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Friday, September 11, 2009

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Going on Eleven


This morning I talked to my son about September 11. I didn't plan to. I was dropping him at school, and turned on the radio in time to catch a poignant Story Corps piece on the radio by a man who lost two sons, ages 36 and 34, in the attacks.

"It's the anniversary of September eleventh," I said. "You were two years old." His nearest brother was an infant. They are the same number of years apart as the two brothers who died. I wonder if they were as close as my guys, so entwined that I don't know if one could live without the other.

"How did you know about it?"

"Your father called me. He asked me if I had the tv on. You were watching a kids' show, and he told me that two planes had crashed into the towers, and I thought, oh, it's a terrible accident. But then I realized that two planes couldn't be an accident, that something really bad had happened."

He doesn't remember a world where such an event was literally unthinkable. What I remember most vividly about that day is that gaping moment of dissonance, of trying to comprehend something beyond imagination. There was the world before the phone rang. And then there was the world after.

We pulled up to the school entrance, and he sprang out. The newborn whose length barely spanned the distance of his father's forearm comes up to my ears now. His feet are bigger than mine. At every age and stage of my children, I think, oh, I'm going to miss this so much when it passes. But every year just brings something more and better. His mind is catching up to me. I don't have to pre-chew so much of our conversation for him anymore. The other day, we just fell into a discussion about the Great Depression. Not all of our mother-son talks are so dark, but he's old enough to understand that bad times come and go, and that people persevere.

We were watching the second-to-last Harry Potter movie a few months ago, which is plenty dark. During the climactic confrontation between good and evil, he was so completely identified with Harry, he was unconsciously whispering the spells and waving his wrist as if he held a wand. I think certain stories capture the imagination of a generation, not just because they are good stories, but because they are coded instruction for living in that time. Harry Potter may be one of those.

"You're a great wizard, Harry," Hermione says to him in one of the early books.

"You're a great boy," I told my son when the movie was over. He flashed me a goofy, ten-year-old grin. I felt that familiar pang. Oh, I'll miss that so much.

"You're going to be a very great man," I said, softly and seriously.

He crossed his eyes and his tongue flopped out.

And I'm in no great hurry to meet him.



Blogger Cid said...

I truly believe that the best thing we MOB's can do for the world is raise good men, the world needs them more than ever. Lovely post.

1:29 PM  
Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

beautiful piece!

1:41 PM  
Blogger Jomama said...

I remember the relief of finding out my work was canceled that day (I worked in a high rise), so I could keep my almost-3yo boy home with me. I tried not to watch the news during the day, so my son would not be exposed to the horror of it all. It was a time for clutching our loved ones close to us in an effort to keep them safe. What a time.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Every time I read one of your posts (or articles) I think to myself "I just can't wait to read her book."

4:20 PM  
Blogger Janie B said...

Great post. Don't you just love those precious teachable moments? I'm anxious to read your book, too. Be sure to let us know when it's out.

6:55 PM  
Blogger RW said...

oh man.
this killed me.
a little death.
my son is 14 and he is changing daily.
i love him to bits and he is doing what every 14 year old boy does - separate himself and test the boundaries but everyonce in a while he is still my little boy who fit on my lap who loved elephants and lego.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

Is it just me or does your oldest boy look just like you? Cute pic.

12:48 AM  
Blogger Chris Dahl said...

I am grateful that I was able to prolong the "before" period for my sons. My older son, then aged 6, had just started first grade. When we arrived for drop-off that morning, I found his teacher in tears. I took care of receiving the new first-graders for a few minutes while the teacher went out to the playground, stood beneath the tree, and collected himself. He continued teaching, holding together the last shreds of normalcy. We managed to keep my son away from the photographs of the events of that dark day for the next five years. I hoped that would give him some time to understand it; I am still without words to explain it.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Slurryoffagrape said...

Hold off his manhood arriving as long as you can, not that you'll have any say in it I guess.

Hormones and Chicks will put pay to that. :o)

Kids are kids for such a short time these days, and I'm really glad I grew up in a time when it was all done so much more slowly. Even when the Hormones and Chicks kicked in, we knew so much less than they do nowadays, that it kinda hobbled us off the start-line.

I was eighteen before someone belw my brains clear out of the other ear, and all she did was whisper something wild in my ear. I’ve been running the motor ever since, although it’s clattering a bit if I don’t ease up for a tea break once in a while. (sigh)


I’m an Old Greaser, who’s been riding fast bikes all my life, since the day I was legal and on the road, and in a field for a couple of years before that on an old 250 Matchless. I’m a Cornish boy, proudly British, but starting to wonder why, as my government lets this once-proud country slide down the toilet.
Born in 1954, 55 years-old now, and finding it real hard to believe where all that time went..... The cheap currency we all threw away when we were young.

I guess every generation burns it up.

Make sure that son of yours gets a good flame from his hunny. :o)

May God keep him safe, and all those who love him.

Kevin.x (Wimpy name for an Old Greaser, eh) (sigh) :o)

8:59 AM  
Blogger Mary Freaking Poppins said...


7:41 AM  
Blogger thetroublewithlisa said...

i just randomly found you, through random friends of friends on facebook.


10:50 PM  

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