Monday, July 28, 2014
Today is my son James's twentieth birthday, and above is a detail from his birthday cake, which I decorated to look like Stonehenge. Notice the gummy bear druids wandering among the Jolly Rancher stones. The actual cake was orange-flavored, with a chocolate ricotta filling. It was much better than the decorations indicate. The Jolly Ranchers, under refrigeration, developed a luminous layer of slime, as if Stonehenge had begun dissolving into its radioactive essence. Nobody had any interest in eating them, though the gummy druids vanished quickly.
Twenty years I've known James! What luck! He's funny and sweet, and he sets mousetraps for me when I get squeamish. He reads Henry James on the bus, buys comical shirts at the Goodwill, goes camping in the rain, likes it when his hair sticks straight up, and invents things for the cat to say. He drinks more coffee than anyone else in the house. He asks, "What can I do to help?" and drives his brother to piano lessons and leaves Outkast in my car stereo turned up to 11. When his best friend buys a used 80s-era moped, they take it to the park, photograph it in various odd positions, and then compose captions pretending that it's a dog. Twenty years I've known James! And still the same light-up smile, same comedic mashup of brains and fiddly fix-it obsessions. Tom recently found a photo he'd taken of a "What I Want for Christmas" list James had composed when he was eight or nine: Nails! Wood glue! Rain gauge! Ship in a bottle! Next to it was Paul's kindergartner version, in carefully carved-out, mostly unreadable words--RODOT. TEVNO.--as if Klingon had been his first language.
Oh my dear boys, how funny you have been your whole lives . . . funny and charming; and angry, too, when anger is called for; and brokenhearted, when that is the only possible choice. I never imagined, when I was a new mother, that my child would become a friend for life. And now, twenty years I've known James! What would I be without him?