You’re the one who changed me.
June 22, 1997. That’s the day you took apart the whole of me to be pieced back together in a puzzle I hope will never be completed.
You were my life’s great surprise, usurping this body before I’d finished writing thank you cards for wedding gifts. Unable to breathe out the words “I’m pregnant,” I sucked in the sentence that couldn’t possibly be true.
I told your father the news on an inhale.
We prepared ourselves. With car seats and swings, tiny socks and hooded towels. Diapers and board books and nasal aspirators. And yet.
I could not have been more unprepared.
For stubby feet like new potatoes, your shock of hair falling out in tufts. For endless rocking and crying, for bubbly smiles and gurgling discoveries. You gnawed on a wet fist and I tickled your belly as it collapsed with hiccups. I buoyed you on my lap and marveled at the fierceness of my feelings. I couldn’t get enough of your skin against my hand.
Then touch gave way to sound; your gruff voice asking questions. Tirelessly. What’s that? And Why? Always the why and a curiosity that had no patience for satisfaction.
You were Buzz Lightyear and Peter Pan, cloaking yourself in their greatness, the belief that you could fly. You looked sideways at the frailty of heroes, confident that reality was overrated. Your sense of justice balanced tenuously in a world that wasn’t fair.
You sought to test that world—and me—to be sure we wouldn’t fail you.
I failed you many times.
You forgave me many times.
You sorted through overturned buckets of Legos; Barbie shoes and Polly Pockets attending the mix. A friend shouted, “No girls!” as your sister entered the room. You said, “Yes. Karly can play,” without looking up from your game.
Do you remember making products to sell for 4th Grade Business Day? You spent your “income” on gifts, sharing half the bounty with Karly. You couldn’t see my tears of pride through the shut bedroom door.
I told your father of the generosity on an exhale.
I was afraid you’d inherit my weaknesses, but you’re already stronger than I am in ways that matter most. You make unlikely choices and don’t worry what others think about your differentness. You analyze rules for their intentions and are deliberate with your things, knowing their purposes and whereabouts always. Such conscientiousness is a mystery to me—The Mistress of Lost Possessions and Carelessness.
You are, at times, competitive; but when you don’t care to win, you surrender the victory, succumb to silliness and give up the fight. Sarcasm sings on your tongue; wit spreads across your cheeks in crooked grins. You know you’re funny. And smart.
But oh, my dear Jack, please believe you are extraordinary.
You’ve catapulted me to new depths and heights, engendered in me both pain and joy. I was changed by your birth, trading in the girl I was for the mother I hoped to be.
Soon, before I’m ready, you’ll be gone in a whiff of gasoline and a screech of tires. I can only hope that when you leave, a piece of our unfinished puzzle travels with you.
And even as I spend my days stringing together words for people I’ll never meet, know this:
I will never again create a work as wonderful as you.
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