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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Son

Today is my son’s birthday.

He was born 27 years ago today, a week and some overdue. In the days preceding his birth, I ran/jogged/bounced several miles, double-dutch jump-roped with his father, and mowed the lawn. Civil Disobedience Baby would not be moved, however; and he did as he does today: he showed up on his own time.

The day I brought The Boy home from the hospital, I was a nervous and post-partum-depressed young woman with no idea of what to do with a baby. So I set him on the kitchen table and read him the newspaper.

He seemed to enjoy it.

He was a sweet baby; a thoughtful toddler; a child with remarkable rhythm and musical skills and more often than not, ketchup in his ears. He is now an intelligent and humorous man.

His ears no longer appear to house ketchup.

In honor of his birthday, I’d like to tell a story.

I returned to school at 26 to become a court reporter. The Boy was four. In the beginning, I worked full-time (second shift), went to school full-time (first shift) and did freelance proof-reading work on the weekend. How long could I keep that up? Three months.

Money had always been tough, but it was about to get much tougher; and one night, sitting on the couch, my purse on one side, my bills on the other, I realized that I had $320 worth of bills and $273 with which to pay them. The phone calls from a collection agency, the loneliness, the pressure of the previous three months became too much to bear. I burst into tears.

That was when my son came into the room. He stood in the hallway, walked into the living room, a four-year-old in flannel pajamas, rubbing his eyes, blinking against the light.

“What’s the maddoo?”

“I – I – don’t have enough money to pay the electric bill,” I sobbed. I had never been so ashamed.

He turned around and left the room, and I covered my face. What kind of mother was I? How could I have let my son witness this?

He returned, carrying his piggy bank.

“No,” I said.

“How much is the electwic be-you?”

“No.”

“How much?”

“Forty-two dollars,” I said, wiping my eyes.

He turned the bank upside down and pried the rubber stopper out. He turned the bank over again; and a torrent of quarters, dimes, and nickels fell to the floor. He sat next to the pile and started counting out his money.

“No,” I cried. “I can’t let you pay my bills!”

He stood, putting his little hands on his hips. He looked at me sternly, and as I received my first lecture from him, he looked older than four.

“I live hee-you, don’t I? I use electwicity, don’t I?”  His voice was calm. He was reasoning with me.

I nodded.

“Then let me he’p you,” he said; and he sat down again. “Wi’ you let me he’p you?”

Fifteen minutes later, towers of coins surrounded him; the product of allowances and 25-cent kisses from my best friend Paula. His face had the plump, rosy glow of a child content with himself.

His change came to just over $42; and that night, my son paid the electric bill. I put him to bed, kissing him; I put myself to bed; and I cried again, this time with pride.

He is, to this day, the boy I knew then.

He’s a good boy.

Happy Birthday, Son. 

60 comments:

savannah said...

you're a good woman, sugar! happy birthday to your boy. xoxoxxo

fabio_2007 said...

Happy Birthday to him

Audubon Ron said...

Happy Birthday Pearl's son. Mine is in 13 days.

powdergirl said...

Aw Pearl. The sweetness of 4 year old boys.

Brought a little tear to my eye : )

Ugich Konitari said...

Pearl ,

Totally wonderful ! The post, and more so your son. A great big pat on the back, and happy-birthday wish for him, and a comforting hand on your shoulder across 12,000 miles ! Go on. Cry.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Great...you made me cry first thing in the morning. What a sweet sweet sensible little boy.

Anonymous said...

Ah geez, tears over coffee first thing on Sunday morning.

Happy Birthday to The Boy...

Kavi said...

Whatay post and whatay family !! Simply reinforces the fact that we are alike in the truest of 'human' senses !!

Happy birthday to your son now ! And cheers to a wonderful mom !

R. Jacob said...

Happy Birthday to a super kid.

Macy said...

Oh Pearl, I don't do sacchaine and Hallmark sentimentality - but that post really brought a major lump to my throat.

Camille said...

It's an emotional day all around, but that story just knocked me off my pins. *sniffle* Thanks Pearl and Happy Birthday to your Boy.

Doubting Thomas said...

What a great story - thank you for sharing! Best wishes and many blessings to your Son - and to a Mom who did a great job helping him become the man he is today. :)

Sioux said...

Pearl--What a lovely post. I was a single mother for a while, and when I was working full time and going to school and raising my daughter, something had to give. It wasn't my daughter or the job, so school had to be put aside for a while.

Now, a meal I used to eat back then in the leaner days (macaroni and cheese, with sauteed onions, if I was livin' high on the hog) is still one of my favorite dishes. I ate macaroni and cheese (4 boxes for $1) so my little girl could eat balanced meals.

It's heartbreaking when you want to do the best for your kid, but your best is not always enough...

When those boys with the rough edges grow up to be thoughtful, caring young men, it's wonderful. I imagine if your boy and my boy got together, they'd probably get along.

Have a great day with him, if you get to see him today.

IndigoWrath said...

Hey, sounds like you both done good x

Elizabeth Rose Stanton said...

What a sweet tribute to your son. Sounds like you brought him up well :)

jenny_o said...

You're making me cry but in a good way. Happy Birthday to your Boy and kudos to you - because kids don't just raise themselves to be like that :)

Eva Gallant said...

What a sweet story! Happy birthday to your good son!

Simply Suthern said...

Love that story.

I have a sweet young daughter that turned 25 last week. Well she is more smart than sweet and is always looking for an extra $42. With any luck you could be part Cherokee.

Vinny C said...

Aww! Happy birthday to your son. Seems like y'all did a fine job.

Lolamouse said...

Best wishes to you and your son!

Vapid Vixen said...

This just made me cry and I hate you a little for it.

Antares Cryptos said...

Happy birthday to a great son.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

What a sweet and wonderful little boy he was -- and how fantastic that he has grown into a terrific man as well. Happy Birthday to a very special son!

That Baldy Fella said...

Happy birthday, Son of Pearl. Should I point out that I'm only eight years older than him? No, I thought not.

KSK said...

Oh my! This made me tear up!!!
Happy Birthday to The Boy!!!
What a sweetheart!

Argent said...

I've just read this and read it again out loud to my hubs. We both ended up with tears in our eyes at the end. Great writing as ever!

lime said...

i live here, i use electricity and i have resources you lack therefore i have a part in meeting the need here. wow. i know adult children who don't grasp that and resent being asked to participate in the well-being of the household. he grasped that at 4. that is some boy you've got there.

happy birthday and bless him and his generous heart.

Shelly said...

Oh, that brought tears to my eyes. What a terrific son, and what a terrific mom he has.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

What a terrific boy. And of course he learned those values from his wonderful mother. Happy Birthday to him and congrats to you.

Daisy said...

Happy Birthday to "The Boy". He obviously is a brilliant and compassionate young man from his very early years. His mother's son.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

That is the sweetest story. Happy birthday to your beloved, generous son.
xoRobyn

Gigi said...

Oh Pearl! You have me sobbing over here. A very happy birthday to the AMAZING young man that you have raised to perfection!

Linda O'Connell said...

Chicken Soup is waiting for this beautiful story.

alwaysinthebackrow said...

Birthdays should also be about the mothers that gave birth as well as those who were born. So Happy Birthday to both of you. Job well done, Mom. And hat's off to you, Boy! You are both amazing.

PS I missed the 9/11 birthday by one day, and have felt relieved. It must be a bit hard to share your day with such a tragedy.

aBroad said...

I will never stop crying if you don't stop writing things like this Pearl !!!
Love you, love your boy, C

Pat said...

I loved your son's sweet generosity and his 4-year-old pronunciation. I got choked up reading this.

My youngest (of 3) sons turns 29 in two weeks...*gasp* ...Where is the little boy I carried? He too grew up to be a sweet, kind generous man.

The Elephant's Child said...

I am weeping as I read this. Happy birthday to your boy, and congratulations to you in bringing up such a lovely person.

lunamother said...

Happy Birthday! We call our son "The Boy" as well, and he is also an exceptionally canny and intuitive boy.

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

Pearl, I read this post a couple weeks ago in your archives and bawled. Read it again tonight and bawled. This is one of my favorites of yours.
"“What’s the maddoo?”
Priceless. Classic.

Lucy Ladham-Dyment said...

Great post. Thanks.

Leenie said...

Blessings come in many, many forms.

Lynn said...

This never happens to me (probably the Paxil) but this made me cry.

lisleman said...

family can be the absolute best and you raised the best. - great job and happy birthday to your son.
(oh he doesn't happen to work for the power company now does he?)

Gail Dixon (Louisiana Belle) said...

So heartwarming! What an awesome young man (typed as tears are streaming down my face).

HermanTurnip said...

Aw man....*HermanTurnip wipes away happy tears*

Tempo said...

I hope he's as proud of you as you are of him Pearl. This is a wonderful post!

Pat said...

What riches you have Pearl. There's nothing quite like a good and loving son. Happy birthday and a big smacker for you G.S.

River said...

He just has to have been the wisest four year old in the history of man! You raised an amazing man.

HoodyHoo said...

Happy birthday, Pearl's Boy! You are (and always have been, apparently) made of awesome!

Granny Annie said...

What would we have done if our children weren't willing to raise us? What a more than fine son of a more than fine mother Happy Birthday to him:)

Diane said...

What a wonderful story. What a wonderful son! Happy birthday to someone who changes lives!

The Vegetable Assassin said...

Happy birthday Pearl's "The Boy"! And happy "proud of son day" to The Boy's mom. :)

ipenka said...

Wow...his character really shines through, even at four.

Great post and happy birthday to your son.

SeaD said...

Awwww, that just made me cry. Probably because I can relate on every level. I raised two amazing kiddos as a single mom and they seemed to have turned out in spite of me.

He sounds like a sweet heart.

The Jules said...

Happy belated birthday to your sprog, who is obviously a keeper!

My four year-old would charge me interest.

Jenny Woolf said...

Hope he had a great birthday! what a gem!

Susan in the Boonies said...

Oh, my gosh, Pearl, I'm bawling like a baby.

What an amazing story! What an amazing son!

Happy Birthday, to a kid who deserves an even better birthday than 9/11.

Hey: it was a GREAT day when he showed up.

Some idiots acted stupidly, many years later.

That boy DESERVES to be celebrated!

Laoch of Chicago said...

This is wonderful.

Buttons said...

Oh Pearl I have never read this before and Shelly mentioned it so I hopped over. Priceless..... I am positive your son is that same compassionate loving problem solver boy and his awesome did the best she could and she did great Mom. You made me cry dangit as Feral say:) HUGS HUGS B

Jocelyn said...

He...he...he...and you...

And now I...

*Wipes eyes*