My oldest son is turning 18 this weekend. I've been struggling for weeks to put my feelings into words. Normally, this is not a problem for me. But lately, my brain is too full of other nonsense to achieve brilliance. Or even, truth be told, run of the mill flippancy, which can do a passable imitation of brilliance in the right circumstances. I went digging through my archives looking for inspiration and I found this piece, which I wrote five years ago. Surprisingly, the feelings haven't changed much. The same disbelief, the same sense of surrealism, the same feeling of desperation when you realize it's all going too fast and you can do nothing to slow it down., the same longing to have the simpler times back, even if it's just for a moment. There's really no need to re-write it. This piece says it all. Happy Birthday Jase. And I really do like the young man I've discovered, even if I occasionally want to strangle him.
It's strange how a small thing can suddenly drive home the point that time is passing so swiftly.
I know of course, that time marches relentlessly on. I see my sons changing before my eyes. I launder their ever bigger clothing. I solve their ever bigger problems. I wrestle with ever more complicated issues; ones that I never anticipated when they were small and sweet and had no will of their own beyond filling their bellies and their diapers.
But occasionally a moment or an action or a memory will spark that knowledge until it is a blazing inferno of awareness. And suddenly it's right there in front of us where we can't ignore it...life really is going by dreadfully fast.
It can be a big thing or a small thing; a silly thing, or a serious thing. Usually it isn't the thing itself, but the memories associated with it.
For instance, I remember being heavily pregnant and obsessed with clouds. Yes, clouds.
Pre-Pubescent One was being moved from the nursery in preparation for his brother's arrival. I had a lot of mixed feelings about that, and among them, guilt. Those of you who have more than one child know this feeling. It's not entirely rational, but it's very powerful.
I was deliriously happy about the new baby. But I was sad that the special time I had shared with my firstborn was coming to a close. Never again would he have my undivided attention. Nor would the new baby, for that matter. My boys forever after would have to share; my time, my attention and my love.
I felt somehow as if I had ruined everything.
What a ridiculous notion. But no matter how much I tried to talk myself out of those feelings, they persisted and grew, until I was a seething ball of weepy, hormonal confusion; happy one moment, sad the next, with no discernible emotional middle ground.
To assuage the guilt of evicting Pre-Pubescent from not only his room, but his crib as well, I convinced myself that he needed a new sanctuary; one of transcendant cuteness.
Again, it was a very silly and fanciful notion, but it helped a little.
And so, I became obsessed with creating the perfect room for Pre-Pubescent One.
I found an adorable wall border with Teddy Bears and Dalmations and Firetrucks. It struck me as the epitome of little boy-dom, and I was completely charmed. I planned the decor of the room around the border, which was a fairly simple matter, as most of the colors were bold and bright primary shades.
The problem arose when I decided that I should do a wall treatment to mimic the cloud like background in the border.
We painted the walls white and I found a glaze in the exact shade of blue that I needed. I experimented with every conceivable fabric and every conceivable technique to achieve the perfect degree of "fluiffiness".
"Fluffiness." said Husband skeptically, when I explained. "How do you paint fluffiness?"
I showed him. He was impressed, but dubious about the amount of time and effort it would take to cover all four walls with the required fluffiness.
I figured out pretty quickly that it doesn't work if two people try to do a wall treatment. No two people have the same technique and it became very obvious where his portion ended and mine began. I told him that in order to look just right, it had to be perfectly seamless
. I would have to do it myself.
"Look." I pointed out. "See how your clouds are...heavier? Darker? They look like rain clouds. I need light, wispy, summer day clouds."
By this time I think Husband was pretty convinced I had lost my marbles along with my waistline. He looked at me for a moment, contemplating, I'm sure, whether he should humor me, or seek the assistance of a mental health professional.
He decided to humor me. He surrendered his carefully engineered facsimile cloud putter onner, and left me to my own maniacal devices.
It took me an entire week to finish that room. Then I had to go back with a smaller cloud putter onner, because the big one left a line of demarcation along the window and door frames. I painted over some spots because I wasn't happy with them.
And still, I could see where I had started and where I had stopped and I was not at all pleased. The paint was darker where I had used a freshly dipped putter onner and no matter how many times I went back over it, it just didn't seem right. My pursuit of seamlessness was driving me slowly, but surely insane.
They are the hallmark of my pregnancies, these obsessions. Some women get horrible cravings, some women get incredibly er...amorous, some women throw up...I develop obsessions.
Remind me to tell you about the time that I, nearly full term with what would turn out to be a 9 lb., 5 oz. fetus, decided that I absolutely HAD to have a matching robe and nightgown for the hospital and dragged Pre-Pubescent One through the mall for hours in search of one, despite the fact that he was having the mother of all tantrums.
Anyway, this one was a doozy.
But eventually, exhaustion and common sense won out and I had to concede that it was good enough.
Not only was it good enough, but once I was able to stop nitpicking, I realized it was pretty adorable, if I do say so myself.
Ten years have passed since then, and his room has remained unchanged for much of that time. But two years ago, I reluctantly took down the border to appease his growing sense of maturity and ease his embarassment.
Since then, he's endured the cloud walls without much complaint. But we've been promising him for two years that we would redecorate in a more suitably masculine theme and finally, he asked if we might be able to have his room done in time for his 13th birthday, for which he is planning a sleepover.
Husband and I realized we could postpone it no longer and this week, we tackled the job. It was a big one, because everything needed to be sanded, including the walls to insure that the clouds would cover and the texture would not bleed through.
As we worked, I was focused only on getting the job done. We hate to paint, you see. We loathe it with the white hot passion of a thousand suns. It's so tedious, so nitpicky, so BORING and so messy.
But when it came time to put that first stroke of fresh paint on the wispy, azure blue walls, I felt a wave of pure melancholy. I remembered laboring over this room with Diminutive One warm and heavy in my belly. I remembered how small Pre-Pubescent One looked in his enormous new big boy bed. I remembered how he stood before me the next morning wearing a pull-up and a grin as he proudly and earnestly told me he had spent the entire night there and didn't go back to the crib even one time, not even to look.
I wanted it back.
Just for a moment. Just to feel his spindly little limbs folded in my lap, and his bath fresh hair tickling my nose and to breathe in all his perfect innocence, and appreciate it the way I couldn't back then, not knowing how fleeting it really is.
As the cloudy blue walls slowly disappeared, it struck me as remarkably metaphorical, if walls can truly be a metaphor for childhood lost and adulthood not yet gained. They are no longer cloudy, but blank and smooth, waiting for the rest of his life to be inscribed upon them.
They will hold posters, and signs and notes and all kinds of memorabilia. And then, when he leaves home, they will be blank once more.
When we finished I looked around. It felt at once completely familiar and thoroughly alien. This, I thought...this is no little boy's room. This is the room of a young man.
And I realized that I need to stop mourning the little boy who was, and discover the young man who will be. I think I'm going to like him.
And that little boy? He'll always be there, in his cloudy room and his dinosaur pajamas waiting for me to tuck him in. I'm going to give myself permission to visit him there every now and then...to snuggle down in his big tiny bed and hold him close to me while I read him something sweet and silly.
Wait for me there, used to be boy. I'll be back again soon.