I remember being young, too young to really want for anything, young enough that the smell of cut grass and lawn mower exhaust was just a smell and not something nostalgic and gone, young enough that a Pepsi float on the couch with my mom was something that seemed completely routine instead of hint of a memory.
I remember wanting to be older.
Sean was older, and as cool as hell. Perfect hair, dark skin, and a smile that made every girl want to marry him. He played guitar, sang with a perfect voice, and spit tobacco. I was older then than when I was on the couch with Mom, but still not old enough. Sean was older, getting the girls, so much better at guitar. And, I mentioned getting the girls, but it’s impossible to overstate it’s importance. When I was older than a kid, I was still a kid and Sean was a picture of what I needed to be.
Ronnie was wiser than me, more seasoned, a better writer, and already setting out on adventures. He had beer in his fridge that he wouldn’t offer me, although I could tell he wanted to. He played guitar, too, and let me come over to see him play. He was older, and I was still too young to follow him out across journalism’s plains. Once he was gone, I would hear stories of where he went, what he was doing, what I could maybe do when I was older.
After that, it wasn’t people so much as privileges. I wanted to drink legally, get out of college, get a job, get a better job, get out of TV, become a real writer, do something with my life, be somebody, be something worthwhile, be anything. Thirty-five years of my life have been focused on waiting for tomorrow, waiting for the thing I want, waiting for that magical something I can’t quite grasp.
Even being a parent made me wish for time to pass faster. I wanted him to be older so the crying would stop, so he would be out of diapers, so he could feed himself, so he could talk, so he could go to school, so we could play catch.
Tonight, I stood in a miserable heat, so totally soaked with sweat that I thought there was the off chance I was having a heat stroke. I was red-faced, old, broken down, and tired. I was also so utterly and completely in love with my family, it didn’t matter what a mess I was. More than anything, I was looking at my older son and begging for time to stand still. Right now, he does’t want to be older. He just wants to be, and it makes him so perfect, it brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it.
I won’t lie. Marriage is hard and parenting is even harder. Both take an almost unnatural sacrifice and sometimes it’s hard to grasp. It’s not always beautiful and both are routinely so confounding, it’s hard to understand how anyone makes it work. And then you happen upon nights like this. It’s nothing so remarkable as to write about, except to say, despite being a routine family event, I know I will remember it forever. I have a lot of things in my life I hold as permanent memories. Thing was, tonight I stood there dripping with sweat and staring at my son’s face and I knew I’d never forget the moment, never forget his joy, never forget how perfect he looked.
He turns five this week. I’ve been photographing him and taking videos like I’m getting ready to go off to war. It won’t be long before he’s depressed about not being older. Hell, it won’t be long before he’s as old as me and wishing for his youth back.
He wouldn’t understand if I begged him to stay five forever. I suppose I wouldn’t ever ask him to.
But, damn, I wish there was a way I could feel like this every day.