May 4, 2000
Son #Only


Today is my son's birthday.

He is 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.

Those are the facts.

* daughter #1 has moved into her own apartment this week!
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  --  and my second, a week ahead of schedule  --  I was not accustomed to being kept waiting. Especially when I 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.
  • Kyle 1989

  • The birth certificate officially reads "Kyle Christopher," but we immediately began to call him "Henry."   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 him mostly in tiny OshKosh overalls, like a little diapered farmer ... and "Henry" just seemed to fit.
  • The nickname gradually phased itself out by the time he was in second or third grade, but it was fun while it lasted.

  • Desperate journal entry penned during the Summer of '89 (aka, *The Monster Summer*):
  • " ... 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 ...' "

  • When 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.)

    He 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.

    Interesting 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.)

  • My 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 ...

  • My 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 was just one of those sweet, spontaneous Mom-and-Son things that I loved, and that I miss, and that I still enjoy whenever I go to TicTac for a visit.
  • My 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. :)
  • His 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.

    (Or at the very least that they won't wind up on Jerry Springer together.)

  • My 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.

    When she 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," he said.

    This remains my very favorite thing ever said, by anyone, anywhere, anytime.

  • The 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.

  • In 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."

You're welcome, Henry. I love you! 

Happy Birthday.



one year ago

throw a rock