Tomorrow my son, my youngest child, turns 24.
I asked him what he wanted and at first he thought maybe a watch, but then decided maybe just a Timex, and then decided, “Um.” So I’ll send him money, and enjoy his stories of how it’s spent.
It’s odd, having children grown and far away. Much better now than when I was young, and far away from home. I do not remember how often I talked to my parents, but it’s possible I failed to call more than once or twice a month. When I was in England, after college, I suppose I wrote them letters on those airmail doohickeys, the ones you had to open carefully so as not to shred.
These days my kids text and Gchat me. Sometimes, when I’m driving, I even insist on a phone conversation. My daughter will volunteer a call herself, when she’s got a long walk underway.
Still, at least once a week, as I go about my extremely pleasant days, puttering in the house, passing the sofa, opening the back door maybe, I think, “I miss my kids.” The thought comes unbidden, just like that.
I’m not even sure what it means. “I miss my kids.” I don’t wish myself back to the days of young ones, sweet and soft though they were. I don’t imagine we’ll live in some sort of extended family housing, a compound. My missing them doesn’t have a concrete outcome attached.
It’s more like the “Where are the kids!” alarm – that starts when they are born – sparks and then realizes, where they are now is their own business. A sort of maternal sputtering.
I wish I could throw my son a birthday party. There’s an outcome. I wish I could rent out a rooftop in San Francisco, or maybe Oakland, since he’s a Brooklynite. I’d hire a fantastic caterer, stock a bar with handsome bartenders, artisanal alcohols, and sage simple syrup. He’d have to ask a friend to put together the iPod playlist, but I’d rent a sound system, bistro chairs and tables, and a dance floor. I’d string the cafe lights.
I’d take him shopping for a whole new outfit, whatever’s de rigueur these days. For comfort, I’d make sure at least 10 people had showed up 20 minutes after the party was due to start. I’d kiss him on the top of the head. Then I’d leave. I’d probably call him Piglet.
Then, maybe, he’d text me. More likely I’d text him. “How was it honey?” In my dream here, he texts back, “It was great mom” And I reply, <3.
In this dream, because it’s me and not an archetypal rounded mother, because he is my son and no one else, it’s important that the heart icon created by my texted characters be just right. Not too puffy, not too bluff, not primary. Not too vintage, not too famous, not mid-century.
Happy birthday honey. Much love from Mom.