Today is the 22 birthday of my beautiful boy, now grown into a handsome, smart and caring man. This photo is of Christopher and his beautiful fiancé Stephanie; their wedding will take place in October of 2010. He began his senior year at the local university last week, and this time next year he will be entering the working world full time in the field of medicine. He is considering pursuing a Masters Degree after graduation. Certainly a far cry from the young high school boy who loudly declared that he was not interested in college!
Christopher's life began somewhat precariously. Early on he was a tad bit impatient, which has proven true many times over through the years. He made his entrance into the world eleven and a half weeks early, at a mere 2 1/2 pounds. This picture captures the first time I was allowed to hold him. (Those are just a few of the tubes that sustained him resting on his forehead.) Our meeting was brief, sweet, and I think I held my breath the entire time before I reluctantly and tearfully surrendered him to the plastic womb of the incubator.
He spent the first two months of his tiny life in a neonatal ICU, that provided not only a solid link to life but a precarious see saw of emotion. I remember vividly the moment I felt the tide had turned in his favor. The nurse came to take blood, yet again, from his tiny veins. Christopher apparently was done with needles! He pushed himself up on both arms and turned a deep shade of purple as his tiny lungs screamed their dissent. I can still see in my mind's eye the nurse turning to me, her face awash in surprise, proclaiming that she had never seen such a strong, premature baby. I knew then, as I do now, that he was something special. Serendipitously, he would choose a career in Medical Laboratory Science, one that required him to learn how to draw blood.
The day finally came when he could leave the antiseptic world of buzzing machines and ringing alarms that would pierce the air when he or any of the other babies stopped breathing. As I dressed his still tiny body, a body that didn't even fit into Cabbage Patch Doll clothes, I was filled with joy and fear. He was still so fragile, how would I become the mother he needed me to be? I have come to realize that many times through the years he has taught me, just as much as I have taught him.
When he had passed his first decade by a few years, I sat down to write the following story for him. I was wistful, tearful, yet thankful he had grown into such a fun-loving, inquisitive young boy. Tonight, as we gather around the table to enjoy his requested birthday dinner, my homemade chili and cheese bread to celebrate his birth, I will again be tearful and thankful to have this joy in my life, a smart, inquisitive, funny, caring and loving man I am blessed to call my son. Happy Birthday Christopher!
A Stone's Throw
by Karen Chace © 1999
Our back yard slopes slightly towards a distant path in the woods. The yard ambles downhill, curving gently, and then continues into a forest that twists and turns for miles. At the edge of the grass, the wooded path beckons and just as you step into woods, a small brook trickles by to the left of the path. To an adult it is nothing to speak of, no rushing torrents or exotic wild life, except the local birds and squirrels, and in the right season, deer, but to a two year old boy this pathway held all the charm of the universe. It was magic.
In the time before speech was his easy friend, Christopher would desperately tug at my hand and try to lead me down the path. Always, for a brief moment, I'd pretend I didn't understand. "What is it you want?" I would ask. He would giggle; pull harder at my hand, as well as my heartstrings, even more adamantly pointing the way.
Our ritual would begin with a walk down the path, searching for just the right stone to throw into the stream and into the depths of his imagination. I wondered, what was he thinking as he searched for the perfect stone, a stone small enough for his tiny hand to grasp, yet smooth and wondrous to this child's eye? What made him squeal and laugh with delight as the stone struck the water, elegantly spreading mesmerizing ripples before it disappeared below the surface and beyond our sight? Then he'd do it again and again.
It didn't seem to matter to Christopher who led him down his special path. Many days he took my mother's hand and shared this special place with her. As with any smitten grandmother, Grandma Pat stayed for as long as Christopher wished, completely enveloped by his joy; carefully helping him select the stone, yet ever vigilant that he didn't stray too close to the edge.
In my mind's eye I hold a special, single picture of Christopher and of my mother, who is now long gone. On that autumn day she was the chosen one, his small hand pulling her… "Come". I silently traversed the path behind them, careful not to intrude into their world. I stayed far enough away so they wouldn't see me but close enough to capture a perfect, precious moment, watching as the love of two generations combined into one. The ripples were created over and over until his attention shifted to some other whimsy that sparked his imagination. They never knew I was there.
Christopher rarely seemed to tire of this game, this sport, this joy. He could live and luxuriate in the moment; blissfully unaware of the everyday, mundane tasks that awaited me, tasks that would take me away from what was truly important, widening his world, his imagination.
How many hours did we spend looking down into the brook, which, depending on the season, could be nothing more than a mediocre mud puddle or filled to the banks with deliciously dark water? Not enough.
Time passes too quickly when our children are young, as water down that stream. Today Christopher is a young teenager; his days spent among friends as he straps on his bike helmet, and rides off to new adventures with a quick kiss that barely brushes my cheek and a wave of his hand. The rituals of those childhood days have fallen away, replaced by new ones. Now, he calls to me, holds up his hand and motions for me to come and rest my palm against his. Carefully measuring he teases me that his hand is now larger than mine. It is his own way of silently signaling to me that he is fast becoming a man.
I no longer need to guide him across the street or help him find his way. There is a different guidance needed now. Holding on has been replaced with letting go. Yet, I am reluctant to release my grip and each night, I still gently rest my hand alongside his cheek as I lean down to kiss him goodnight. Thankfully, he has yet to deny me my own special ritual.
The purity of those days is gone now, lovingly placed alongside other priceless memories, his new front teeth, his first home run, and his first crush. Now it is I who longs to tug at his hand and lead him back to that perfect time, that perfect stone.