Wednesday, November 4, 2009
All This Remembering Makes My Teeth Hurt
Dad and my son 6 years ago. The crazy kid on Hilarious Hair Day in Kindergarten. Note the purple hair.
Our son turns 6 years old today. I remember discovering my pregnancy a week after dinner with "the girls" during which I said, "I'm not having any more kids. Why would I? I have two great daughters. We are all set." A week later, I started doing the math, wondering how many times I could have counted the days wrong and blushing that I was describing my decision to have no more children while pregnant.
The idea of a third child took some getting used to. And then of course this sweet and funny little boy entered our lives on November 4, 2003 at 10:10 pm, at home, while his sisters slept upstairs and our two dear friends cooked and cleaned and tended. I would never want it any other way.
Yesterday, to celebrate his birthday, I painted his room in colors he chose himself (limeade and bayou blue, FYI), to surprise him after school with his new cool room. Painting rooms always makes me think of my dad, and birthdays always bring out the nostalgic old lady in me.
I remembered, as I painted, my dad taking me to the hardware store, age 12, when purple was my pride and passion, to choose colors for my own room. I remember Dad explaining about Spackle, and brushes and rollers. I remember his patience and feeling special, grown up, proud.
Once home, I wanted to start slapping paint on the walls right away. Instead he showed me how to fill the holes I made with thumb tacks in my posters. Then sanding it away, wiping down the baseboards, moving the furniture, taping off the ceilings...the prep work seemed unending. Until, finally, we got to start rolling on the glorious color. Dad and I also made a set of deep purple shelves for my walls. He showed me how to cut the lumber, sand the edges, find the studs, the whole bit. My dad wouldn't let me do anything half way.
My childhood was not idyllic. Neither was it horrendous. These memories are like freeze frames in my brain. They flash up, abrupt and earnest, calling to mind the best things about their grandparents I want my kids to know. My sense of gender inequity comes as much from my working mom as from my liberated dad. I cut grass, took out trash, weeded the garden, set the table. I learned how to check and change the oil in my car, change a flat, and to be and do anything I want to be. So did my brother.
That's where memories of my dad and my son's unexpected (but joyful) birth intersect. Painting his room, I remembered all the great things I learned from my dad. And I felt so pleased that my son and my daughters get to know him. I remembered feeling lost and scared when I was first pregnant with my son. I was unsure I would be able to handle three kids.
Painting my room with my dad clearly made an impression on me. He cared about me, he allowed me to choose the colors, as gross as they were, and he showed me the right way to do something. Remembering while I painted was fun, and it reminded me of how I want my kids to remember me. I want my kid to remember he picked the paint and painted on the polka dots. I want him to learn to do it the right way, and I want him to remember the gift of time we had together.