Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ian Turns Seventeen

Having children so far apart in age can be disconcerting to your experience of the space/time continuum. Watching Ian blow out his candles, strong and broad shouldered, inches taller than I am, a young man who has had girlfriends, gotten into fights, aced classes I never even made it to in school... some part of my brain cannot correctly process this and the face of my two year old girl standing next to him, as she grins and blows out half the candles before he can. The space in my mind that holds where I am in time occasionally feels like a chalk line that can be blown away in the blink of an eye, leaving me somehow ten years old, fifteen, the single mother of a baby boy who has blown my heart into the stratosphere, the married mother of two boisterous and beloved little boys and one hilarious, sweet natured and easy going little girl, and simultaneously the married mother of four children, almost forty years old, on the brink of so much, yet so much behind me.

Ian comes once a week for barely two days. Once a month, we get him all weekend, and once a month, his mother has him all weekend. The time we have with him is never enough, and for many years of his childhood, Mr. Curry would have mild spells of depression during the happiest times with our other children that Ian could not be a part of. There were times that Ian was thrilled and relieved he had another home to go to, and times he was depressed and upset that he had to leave us. There has never been a time for myself or Mr. Curry when we didn't feel his absence, or the joy of his presence. Ian has been a relatively easy teenager, although I suspect most kids would seem easy in the wake of Dakota's years aged fifteen to seventeen, in which I aged years and years, as parents do during times when their children seem hell bent on certain types of destruction that you cannot completely prevent, or understand. Ian was a painfully shy little boy who compensated in later elementary school by being aggressive and combative. It was his way, the way of many boys in our culture, of protecting himself against the onslaught of a world that expected an unusually smart, bespeckled, observant and sensitive little fellow who was prone to crying over hurt feelings to be tough, loud, physically bold and uninterested in the subtleties of life. Dakota went through this same metamorphosis to some degree, because while he was physically bold and confident, he was acutely emotionally sensitive and kind natured. Neither boys found a way, despite the sanctuary and devoted teachings of our family, to get through fifth grade without hiding many of their finer points, and exaggerating or plain making up more aggressive ones. But- a big one, Pee-Wee- they had each other. They always had each other.

Fifteen and sixteen are rough years for most, and Ian has handled these years with truly unusual responsibility. He has five siblings total, three here with us, and two-  both small- at his other home. The last few years he has watched his other siblings most days after school until his mom got home from work, alongside honors classes, ( there is Gate, and then above gate there is something called Seminar, and that is what Ian has been in ) extra-cirriculur activities which have varied from running, managing the backstage of the drama club, football and wrestling, and usually excellent grades. He helps with the housework and makes dinner at his other home, and here is expected also to pitch in on Saturdays for an hour or so while the whole family whips the house into shape. By and large he does these things with a sophisticated sense of teamwork and obligation that has always surprised me. I never get used to it- probably in part because as a child I was constantly and selfishly petulant about my part in the household chores and going ons.

If you want to know about Ian, you have to know that he is the worst teaser of the kids- the one most likely to yank your chair out from under you or give you the wrong directions to the bank. If you want to know about Ian, you also need to know that he answers the phone twice or three times a week and talks to Lola about her homework for a half-hour. He calls Ever 'big girl' as in " Hey big girl, come  help me with this. " He always calls me back. Years ago, he started saying I love you back to me when I told him I loved him- he's never stopped, and I've never stopped feeling stupidly happy about it. The last few years Ian and I have gotten closer than ever, and we have many talks about all kinds of things, from sex to feminism to high school to marriage to politics. We argue about politics, mainly, because Ian is the only Republican in our household. He steals my screen saver and replaces it with pictures of Mitt Romney. He also opens and holds the door for me, carries the groceries, tells me I'm doing a good job and despite his general silence on emotions, writes tear jerkingly sweet cards on holidays.

Fridays are family night, and Ian, Ever, Lola and I usually run out and grab the food ( something like miso soup and rice with mixed veggies ) and come home to eat and watch a movie. One week recently we watched Housesitter with Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin- old school! Saturday we wake up whenever, get breakfast burritos, and eat at Starbucks with our coffee. Then whatever- the park, the bookstore, home again. It's a comforting and beautiful routine that I look forward to all week. This weekend was jam packed because it was Ian's birthday, so Friday night we went to sleep to wake Saturday morning and run errands, nap, and everyone met out for dinner- all of us, and both sets of grandparents. We ate and came home for gifts and cake. Dakota came from Long Beach and spent Friday night.

During this weekend, looking at Ian, I could not stop thinking about Ian as a baby,  maybe about one years old. He didn't want anyone but his dad to hold him, not me, not Grandparents, no one. He let them, reluctantly, but would often cry. He cried when he saw big rigs on the freeway, because he thought his dad was in them, driving away. He would spend hours quietly and well behaved, as long as his dad was there. Mr. Curry doted on him- that's just the right word for it. It's one of the reasons I fell in love with Mr. Curry. Now, here we are, years later, and I know if Ian were a baby again, he'd let me hold him. I think he'd even hold me back.

I love you Ian.

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