Monday, March 21, 2011

Sixteen

Many's the time, since I began this blog, that I have held back from banging on about my son or posting photos of him. Partly for his own privacy; and partly from a sense that there can only ever be limited interest in other people's children. If you find parents' rhapsodies about their children uncomfortable or irritating to read, you should click right on through to your next website immediately.

Joel turns sixteen today, and my fond mother's heart is overflowing with pride and joy in my boy, who is now, really, a young man for whom most of the pieces of a complex and difficult world seem to be more or less in place. He is (a) healthy; (b) clever; (c) handsome; (d) nice; (e) good at making friends; and (f) has found a passion in life, in his piano.

The balance between us has shifted slightly over the last few months. He is as likely to make breakfast for us as we might make it for him. He makes clever suggestions about what we might do, and how we might organise things, on large and small scales. He listens to our suggestions, and makes up his own mind. There are some tough things in his life at the moment and he seems to be rising to those challenges as well as one could wish. I am the one who now has to learn a few things about letting go, about trusting him to have the smarts to be safe when he goes out, for example.

On this day, sixteen years ago, I woke from uneasy sleep, packed a little bag, and we drove over to East Melbourne. The baby (sex unknown) was breech, heading down feet first, and there was no chance (probably given my age) of a vaginal birth, so we knew exactly when he would be born, at 39 weeks. The previous day we had lunch at the Stokehouse and walked along the beach at St Kilda. So it was all very calm. And once I'd had the anaesthetic, I was even more calm. Conscious, but floating, all the same, buoyed up by pregnancy happy-hormones, too. I felt safe and confident the whole time, and was really surprised later on when Paul said it had been a bit confronting (of course, he looked over the other side of the little curtain they strung between me and the scalpel). Apparently, the baby's little knees came out first. I heard them counting up his agpar score (or apgar? I've forgotten), and then all of a sudden, they placed him next to me, with his beautiful peachy head on the pillow. He said calmly, "ah, ah, ah," inaugurating a life of intelligent conversation. Paul stayed with me, and my parents and his mother followed the baby's progress in a grand procession, according to Jean, while he was weighed and cleaned. Jean took the most magical photographs, as she did throughout his childhood, especially on her weekly Tuesdays of looking after him until he started kindergarten. He is one of six grandchildren for them; one of three for my parents. The miracle of the elastic human heart that can grow to be full of love for however many there are.

Today — the birthday of J.S. Bach, and the first day of the astrological year — began early for us. It begins early for Joel every day as he gets up around six and does an hour's piano practice before breakfast. But he had left his Italian homework at school and was planning to leave early. Paul, too, had a meeting at 8, so I got up early too, and made French toast (Dench grain loaf, Ceres eggs, passionfruit yoghurt, maple syrup, strawberries, blackberries and peaches). His birthday present? Sibelius!

Music is now the thing that structures his day, and offers an invitation to the future. Who knows where it will take him, or whether it will structure, or ornament his life? Either way, I can't help feeling how fortunate a child young man he is, to have this passion in his life, and the opportunities to exercise that passion.

But mostly, when I think of my son, I think of someone who is now, simply, his own person, comfortable in his skin, and as comfortable with his place in the world as a sixteen-year-old can be. Here he is, sketching the beach at Punakaiki, in New Zealand, in January...


 

5 comments:

Mindy said...

Happy 16th Birthday Joel.

@ Stephanie - I really admire the way you are happy that Joel's music either becomes his life or ornaments his life, whichever road he chooses. I hope to be able to be that zen about my kids in the future too. In just under eight years I will be there, and if it goes as fast as the first eight, it will be on me well before I'm expecting it!

tc said...

Thank you so much for sharing Joel's birthday and Joel's music with us. And happy birthday to him. And to you and your elastic heart. Gosh, that's a beautiful post.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

a beautiful post ... and happy birthday to Joel!

meli said...

beautiful post stephanie, and what remarkable first words he spoke! you must be wonderful parents, too. standing at the very beginning of such a journey, it is so strange to think that this is what little babies can grow into.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Thanks, all.

Mindy, your comment makes me smile. For years I was the parent who prodded and reminded (ok, nagged) about music practice, and then all of a sudden, when Joel said he wanted to make music his career, I immediately started to backpedal, and say things like "music will always be an important part of your life." Because music is a pretty uncertain career. And jazz even more so. But what I have learnt over the last year or so is that what I think about this makes almost no difference to what will be, one way or another.