He is taller than me now.
Not just his hair, which is big and tight-curled and easily gives him a couple of extra inches. And not just because he stretches himself out, lifting his chin and bouncing on the balls of his feet, eager to have this bit of supremacy over me. No-- he is taller because he has grown, at least a handful of inches in the last month or three.
On the day he was born, as soon as the nurses had cleaned and swaddled him, his father-- trembling with the wonder and awe of it-- held this small child who lay so trustingly in his large and calloused hands. He lifted our son high, as if to show the boy's face to God, and then slowly, with aching tenderness, he cradled our son against his heart and danced.
I can see the infant that he was, like an after-image superimposed in the air next to him, closerthanthis, as if from a too-bright flash. God, but he was small when he was born! A tiny little thing, just over six pounds and only 18 inches long, he fit so easily on his baby blanket when I folded it into fourths. He barely fits on his bed now, sprawling in his sleep to take possession of all the available surface.
From infant to adolescent in the beat of a heart, the blink of an eye. He carries the entire procession of image and experience with him: the day he took his first step; the gash on his knee when he learned, much to his surprise, about falling; first words, first friend, first loss; the daily tedium flecked with bits of exhilaration.
There have been an infinity of firsts (and seconds and thirds), he has learned some, and played some, been bored and exultant and defiant and curious. There is an eager, impatient momentum that surrounds him. He carries this all-- this life, his life-- a gathering, expectant spiral, shot through with his father's fierce joy, a celebration of love and pride. There is some of me as well: the dreamer, the seeker, the cynic. This is the warp and weft of him, a tapestry of knotted thread.
It is complex and unfinished, just like him.
These days, the threads bear less the imprint of his father or me than of an almost thoughtless mix all his own, of twisted color and varying weights. He weaves together the comfortable and known threads of his childhood, and now, in a syncopated stutter step that becomes more sure every day-- something wholly his own: a variation on a theme, at once familiar and new, becoming a different story altogether.
It is breathtaking. Just like him.
Once upon a time, in a land that was long ago and far away, I would say "Hold my hand, baby. The street is busy. I don't want you to get hurt." He's a teenager now. He's tugging away, rushing towards the busyness of his day. Of his life. I can still feel the memory of his touch, his small hand in mine, eyes wide and a smile so sweet it could break your heart. We walked together, ambling along a winding path. We taught one another-- about patience, about God, about kindness and love.
Always love. His for me, me for him, every breath, every word, every touch-- it was, ever and always, a lesson in love: unconditional and infinite. Was it enough? Will it be enough to carry him through as he steps off onto a diverging road that only occasionally intersects with my own?
"Hold my hand, baby. I don't want you to get hurt."
He will, though. He will get hurt and be heartbroken. He will be lifted by hands not my own, and find healing and grace where I have never thought to look. He will tell his own stories, grand and glorious and filled with everything he carries with him-- his father's fierceness, his mother's dreams, his own precious threads that he discovers and creates and borrows. All of it, a knotted, twisted tapestry, as yet unfinished.
All of it-- unfinished, unfolding. His.
To my beloved boy, Nate, upon his graduation from middle school