I couldn’t even see Tobey in his bed this morning, he was so snuggled down into the blankets, buffeted against the crisp breeze. We’d propped open the window in yesterday’s warmth – not even a screen on it yet – and now the curtain was billowing in and out, breathing in the cool air. I could hear birds outside and the occasional car passing, the spokes of a bike, a dog in a neighbor’s yard barking to be let back inside. I knew that in less than a half hour my son would be downstairs eating breakfast, gathering his backpack, finding his skateboard, asking about his afternoon schedule, heading toward his nearly 10-year old self, the one who says things like he did last night: “It’s not yet a very evolved idea…” The one who has drawing wars and wonders about Osama bin Laden and the stock market. The one who is eager to do better at math and yet forgets his homework many days.
But just now he was this small creature, saturated in morning’s deepest sleep, spring’s wind on his hair, and an echo of much younger days clinging to him. Days when I would wake him and we’d explore. Days when the arrival of the street sweeper or some work guys cleaning out the sewers was excitement. Days when I’d pack him up and we’d go hiking through the just greening woods. Days when peanut butter and jelly was always enough.
When he was about three, I took him to get a pair of shoes. The clerk, a college-aged man, was watching my son as though he was an exotic or slightly distasteful animal. “Will he even remember this?” he asked. It was a more existential question than I’d expected and I wasn’t entirely certain of his meaning. “You mean now…this moment…buying shoes?” I tried to clarify. Though my daughter says she remembers her birth, I did not think that this exact shoe purchase would probably rate in my son’s memory bank, so I told the young man as much – “Seems doubtful.”
The clerk frowned as my son stomped around in the new sandals, looking at his tiny rounded feet; “What’s it all worth then? I mean taking them places and reading to them…. they don’t even remember it.”
And the scary part is that neither do I. Millions of tiny moments like this morning in bed – millions of hugs and smiles and expressions of pleasure, funny laughs, unexpected words of wisdom, running in the rain, running on beaches, running from me, running to me; firsts of every ilk – first teeth, first steps, first eggs cooked alone, first cell phone text, first slow dance, first days and first nights – so many a blur. And yet they all come together and form some beautiful, pointilist whole. Each spring morning is more precious because of the eight that went before. Each first day of school more incredible because of the others. Each more fleeting and yet also more felt. Good morning, Tobey Michael, you who will conquer the world and also feel its pain; good morning, my darling. Seize the day.