10 May 2008

Perilous journey

Today, we bought the son his first suit.

Something of a rite of passage, I think, because this was the real thing, not the off-the-rack navy jackets and Dockers I generally get him for formal occasions.

I took him to Nordstrom because the gentlemen who staff the men's department have always been kind and helpful when I descend upon them in that force-of-nature way the spouse described.

And true to form, the young man who helped us was extremely nice to the son, and very sensitive to the boy's discomfort with the process of trying on clothes and dealing with the tailor.

I watched my child approach the mirror, hunched in misery, walking like Lurch from the Addams Family.

"Stand up straight," I murmured. "Put your shoulders down. It's ok; we'll be done soon."

"You rock that suit," the department manager told him.

And I saw the son relax ever so slightly, hitch himself up just a little, and I caught the briefest glimpse of the man he is becoming.

The poor child is in the utterly gawky stage at the moment. His face is breaking out; his hair is always greasy; he is uncomfortable in his rapidly growing body, not quite sure what to do with his stunningly long arms and legs and broadening shoulders. His peach fuzz turned rapidly into a blonde beard, and for this reason, I'm grateful he got his father's dark blonde, rather than my own uncompromising brunette. Convincing him to shave is an uphill battle. With his glasses, his scowl, and his slumped shoulders, he looks very much the Caltech legacy that he is.

Under the teenagerness, the attitude that I recognize more and more as a front to gain my attention, there is a remarkably sweet and handsome boy, who looks like a blonde, blue-eyed Harry Potter. People have remarked on this resemblance since he was nine, and we still hear children shout, "Look! It's Harry Potter!" Despite the ennui of his age, he laughs when he hears it.

He's a hard worker, a brilliant student, and his teachers love him not only for his respectful attention, but for the fun he brings to conversation. He has a perfect sense of humor, and no qualms about sharing it. The girls in his class swoon, too, and their attentions both confuse and delight him, not that he'd ever admit to either.

Standing in front of the mirror, as the tailor marked the hem on the pants, he slipped his hands into the pockets of the trousers, and lifted his chin just a little. And there he was, my child of the future.

He has no idea how dearly I love him, how much I fear for him, how proud I am of him, how pleased I am that I like him.

Tomorrow, he flies off with his class for yet another one of these ridiculous school trips, this time to Washington, D.C. He is excited; I am not. I am annoyed that his first trip to my hometown is without me, but more to the point, I am worried that he will be so far from home, away from my watchful eyes, out of the circle of protection I try to cast around him. I try not to show the extent of my concern; he doesn't like me to worry.

I'm your mother, I tell him. It's my job.

"MOM!" he's yelling in the background. "Are we going to PACK? Like, anytime tonight?"

And it never gets any easier.

Go listen to some good music: "Perilous Journey" from the album Halo: The Soundtrack by Martin O'Donnell & Michael Salvatori.

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