| Today is my son's birthday.
fourteen years old. He is in
the eighth grade at school, where his favorite subjects are shop and
computers. He lives in TicTac, WA with his father, a couple of scruffy
cats, and (until this week) his two older sisters.* He has
brown eyes, brown hair, and a little scar on the underside of his chin
from a playground monkey-bar accident.
are the facts.
* daughter #1 has moved into her own apartment this
details to follow.
Here are a few
other, lesser-known facts. (Unless, of course, you've just spent a
month wading through The
Memory Book . Or you're his grandmother. Or both.
Then you probably already know this stuff.)
- He was born ten days late.
Having delivered my first child promptly on her due date --
second, a week ahead
of schedule -- I was not accustomed to being kept
was toxemic, bedridden, bedsore, incontinent ... and cranky as
hell. By the time they rolled me into that operating room, early Sunday
morning, I was ready to perform the %$&#* surgery myself.
- The birth certificate
officially reads "Kyle Christopher," but we immediately began to call
No one is sure why, exactly, although I have a vague
recollection of walking into his sky-blue nursery one morning, soon
after we'd brought him home from the hospital, and saying 'Good morning, Henry!'
The name stuck. He was a sunny, personable baby ... I dressed
mostly in tiny OshKosh overalls, like a little diapered farmer ... and
"Henry" just seemed to fit.
nickname gradually phased itself out by the time he was in second or
third grade, but it was fun while it lasted.
journal entry penned during the Summer of '89 (aka, *The Monster
" ... He
actually believes that the world revolves around him, and if
everything, I mean EVERYTHING, isn't done precisely the way he wants,
there's hell to pay.
No one else in this family is allowed to turn the
TV off or on, open or shut doors, flush the toilet, bring in the
evening newspaper or feed the goldfish. ONLY KYLE.
I can't pick
out his clothes or throw his wet diaper away: he has to do it. When I
fix him a bottle, only HE can get the milk out of the refrigerator, and
then I must put the milk into the bottle before the Hershey's Syrup,
never after, or else we have to dump it out and start all over again.
No one is allowed to ride his car or his horse. He might let you play
with some of his Matchbox cars, for a minute or two, but if he decides
he wants them back be prepared to forfeit them right now. He hits,
kicks and throws things at us all the time. (Just now he came up to me
and announced that he wanted 'chockit milk,' and when I said no, he
tried to tear this page out of my journal, then pinched me hard on the
arm.) He yells about everything, and last week he called me a 'fuck
bitch.' I get so weary of the sound of him yelling, sometimes, that I
have to leave the apartment and just walk around for a while, just
until my brain stops rattling. He is infuriating, tyrannical,
destructive, mean, selfish and generally very unpleasant to be around
... 50% of the time ...
... And that's the problem. The other 50% of the time he is our
wonderful, affectionate, beloved little angel ... the little son Ray
and I both adore. The changeling disappears, the horrid little monster
in diapers, and in his place is a sweet-faced little boy climbing onto
my lap and saying 'Know what? I yuv you!' And then I think to myself,
'This is NOT the same little boy who spit on me five minutes ago ...' "
he was four years old, he fell under the spell of "Batman"
... thanks to the ubiquitous 1991 Michael Keaton movie. Later there would be Ninja Turtles and Robocop and Super
Mario Brothers and Bart Simpson and Beavis & Butthead and Jenny
McCarthy ... but Batman was his original passion. Batman was his first
little boy love. (Besides Mom, that is.)
would tie a blanket around his neck -- his makeshift Batcape -- and
spend hours flitting around the house and the backyard, yelling "I'm
Batma'am!" at the top of his lungs.
At one point I was actually forced to hide the
movie in a far upper kitchen cupboard, stuck away behind the Rice-A-Roni ... just to give myself a mini-vacation.
postscript: I actually became friends with one of the producers of the movie, a few years
later. When he learned that Son #Only had
been a "Batman" fan, he showered us with groovy movie memorabilia. By
that point Kyle felt he was a little too old for Batman, so -- with the
exception of one autographed poster -- *I* became the official keeper
of the Batman Stuff. I've still got most of it. Someday Kyle can have
it back, if he wants it. (Unless of course he tries to sell it on eBay.)
favorite thing about him
has always been the way his face lights up when he's talking about
something that excites him, whether it's computers or basketball ...
Nintendo or karate ... money or money ...
other favorite thing about him
is the way he always used to stand behind me, when I was sitting at the
computer, and quietly massage my shoulders. I never had to ask him to
do it. I (almost) never had to pay him to do it. It
one of those sweet, spontaneous Mom-and-Son things that I loved,
that I miss, and that I still enjoy whenever I go to TicTac for a
other-other-favorite thing about him
is that he still invites me to stand on the back porch and shoot
one-handed hoops with him. Naturally I always *let* him win. :)
sisters careen wildly between adoring him and despising him.
Over the years they've gone from fighting over who gets to sprinkle the
powder on his butt during the diaper change ... to dressing him up in
old Sunday School dresses and Mommy's makeup and sending him out to
"model" for the startled neighbors ... to hourly attempts to kill each
other totally dead ... to the sort of annoyed-but-tolerant, Big
Sister/Little Brother relationship they have now. I predict that
eventually they will be friends.
at the very least that they won't wind up on Jerry Springer together.)
Grandma Vert was crazy about Kyle.
She called him her "Cookie Boy," because
whenever we went to her house he headed straight for her cookie jar.
They had a lovely relationship.
died, I was inconsolable. Kyle, who was five years old at the time, came
with me to the cemetery one afternoon. Together we placed a bouquet of
flowers -- and a chocolate chip cookie -- on her headstone.
"Maybe when we're in Heaven, I can be her Cookie Boy again,"
This remains my very favorite thing ever said, by
anyone, anywhere, anytime.
morning I ran away from home
... that terrible sad morning three years ago, when I was leaving for
the office and knew that I wouldn't be coming home ... I stopped in Kyle's room. I sat on the edge of his bed and
watched him sleep for a while. I remember thinking how big he was
getting, and how he was outgrowing his bed and would need a new one
soon. I remember that his feet were sticking out from the bottom of his
comforter, and that he was still wearing his dirty socks from the day
before. I remember that his hair smelled like dirt and gum when I
kissed him goodbye.
what has become a *Tot birthday tradition* in recent months,
I found myself sitting in front of the computer this morning at 5:45
a.m., plugging forty bucks into the CDNow Gift Certificate machine and
shipping it off to TicTac via e-mail. As traditions go, this one will
never replace safety pins in the birthday cake for pure sentiment ...
but at least I know it's something he's going to use, and appreciate
... and (hey!) even THANK me for:
" ...thank you very much mommy, i had
a pretty good day today, lots of people remembered my birthday and i
even got a present, a plastic bracelet that costs like 10 cents but its
the thought that counts
thank you very much for the gift
certificit and im now off to spend it."
Henry. I love you!