“John’s got musical talent. I can just tell.” My friend Mary uttered these words to me 22 years ago as she described her son who was less than a week old. She went on to say that it was something about the way he moved and listened, and she knew it sounded crazy, but she had given birth to a great musician. She just knew it.
Tonight, Mary called me to say that John’s band would be opening for Hootie and the Blowfish in August, and even though yes, from a very early age, we all knew he was a natural-born musician, this bit of news proved it. Was it Mary’s desire to see her son as a musician that made him into one or did she really recognize his extraordinary gift as she kissed his tiny newborn toes? I don’t know, and I’m satisfied with the belief that some things in life need no explanation. She just knew.
I also remember a series of conversations Mary and I had on the day John was born. She called me to tell me she was having contractions. She called to tell me she was going to the hospital. She called to let me know she was in the hospital. She called to yell about how her bleep-bleep-bleepin’ husband was reading a bleepin’ newspaper and eating a bleepin’ sandwich while she was in LABOR with his child! Men! And finally, she called me to tell me she had the most beautiful baby boy and that she had never been happier. Her husband had been the most wonderful labor coach. She couldn’t have done it without him. Deep sigh of happiness.
At the time, Mary and I were only a couple of years older than what John is now, and having known each other since our freshman year of high school, we thought that we had been through so much already—together and individually. We had grown from awkwardness of early adolescence to the sophistication of adulthood. She was married. I was engaged. She was having a baby. I was starting a new job. You could say that we were “out to conquer the world” or “our whole lives were before us” or some other truly cliché thing you hear people say about the young.
It’s been a very busy 22 years since Mary proclaimed her son to be a musical protégé. It’s been an even longer, busier 31 years since we met in a 9th grade science class. To think what we–and all of our friends–have been through since high school is…well, it’s just all the stuff that makes up life.
The Class of ’85 is all grown up. Oh, dare I say it? The Class of ’85 is middle-aged. (Okay, I cringe when I type that because I don’t want to believe it’s true, but I do so through a pair of reading glasses because horrible things happen to your eyes on this side of 40.) The jobs and the moves. The successes and the failures. The marriages and the divorces. The mortgages and the foreclosures. The illnesses—ours, our children’s, our parents. A lot of life has happened in those years—and if we are lucky, will continue to happen for many years to come.
As John enters an exciting, new phase of his life, I’m teary-eyed with joy that I have stories to tell about the events surrounding his birth because it means Mary and I were young together. There is something special, precious really, about being “young together.” It makes us the keepers of each other’s pasts—the secrets, the aspirations, and just who we were in that moment of time and who time has made us today.
Some times when I look at MIL, so silent and stone-faced these days, I wish I had known her as a girl and as a young woman. I’ve seen pictures. She was a beauty. And I imagine her coming to the United States, alone, to work at a job that had to seem so very glamorous—and I really envy her for having the guts to make such a bold move, but really, I don’t know very much about that time in her life. I know even less about her childhood in Ecuador.
Over the weekend, we had the chance to be with family. Because he was standing close to his grandmother, I told one of my nephews two stories about her as a young woman. I wanted to remind us both that she had a wonderful life that dates back to a time long before either of us was born.
This is the first story: “When Grandma and Grandpa first met, when they first started dating, he walked her home, and when he saw that her apartment was located on K Street, he said he was going to change her address to “K Avenue” because she was ‘too pretty to live on a street.’”
This is the second story: “When Anthony was born, on the way home from the hospital, Grandma and Grandpa stopped in front of the White House. Grandma held him up to see it, and she said, ’You will one day live there.’”
I love to think of them—my in-laws, one now deceased and one who rarely speaks—as a young couple, dating, falling in love, marrying, and starting a family—the family I married into 46 short years later. (You also have to admire MIL’s ambition for her children and how she recovered from the disappointment of not being the mother of the POTUS. Doesn’t that say quite a lot about her? )
Yes, there is something precious about the past and knowing someone’s personal history to be more than just a timeline, but to know who they were in their youth.
But of course, the real question is, “How do I get to this Hootie and the Blowfish concert? How do I make THAT happen?” I really want to be one of the screaming hotties on the front row. (Yeah, I know. For me to be a “hottie,” it’s going to take more than a concert ticket and granny-care. I need a time machine. Anyone have one I can borrow? What about some Botox?)