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4:16 p.m. - 2013-01-16
On my elder son's 28th birthday

You guys are so clever! See? Ms Stone Age here would have never thought to email pics to myself. I shall try it. My phone came with a gmail account that I never use. I dislike gmail, had an account early on and was horrified by how it read my letters and decided how my inbox should be organized and used my private stuff to zap me with cookied ads. I do understand nothing on the net is truly private, but Google reading my f-ing email seems a bit much.

Speaking of mail, aside from holiday/thank-you cards when was the last time you sent anyone a letter via snail mail? Just a 'howdy' sort of thing? I'm thinking on it and I guess it must be almost 10 years since I sent anyone a handwritten letter. A friend serving in Iraq. She did have net access sometimes but I wanted her to have something to read even when she couldn't get to a computer. Then she rotated back stateside and it's been email and the occasional phone call ever since. (Hi S!) I know how much I love getting letters so I think I'll bestir myself to send some. As it is the snail mail box so rarely has anything but bad news and crappy adverts and it's a shame.

The summer after 5th grade my best friend was sent up to Albany to stay with relatives for all of July and most of August. We missed each other something fierce and wrote almost every day. We even had dopey pen names just for a goof. She was 'Chuck Wagon' and I was 'Rose Garden'. Seeing a letter from 'Chuck' in the box was wonderful! I wish I could remember what we wrote about. I did hang onto those letters for many years but they disappeared during a move somewhere along the line. Sigh... Wouldn't it be cool to have your 11 year old self's thoughts down on paper to read now and marvel over who you used to be? I do have a few paper diaries, but they are from much later in my life. From when I was already a wife and a mother.

Speaking of which, today is Alex's 28th birthday. I have an almost 30 year old child! I have secondhand news about what he's doing and where he lives and have it on good account that his woman is a good'un. But as to the actual texture of his life, what he thinks about and what his goals and values are, I haven't a clue. I don't know if he's happy or has embraced a religion or feels bad about going bald. Seriously he might not mind too much, he never liked his hair. It's wiry and the same dull lusterless brown as my own.

Since I do not know what my son's life is like at 28 I think back to my own. At 28 I had been his mother for 7 years. I was fresh off closing up my vintage bookstore and had taken over the management of a small shop in Sugar Loaf. The main focus of the shop was kaleidoscopes. I kid you not. The shop also carried really cool cards and notepaper. And we did a brisk business in Fenton Art Glass. We only sold the wee woven glass baskets. Fenton has a broad catalog but the store's owner had a pash for the baskets herself so we specialized.

While I was sad and sorry that my bookshop never did a boomer business it had served its intended purpose of giving me legitimate work and the freedom to have Alex with me all day. The struggle to balance my (then) ideas about feminism and my hopeless love affair with being a mom was a bitch. In true 'Free To Be You and Me' 1970s woman-power fashion I had nothing but contempt for women who stayed home with the kids and let their men be the sole provider. Yet in my secret heart I couldn't bear the thought of sticking my beautiful son in some crappy daycare all day either. The obvious solution was to open my own place. Despite being a polymath I had few truly marketable skills. Hell on wheels at Trivial Pursuit, but there's no money in being a smarty-pants. I knew I could sell things and I loved books. A used book store was the obvious choice. Not long after Alex's 3rd birthday I opened for business. Just down the hill from our apartment, he and I walked to the store most days and spent our time reading (yes, he read at 3), sorting donations and the hauls from my weekend garage sailing, playing with the toys I had at the front in the children's section, and waiting on the occasional customer. A couple years in and it was time for my lovely boy to go to school. I arranged for the bus to pick him up and drop him off at the store (kindergarten was a half-day program), and it was no nevermind if the place was chock-a-block with customers when the bus wheezed to a stop halfway down the block of the perpendicular side street and disgorged my boy I was out the door and waiting on the corner squatted down with outstretched arms. And every day Alex would clamber off the bus and run. Down the sidewalk and into my waiting arms. It was the best part of my day.

By the time I was 28 he was in 2nd grade, my bookstore was shuttered and gone, I was miles away running a different store and Alex spent a couple hours after school with our downstairs neighbor. Sometime during that year we moved into the Big White House. That crazy huge house with its 27 rooms, its ghosts, and room enough to spare for all the strays (feline and human) my hippy heart and my huge house could take in.

The year I was 28 I finally admitted (quietly and only to myself) that my marriage was a bust. The man simply did not love me. Never would. Maybe he couldn't love me. Maybe the love gene was left out of his makeup. Whatever. Being unloved was nothing new. What I did want and need was a good solid life for my son. And for that I needed the man. Money. To have the money to keep our son in the 'good' schools in our nicey-nice wealthy district. To house him in the fantastic Victorian with room to roam and play and not a scuzzy apartment over a dry cleaner in a cruddy part of an even cruddier city. For that I thought I needed the ex. Mike felt much the same. He didn't love me, hell, he hardly liked me, but he too felt the bottom line was the child we'd made. That innocent. Alex hadn't asked to be here, we'd conjured him into being with our enthusiastic but condom-less lovemaking in a squeaky bed in a tiny garden shed apartment somewhere around St Patrick's Day in the ominously portentous year of 1984. The ex and I, we'd made this new human being and owed him everything we could give.

Of course mistakes were made. Of course the ex and I dished each other horrible wounds. Disappointment and dissatisfaction. Oh, I'd like to claim to be the victim and blameless, but that's simply not so. I did my share of dirty. I let my own selfishness justify some truly heinous shit. Yet during all of it the best of both of us, the ex and I, we tried to make things okay for our son. This most precious son who seemed to be the only good and right thing from a stupidly hasty and childish marriage.

Alex hates me? Okay. I'm willing to be the scorned back he steps on during his travels to being okay with himself. It's the only thing I have left to give this boy who is now a man. It took far too long for me to be okay. Almost 50 years. And if by being Alex's bad guy, the source of all evil and I can cut many miles and wasted years off his journey of self, that's fine. If at 28 he lives not to spite the past or worse be trapped in it and is his own person doing right for his own self then it's all good.

Really.

Maybe it's cheesy and trite, but I honestly feel this way.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

-Kahlil Gibran

Alex, if you read this or have someone else check it out and report back- know this- I love you. I want you to be successful as you define success. I want you to make your own dreams come true. You don't owe me anything, your life is entirely yours. Would I like a phone call and would it lay me flat with joy to hear your voice? Sure. But the paramount thing is that you take up and get on with your life decades before I finally got my own shit together. So. If you're happy. If you like the man you are. If your love does you good. If the way you make your living isn't a compromise of your values and a shame to you when you cash your paycheck, then I'm good. I miss you. I ache over the space your absence left in my life. But I don't need you to approve of me or my choices. Just be okay. And it'll be enough.


Happy Birthday, Kiddo. Love, ~Mom

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