|Adam on the verge of blowing out his birthday candles - and growing up.|
Each fall, a rush of memories
I have a picture of Adam taken in April seconds before he blew out the candles on his birthday cake. It’s a photo I keep going back to because he is pure child in it, bright-eyed and full of wonder and innocence.
Sometimes it hurts to look at it.
And yet I keep on looking.
Adam had no front teeth then. He’d lost them a few weeks before, and the gap where his teeth should be adds to the tenderness of the photo, and to its transience. Childhood is as fleeting as this. Close your eyes, make a wish. And it’s gone.
Now, only a few months later, the funny, cute, adorable space that shouted, I-am-7-years-old-and-I-am-happy-to-be-me is history. While Adam was swimming or playing baseball or camping with his dad or hanging out with his friends or sleeping or reading or playing Wii, his new teeth grew in and that huge, endearing gap that defined him as a child vanished.
Big teeth for a big boy, going off to second grade, reading chapter books, dividing and multiplying, and beating me at gin rummy and cribbage. I kid, but I’m not kidding. Like all children, my grandson is growing up.
It’s nothing new. It happens. It’s life.
And yet it is always new.
First teeth fall out and second teeth grow in, and second grade becomes fifth grade becomes high school becomes college, and before you know it your child is an adult who is tall and smart and almost as old as you.
And you’re like Rip Van Winkle, stunned, looking around and wondering, when did all this happen?
It happens every year. Come the week after Labor Day, if we’re lucky and our kids are healthy, the school bus picks them up in one size and 10 months later deposits them back to us a size or two bigger.
This is September’s song. Not “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round,’’ that clever, funny preschool ditty that you think you’ll be singing forever, but “Turn around and they’re tiny, turn around and they’re grown.’’
This is why parents choke up on the first day of school. This is why they take pictures and watch and wave as their child walks away, into a school or onto a bus, smiling but holding back tears. Because, although this is a beginning, it’s an ending, too.
The sounds of traffic. The squeak of brakes. Cooler air. Turning leaves. The stiffness of new sneakers. Long sleeves and sweatshirts and new book bags and pens and pencils. This is September.
But so are a few spilled tears.
I wish I could make a copy of the picture of Adam smiling with no teeth and have it laminated and attach it to whatever he is wearing on the first day of school.
I wish he would pin this picture on whatever he is wearing for the whole rest of his life. So that the earnest, sweet, joyful boy he is now would always be visible to the world.
And be visible to him, too.
I wish every child and adult could show the world their 6- and 7-year-old selves. Maybe we’d be nicer to each other, then. Maybe if we could see who we were and how we started, we’d be kinder.
Be good to my boy. Be sweet to my girl. That’s what we wish as we kiss our children goodbye on the first day of school. That the world sees them as we do.
Beverly Beckham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.