Straddling the Line

I couldn't reach him at first, separated by a congregation of friends and relatives, him on one side, me on the other, so I had to content myself with watching him. He was unaware of my presence and for a rare second I was able to witness the boy he has become without any eye rolling or clowning. Somewhere along the path of time, he has come to look like the man his father once was. I'd never noticed the similarities before.

I watched him smile freely to those around him and I waited for him to notice me. For a brief second, I worried my son would be teenaged enough not to care I was there.

I was wrong to worry. He is still boy enough to light up when he sees me. I fervently hope that never changes.

I had to stand on my tippy toes to put my arms around him and bury my nose in his neck. He turned fourteen and this was the first birthday where his body no longer fit alongside mine. Fourteen years was all it took.

He stood there, stoic, as my arms were wrapped tight around him and let me breathe in his scent. He smelled of boyhood, a perfume mixed of sweat, outdoors and innocence. I smelled of airplane and stress. He patted my back as I whispered apologies in his ear for not being the first person in the world to wish him a happy birthday, the first person to hold him tight, as I have always done in the past. It was the first birthday of his that I hadn't been there to witness his arrival in a new year.

In those few moments as I held him tighter than I probably should have, I struggled to reign in my emotions. The tick tock of passing time is loud in my ears and I am all too cognizant that my time in his life as an active participant is limited and winding down.

He's getting too old to need me the way he once did. I'm getting too old to feel this young.

I once worried about the man he would grow to be, but as he steps closer into his adulthood I no longer worry about that. I won't waste my worry on who he will become because I'm confident in whom he is. Instead, I'll worry over what the future holds for him and fret about not finding my place in it.

With yet another set of birthday candles blown out, my contract of motherhood closes in on expiration. As I stroke his hair I find myself wishing children didn't grow so fast. I squeeze my eyes firmly shut to hold back the prick of tears that suddenly threaten to fall as memories of past birthdays, skinned knees and dinky cars race through my mind.

He's a boy straddling the line of adulthood.

No matter how tall, or how old he grows, he will still always be my boy.

As my arms fell to my side, he bent down and kissed the top of my head. "I'll be back soon," he promised as he raced off to go play with the other kids.

I'm going to hold him to that promise.

As he races to his future I hope he remembers to wait for me.

Happy birthday kid. I love you more everyday.