June 8, 2014
When my kids were born, their sex was a question mark until the doctor uttered the words, “It’s a girl” (Abigail), and “It’s a boy” (Nicholas). I liked the old fashioned surprise aspect of it, the not knowing. Now that Abigail is having a child of her own, she has chosen to know. I can understand why. She can prepare in advance to buy – and receive as gifts – the things most relevant to the baby’s gender. And I think there is also some satisfaction in the certainty at this stage, when so many other aspects of her life are not certain. This one thing she and my son in law, Ryan, can know.
So, last week I learned, it’s a boy. Simultaneous with this announcement came the newest ultrasound, showing my grandson in profile. He looks just like Abigail. And she looks a lot like me. A nose with a bit of a ski jump. High forehead. A prominent mouth made for eating and laughing boisterously.
Just as Abigail can now prepare by buying boy clothes, I can prepare for having a boy as well. My mental preparation has already begun. When I first heard Abigail was pregnant, I got these images in my head of walking with the child in our field up in Vermont, and sitting together by the bonfire down at the beach. Now my imagination is more specific. All my dreams are of boyhood. I know about that well, because I was one, and all my four older siblings were boys, too.
Boys are different. We didn’t just build big dams of dirt in the backyard, and fill up a reservoir of water with the hose. We also stuck firecrackers into the wall of the damn and blew the fucker up. It was not a little dirt dam behind 25 Oakland street. It was a massive concrete Nazi dam, and we were commandos sent in to destroy it.
In grade school, me and my friend, Chopper (named that because his mom liked lamb chops), didn’t huddle in the basement when the hurricane hit New England. We found the biggest pine tree in the yard, and we climbed it during the height of the storm, the limbs and trunk swaying like panicked arms before the force of wind. We went as high as we could go, laughing, until the trunk was so narrow we could join arms.
When my son, Nicholas, was a toddler, I saw boyhood again from the angle of fatherhood, and I remembered what it was like to be that boy, and have a father. I tumbled and roughhoused with him, as my father had with me. One time when Nicholas was in grade school, his two front teeth were loose and on their way out. I was on my back on the couch, tossing him in the air with my feet (being airborne is always good), and his knees knocked back and deftly removed the teeth. This was simply helping nature along, in our view, as the teeth were going to come out soon anyway. But it didn’t stop him from informing his grade school teacher that “Daddy knocked my teeth out.”
Boys live in Neverland. Peter Pan is always there, and Tink. The flying and knocked out teeth and cuts and bruises of our adventures are badges of honor. The lid of the family trash can is our shield. The nearest stick is our sword. And we battle Captain Hook at every turn. At night you can just make out our shapes crossing the sky, the stars temporarily gone where our shape blocks them out. Wendy can come and visit, but ultimately this is our place. We will never grow up.
I am looking forward to meeting my grandson and having these adventures. They will all be new again.