“In many ways, large and small, as we live our lives, we find ourselves confronted with a brute fact about how little we can know about our futures, just when it is most important to us that we do know. For many big life choices, we only learn what we need to know after we’ve done it, and we change ourselves in the process of doing it. I’ll argue that, in the end, the best response to this situation is to choose based on whether we want to discover who we’ll become.” – L.A. Paul
I listen to the screams of baby Thomas travel across Dearborn Street through my opened window. I came down at 7:20 am, awakened by the cat who wanted food. Noticing the soft rain, I opened the house to take it in, a much needed succulent sound after weeks of cicada-filled dryness.
My own baby boy is already up and out — over at the football stadium picking up trash with the rest of the band (a bizarre fundraiser in which the university pays local kids to pick up some pretty nasty stuff, including used toilet paper, drug paraphernalia, and even a dildo). He’ll come home to practice his trumpet for jazz band tryouts, finish his application to be an LIT at camp for next summer, do geometry homework, and watch more videos about the upcoming release of Destiny 2.
When I walked into his room last night, he was sitting on the edge of the bed — the dog behind him, the cat curled up on his chair — strumming his electric guitar. He played me the opening of “Sweet Love,” and for a moment, as happens so often these days, I did not recognize him. Just for an instant: Who is this man-boy? Just for an instant: Where is my son? And then I arrived back in the land of the 14-year old, a stuffed sloth at his feet, an old Star Wars poster on the wall.
He is incredibly smart, often knowing more about a specific subject than I. Yesterday, he laughed (kindly) at my lack of understanding of Cassini and Saturn as we oohed and ahhed our way through the final photos. He knows so much, and yet he is challenged to rinse out a dish, forgets how to make eggs (despite having been taught multiple times by his sister and me), has no concept of time. He needs me and he doesn’t. When I recently considered a job on the west coast, we talked about how it would be for him if moved, leaving him to live here with his dad. “I’d just want to be sure that I saw you every, like, three of four months.” I gulped back sadness, but then remembered the above point — no concept of time.
We moved into this house 14 1/2 years ago when I was eight months pregnant with Tobey. Bella was already two, and I imagined her coming down the front stairs some day in a prom gown. I don’t care all that much for prom and its like, so I’m not sure why this future image was so alive for me. But I never imagined my yet born child (who I was utterly convinced would be a she named Frannie) as anything other than a baby or a toddler in this house. It never occurred to me that there would be these large feet and bigger shoes, or shaving gear and loud smelling deoderant, or electric guitars and amps filling our space.
I watch him leap into new forms routinely. He is ever new. And then he comes and hugs me and is exactly him. When he was two years old and I went to California for less than a week, he gave me the best hug I’ll ever receive in this lifetime on my arrival home. I become again and again a new being as mother, as individual through sharing space with him. His hyperspeed change provides a subtle mirror that I, too, am changing. If he is Cassini, darting about on multiple missions, I am more Saturn – solid and yet alive with possibility. His arc will keep moving further away, but the coming back toward home will be all the sweeter.