.
And if you’re going to write a blog post about a birthday, you might find yourself wandering in the thicket of photos on your computer, and it might be that these photos, which were going to be organized last
year five years ago weekend but then there was that thing that happened so you couldn’t get to it and then – well, anyway, the thicket of photos might prove to be an endless forest in which you would wander for hours, lost in thinking about that tiny baby, who is now…
And you would emerge blinking from your dreamy visit in the digitally preserved past, like so much pixelated amber, and say to yourself, that teeny burrito-sized baby, twelve?
Because twelve — well, to be twelve, you might as well already be thirteen. Twelve is but the pause, the deep inhaled breath before the exhaled hormonal hurricanes begin. But what’s that, you say, boys are easier? Less tumultuous, fewer emotional high-wire acts?
Hmm. I’m skeptical. Liam has never in his life, as near as I can tell, followed the conventional path anywhere:
He sets his alarm for 5:49 every morning, gets out of bed, showers, gets dressed in his school uniform, and is already playing his computer game before I’ve stumbled out of my room ten minutes later. He’s been reading Isaac Asimov’s book Atom for fun; he came to a book talk we had on campus a few weeks ago about Yann Martel’s Life of Pi — of his own volition.
At twelve, this boy is torn between being a physicist, a professional
soccer football player, a chef who specializes in chocolate desserts, and an inventor – and who is happiest building intricate, self-designed Lego creations. At twelve, he can’t find the “off” switch on his competitive engines, even to play a “friendly” game of Monopoly. He’ll gut you over Boardwalk without batting an eyelash, will wheedle for you to do a trade with him until you give in…and then slam you with rents so high you’re bankrupted.
At twelve, this boy–who lives for football, and finds fart jokes vastly amusing, wanted two things for his birthday: a fuzzy bathrobe and bath products. It’s as if he’s channeling Hugh Hefner, but he has no idea who Hugh Hefner is.
At twelve, he wants to be a good big brother…if only his younger brother would leave him alone. Except when Younger Brother does leave him alone, Older Brother suddenly feels lonely, suddenly aware that having an in-house companion is a pretty spectacular plus. And mostly eight and now-twelve have found an equilibrium, realized that in our expat lives, where transience is a fact of life, they’ve mostly got each other – so killing one another is probably not in either of their best interest. A few years ago, Caleb’s joke present to Liam – a rock, ala Charlie Brown’s Halloween – would’ve given Liam apoplexy. Now, in his mature twelve-ness? He laughed.
Twelve. Old enough to be left alone for a bit if I have to run to the store; old enough to be interested in things like nice-smelling shampoo and having his hair look just so in the morning. But young enough to still sit on my lap, to ask for a hug, to want me to tuck him in at night and “say good-nights.” And as I whisper our good-night ritual, I trace the outline of his face with my finger. In the dark, it’s twelve years ago, eleven years ago…it’s all the years, and I’m rocking a baby to sleep.
psst, guess what? (yes, I’m whispering; the baby is asleep) there’s a challenge grid going on in the yeahwrite world for those of us
stupid brave enough to tackle NaBloPoMo. Yes. A post a day. Might not keep the doctor away but it may bring on tendonitis. And a lot of good writing. So click on the badge and look around the grid: you might find some new favorite writers to keep you company through Thanksgiving, US football, rainstorms, and whatever else is coming down on you these days.