Charlie is 11.
I have a bit of a weird tradition. I say goodbye. I did it to my sister too. Just as she was about to walk down the aisle, I said goodbye to her, using her full maiden name. It was the last time I would talk to her as that name, I wanted to really remember it. Of course, I made her cry, which wasn’t my intention. So. Um. Sorry about that!
Every night before their birthdays, I bid Charlie and Lola’s current aged selves adieu. It’s cheesy. But it gives me pause – time passes so quickly. I need to tell it to just hold up for a freaking second while I come to grips with it marching on without any regard to my feelings. Just give me a @#$%^ minute, Time!!!
Last night, I nearly forgot my tradition. My own tradition, the one I made up on my very own without the help of soulful chicken soup stories or feminine magazine articles, completely slipped my mind. Charlie brushed his teeth before bed, and as he walked past the living room on his way to bed, he popped his head in the door, “You’d better say goodbye to my 10 year old self.”
Oh my gosh! Charlie! 10 year old Charlie!
And then I cried.
I held him, and I cried.
I remember looking at the 3D images of an ultrasound and marveling over the fact that the tiny pixelated image of a back would be for real in my hands, and I imagined running a soft washcloth over the teeny tiny vertebrae. I remember when Charlie was born, and crying, “Hello, my baby,” and I remember being surprised at how much heavier his body felt lying on my chest than it had felt floating inside my tummy. I remember the weight of responsibility for this tiny, trusting life feeling heavier than his body ever did.
Last night, the baby has stretched out. His limbs are long and thin. He has no remnants of the baby rolls. His wrists hold no evidence to the elastic band effect of baby fat. I rubbed his back and remembered dreaming about washing that very back, in miniature form. And I cried. Time is hurtling him towards manhood. He is closer now to being a man than he is to being the baby of my whimsical dreams.
One thing that I absolutely love about Charlie is his heart. The boy is wrecked about social justice. Recently, as he wrote a history essay about our home country, he had tears – tears! not just a wrinkled brow. Actual tears! – in his eyes when we talked about slavery and how people of dark skin colour were given freedom and rights. “But there isn’t anymore slavery in the world, is there?” he asked. “Actually, Charlie,” I carefully tiptoed with my words, “there are more slaves now than there ever have been.” “What do they make them do?” he wondered. ‘Whatever they don’t want to do. And they don’t have a choice and no one will help them. That’s what makes them slaves.” We sat in silence for a long time. I wondered what’s in store for the Charlie of the future.
Charlie is 11.
But sometimes, I think his heart is much older than that.
I love you, son. Happy Birthday.