"Andy!" I called softly to my husband, right there next to me, "It's our son!"
I remember being struck by the fact that I didn't recognize him. Being a woman in her late twenties, I knew so many babies. My friends' babies were familiar to me. But this baby was, for that brief moment, a stranger. I'd never laid eyes on him before in my life. I know this seems perfectly reasonable to the rest of you, that I'd never seen him, but to me it was a revelation. I somehow expected to recognize him. I knew his every movement in my womb. I knew he liked to play the game I'll-Poke You-And-You-Poke-Me-Right-Back every night at bedtime. I knew he had one very sharp little heel on his favorite kicking foot (he had broken one of my ribs with it a month prior and I was amused to find that it really was a heel that had done the damage, just as I had deduced). I knew his every mood, it seemed, but I'd never before seen his face.
"It's our son!" I repeated, astonished. Then, as I gazed at him staring intently at my face, I felt myself instantly falling in love with every feature of his face, from his serious wrinkled brow to his piercing dark blue eyes to his shock of strawberry blond hair.
We named him Nathaniel, Hebrew for "given of God." We intended to call him Nate, but some friends nicknamed him Tano early on and it stuck. It has always fit him well.
Today, my sweet little Nathaniel, N'Taniel, Taniel, Tanyo, Tano turned fifteen years old. It hardly seems possible. What a joy he has been to us over the years. He is sweet and kind, respectful and bright, confident and funny.
And he is halfway to thirty. That's just downright sobering. He looks much more like a junior man than a little boy. He is six feet tall and lean as a rail. He shaves. Occasionally. His voice is deep and rumbling. He is generous with hugs for me these days, and doesn't try to pull away anymore like he did a few years ago. He even hugs his sister without complaining.
Saturday night, we threw a party for him. Six teenage boys and six teenage girls came over for an evening bon fire, a glow stick scavenger hunt around the property, and a black light dance party with Daddy as the DJ and Mama as the ever-present provider of food. The kids had so much fun. He has nice friends.
Last night, I asked him what he wanted for his birthday dinner. I told him I would make whatever he wanted and was mentally prepared to spend much of today in the kitchen. He asked for some time to think it over. Food is very important to him these days. This morning he gave me his answer. Pizza. I was prepared to do steak, ribs, lasagna, but no, he wanted pizza--with one stipulation. He wanted pizza with "lots and lots of meat on it." I knew it would be just as economical to buy a pizza with that much meat, so I stopped at Papa Murphy's while out running errands in Missoula this afternoon. I found a Five Meat Stuffed Pizza with nary a veggie in sight. Perfect. We eat in less than an hour.
Happy birthday, my sweet man-child. Where have fifteen years gone? Weren't you just a little boy last week?
I looked at him this morning across the breakfast table and for an instant didn't recognize him again. In my mind, I repeated the words again--the best and most appropriate words for this anniversary celebration:
"Andy! It's our son!"