Thank you for taking care of “my baby” when I couldn’t
Thirteen years ago, I left my baby-faced little boy at the door of his kindergarten room. His sweet green eyes were a mixture of bravery and terror, and I felt, in this horrible “first goodbye” from my warm protective grasp, that I was somehow leaving him to a pack of baby wolves that sported Princess Aurora shirts and Lion King book bags.
And I knew the truth as I left him there. That it might happen today, or tomorrow, or I hoped years from now, but that sooner or later, the icy bitter sting of human cruelty would make a winter of his day, his year, or in my most horrible imaginings, the rest of his life.
They might make fun of his slightly worn Spiderman shoes. They might tease him about that beautifully round, cherubic face that came from our summer outings to the local ice-cream parlor. They might notice that his shirts came from Walmart instead of the more posh children’s apparel stores.
Just as I knew would happen, my worst fears were realized. My boy was forced to take a not-so-scenic route through a-not-so beautiful “winter wonderland” of human cruelty.
At first, it was a walk among the barren landscapes alone, with only the gloves, hat, and scarf of my love. Then you came along. You offered him your favorite Toy Story scenes to make him laugh and forget the cold. You mentioned your “chicken legs” and freckles to make him feel better about the baby fat that others mocked and snickered about just loud enough for him to hear.
With your acts of kindness, you raised the temperature in that frozen tundra he endured. You raised it so much that he took off the gloves. Then the scarf. Then the jacket. He was warmed by your presence.
And thank God you stayed around. Because worse winters were coming.
Unfortunately, as the vocabulary and confidence of those young wolves that nibbled at his heels grew, so did their capacity for torture.
They called him fat. They called him a “nobody.” And as his superhero worship turned into female worship, he was yet again rebuffed, laughed at, turned down by the “princesses” of middle school and high school royalty.
And with the chipping away of his fragile self-esteem, you were there to provide a laugh, a diversion, or a few curse words about said “princesses” that would get you grounded for a week if your unsuspecting parents knew your vastly increasing “real world” vocabulary.
But he was your friend, and you wouldn’t let him walk those snowy roads of sadness alone. You wanted to be there to be able to offer your coat, gloves, and mittens to him just in case the icy temperatures became too much.
And, today, when both of you are literally and metaphorically steering your way through the chaotic traffic of life, you are still there for everything.
For the fun stuff. Concerts. Parties. Weekly gatherings at Zaxby’s to satisfy your teenage appetites and need for boy’s time.
After all, even the worst winters are magically interrupted at times by Indian Summer days of warmth and pleasure. But when winter returns, you are still there. For for all the times I can’t be. All the problems that are too risqué or too dangerous for me to hear. All the secrets he would be too embarrassed or too fearful to share even with me, the woman who gave him life.
And I’m not so naive to believe I know each chapter of my son’s life.
Some of those chapters containing wild experiments that would make me ground him for weeks. Some containing stupid and even dangerous mistakes that would burn away my trust in his sense of safety or morality.
But the truth is he shares his novel with you.
And so I thank you. For making these miracles happen. For being there when I couldn’t. For telling him he was “somebody” when the world told him he was invisible. For telling him the prom queen wasn’t good enough for him anyway. For sitting with him at the basketball game you didn’t even care for, simply because you knew he would see his ex arm in arm with her new boyfriend.
You changed his life, do you know that? With your words, with your presence, with your unconditional acceptance. Somehow, you too saw the beautiful individual I saw when I first held him as a new babe in my arms.
And my gratitude is never-ending.
And now you are getting ready to go your separate ways. Graduation is only a few months away. Then college. You are slowly leaving my baby whom I left in your care for some long.
I hope you will come back. For college intermissions. For Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations. For more summertime escapades where you tighten the bonds that once bound you so closely together.
But even if you don’t, you are a superstar. You made a life better. You gave comfort when the world was a cold place. You gave laughter where before lay only the grimy streaks of tears. You made a difference, and I love you.