One can hope, though, no?
Meanwhile, it's Birthday Time in our family, and I have much to be Happy about. Our oldest (daughter) and our youngest (son) share the same birthday, as I've mentioned here before. Coincidentally, we've had reason to peruse and edit both their resumés over the last few weeks, and it's been an odd and gratifying experience. So accomplished, such a wealth of experience, and above all, so Adult! I remember their original birthdays so well. . .
And I have two little anecdotes to share, one relating to each of them.
First, my daughter. She texted me a few days ago about arrangements for this weekend's visit --she's dropping off our granddaughter who we'll have to ourselves for a week, after we have the weekend with Little Girl and her Mom. I texted back, wondering if Daughter had her childhood copy of Charlotte's Web because I thought I'd like to read it to Nola, who's coming up to 6, this fall. B texted back that they'd already read CW, but perhaps she could bring Book 2 of the Narnia series, as they were just finishing up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
If I agree to this selection, it will be the 3rd, 4th, perhaps even 5th time, that I've read the book (Prince Caspian) aloud, given that I read the series first to my younger siblings decades ago, and then to my own children as they were ready.Whichever title I end up reading next week, I couldn't be happier that I'm reading to a 5-year old granddaughter for whom it will be (at least) the third chapter book she's listened to. I had somehow imagined that Nana would be the first to read a children's novel to her, but I'm not in the least disappointed to have missed out on that. Rather, I'm thrilled to learn that my daughter's already picked up the torch.
Nola loves to sit with a video on Netflix or Youtube while her Dad or Mom makes dinner at the end of a day. She's keen to find out what games we have loaded on our phones or iPads (Nana and Granddad are pretty sad prospects here, I have to say). And her immediate career goal is to be a Pop Star, driven by steady attention to tunes coming from any media possible, with or without video enhancement.
But she's also reading, and she loves to be read to. She can picture a story in her own mind, no external imagery required. She can contend with a vocabulary that is more complex, (and more arcane, as well, in the case of the Narnia books) that what she normally hears in an everyday environment -- indeed, she loves adding new words to her lexicon, "awkward" being one she was peppering into sentences while we were in Italy.
This makes me happier, really, than I can tell. It puts this little one in a long line of young readers and listeners, and my mother, Nola's Granny, would have been so pleased to know how her love of books has carried on. So it might be my daughter's birthday today, but she's the one who's given the gift, the one that keeps on giving. . . .
Second, my son. He may have forgotten the conversation between front seat and back seat on the long drive from Bari to Peschici last month. I almost had, myself, until this lovely piece that Lisa re-posted recently from her archives reminded me. Like hers, my all-grown once-upon-a-time-baby boy showed me that what we do as moms/parents does get appreciated and remembered (we might know this, at some level, but having it articulated when least expected -- aaaahhhhh).
On that drive, I'd let my son sit in the front with his dad, not only in deference to his longer legs, but also because Pater, no more tech-savvy than myself, had rented a car without GPS, and Z had an iPhone with a huge data plan and a chatty Siri. Never mind that chatty Siri neglected to point out that the "scenic route" we chose instead of the default, more direct trajectory was currently under construction, heavily potholed and so narrow that reversing would be regularly required to accommodate oncoming traffic. That just gave us more time to catch up after weeks apart, myself and my daughter-in-law talking wine estates and food and Italian culture in the back seat, the guys talking the same plus basketball and World Cup soccer and why Pater should get with the iWorldofTechnology in the front.
The conversations often overlapped, of course, and then I'd have to lean forward (my hearing aids were lost before the trip, you might remember), and Z would have to crane his neck 'round to aim his words to the back seat. Somehow, at one point,something in my conversation with DIL reminded me of Z as a boy, and I raised my voice to catch his attention, reminding him of the way he would know, as young as 4 or 5, exactly which pair of shoes he wanted to go home with.
It was a bit of a ritual back then, the new shoe buying. Even though he was our fourth, and I'd relaxed in so many areas, I was all about having proper shoes, properly fitted, and there was a particular, dedicated kids' shoe store that we always went to. Z would walk with me to the section of wall that displayed the offerings in his size, and he'd spot them. And once he'd identified the Holy Grail shoe for the season, he could not be dissuaded, and I quickly learned not even to try. He was always very co-operative about making the choice from within the established parameters (he wouldn't, for example, fall for a sandal if he knew we were shopping for a high-top sneaker), but once his affections were engaged, he wouldn't shift. (His older sister, on the other hand, even through her teens, could be counted on to return a pair of jeans she'd sworn undying love for -- almost every single time, within a day or two.)
Z had been reminded of this propensity before, but he indulged my retelling. And then he went one better. On one occasion, he reminded me, he had been torn. As usual, within minutes of getting to the store, he'd known which pair best suited our guidelines and his personal aesthetics. But this time, there was an outlier, a rival for his affections. He could see right away that they weren't quite as practical -- besides the teacher-required leave-at-school gym shoe, and the rainboots that somehow got left in the closet almost as much as they got worn, his pricey leather runners or court shoes, whether high-top or low, were his only everyday shoes. With four kids, that was what the budget stretched to, especially given how often they had to be replaced for fast-growing feet.
He got all this, and he was always a pretty thoughtful guy, but he was struggling a bit before he definitively made "the right choice," and put the perhaps trendier pair down, followed me and the sales clerk to the cash register. And there must have been something in that quiet struggle that made me shrug away the budget and take home two pairs of shoes, for the first time (and, I'm quite sure, last; it was a precedent worth quickly negating).
In the car last month, he wasn't remembering all the lead-up, of course. That came back to me, from a mom's perspective. What he remembered was getting home, going straight to his room with his new shoes, lacing them on and, with the door shut against discovery, jumping on the bed to air out his exultation. His hearty late-twenties chuckles as he recounted that bed-jumping told me how fresh the memory was, how important my long-ago decision was.
And again, another gift that keeps on giving. It was always an effort, back in those busy days, to find time to take one child out on his own, but I worked at engineering that special shoe-shopping date, among others, with my boy. I remember the quick calculation that went on as I walked the few steps to that cash register, and I know that something got left off that month's list to make room for a second pair of shoes. So it's beyond gratifying to know that these moments, a mother's small actions, have happy reverberations two decades later. And that her adult son would share those generously, rounding the circle.
As Lisa says of child-rearing in her eloquent post, It’s not just that you can’t tell if you are doing it right, it’s that you don’t get to say what any indicators that you are doing it right might look like. So it's wonderfully satisfying and reassuring and absolutely, astonishingly happy-making to know that I must have done something right because Look! Look what I helped make!
Happy Birthday, B and Z! Love you, Miss you, Very, very Proud. Have a wonderful day -- maybe even jump on a bed (this time, one I didn't pay for!)