Monday, August 08, 2011

Birthday in Paris

At 7:33 in the morning, while walking around Goose Pond in downtown Monroe, I called Big Babe to wish him a Happy Birthday.

Twenty-seven years ago, after a troubled pregnancy that never went to term, my first-born child came hurtling into the world, hastening an event that I was hardly prepared for.

I was 23 and newly-married, a contradictory creature -- a young sophisticate/rebel/intellectual/tomboy/Lolita/troublemaker/spy/writer-at-large/abandoned child wanting to be saved. Having a kid was not the last thing on my mind; it was the very thing I was certain would never happen to me.

Yet love, marriage and a baby carriage came upon me in terrifying speed. So fast that it seemed the baby was about to be lost.

But my tiny son proved resilient, with powerful lungs and a feisty spirit. His Apgar score of 9 made me as proud as if he had aced the SATs. Within milliseconds of making his acquaintance, I fell utterly and heedlessly in love with the uninvited, underweight child placed perfunctorily on my chest before being whisked off to the newborn ICU. "Hello, Adam," I murmured, kissing the top of his head.

The thing I thought would signify the death of my youth offered, instead, the most profound spiritual and creative rebirth, the truest reason for being. The wound in my adopted-child soul was healed. I knew myself to be deeply blessed.

My little premie is in Paris today. Last night he sent me an email detailing the magic of his trip, the multiple ways in which his life intersected with the plot of the improbable yet charming Woody Allen film he just saw, Midnight in Paris, which finally made it across the pond. This morning, we spoke briefly as he was going into the Centre Pompidou. I was awash in love and longing...for Paris in the summer, yes, but mostly for my son.

Hanging up, a thousand memories came flooding over me -- the tiny infant, the curly-haired cherub, the chubby grade schooler, the cerebral teen, the young adult with whom I traveled to museums and European cities alike. We have shared a myriad movies, shows, afternoon trips to parks and zoos, adventures good and bad, illnesses, arguments, school performances, graduations, opinions, operas; all the mess and marvelousness of life.

Passing the morning walkers around Goose Pond, I was nearly consumed with pain over the passage of time, the sudden need to see my son, to hold him, to revisit everything that was, to immerse myself in remembrance of things past and moments sweet and forever gone.

But to exist in that place is maudlin and maddening. There is the matter of the here and now, the work requiring my attention, the matter of living, the task of turning pages, stepping forward into the future. I have always been bad at this even as I crave newness and beginnings. Secretly, I am sentimental, something I share with my firstborn.

And so, with great reluctance, I shook off the cloak of nostalgia and climbed out of my mental attic, replacing musty albums on shelves, returning to the Monday morning of a 50-year-old Manhattanite ambling around a pond in downtown Monroe, New York, foothill of the Catskills, repository of memories.

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