In just a few days, my son will be 21 years old. Twenty-one years of being a mother. Wow. It feels more like a hundred. I remember that there was a time when I could sleep at night and not jerk awake at the slightest noise with absolute fear and panic overtaking my entire body, but that seems like so very long ago. I can faintly recall coming home from school and sitting on the couch for a while before cooking dinner. That might have been a dream, though. It seems pretty unrealistic. I don’t think I cleaned the kitchen as often before children, either. I can definitely remember that I would clean my kitchen once per week when I was single and then just clean up after myself throughout the week and my kitchen remained spotless. I walk around with a dishcloth in my hand 90% of the time I am at home now and my kitchen still looks like Cookie Monster ate melba toast all over the counters and floor. I think dozens of strangers must come in and eat while I am at work.
But back to Matthew, the big 21 year-old. I would love to tell you that he was the sweetest, most precious little baby. He was very cute, but I’m not sure how sweet he was those first few weeks. He had colic. If you have never experienced a baby with colic, consider yourself very lucky. Colic caused Matthew to scream his lungs out from 9:00 PM to at least 12:00 AM Every. Single. Night. He didn’t cry intermittently, and he didn’t cry softly. He cried full-force for at least three straight hours. He wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t sleep, and he wouldn’t take a pacifier. We walked with him and rocked him. My mom helped and Mark’s mom helped, or Mark and I might have just died. Matthew slept through the night when he was twelve weeks old, so this was a pretty short-lived event. But I can tell you that when we were in it, every day felt like a year. His saving grace was that we loved him beyond measure and he was just precious, even when he was screaming.
When I grew up, I just had a sister. Neither one of us was too daring or wild, so we did not injure ourselves very often. I had no idea what I was getting into with a very active boy who tended to be a tad accident-prone. Our first ER trip came when Matthew was about four. He was twirling around and falling, on purpose. This was great fun until he did it on the tile floor and busted open his head. We were frequent visitors to the ER after that first visit. At one point, we went twice within a six-week period. I was quite certain that the Department of Children and Family Services was going to hang my picture up in their office with a big “most wanted” frame around it. Matthew enjoyed every kind of closure device available: stitches, glue, staples, and combinations of all three. And as a family, we saw all kinds of interesting events transpire in the ER waiting room the many times we sat there waiting to be seen. There were plenty of good opportunities for explaining issues that were not at all age-appropriate. Good times, good times.
The next phase we moved into was Matthew’s great love of huntin’ and fishin.’ Mark and I do not embark on adventures. Mark bikes, hikes, and fishes. I rarely leave the confines of a building, unless there is sand beneath my feet. I am note sure where Matthew inherited the desire to cover himself in brown and green and spend hours up in a tree or down in a swamp with a gun, but there you have it. That is where he is when he is not in school. He has drug more dead animals through my house with me shrieking like a hyena than you can imagine. Just a few weeks ago he was holding a speckled-belly goose over my head while I crouched under a blanket and screamed for him to, “Get it out! Get it out!” This was in my living room. I do not allow dead speckled-belly geese in my living room. I also happen to have a deer head rotting in my herb garden right this very minute. The antlers are covered in buckets to keep it classy. Matthew once used my electric roaster to boil a deer head to get the meat off for a European mount. I can’t believe that I know what a European mount even is, but I do. (No, I do not use my roaster anymore. It is now Matthew’s roaster.)
My favorite son will graduate from nursing school in December. He assures me that he will move out promptly after that. I know that I am so lucky; most moms don’t get to keep their sons at home as long as I have. I will be happy to see him start his exciting life on his own. But, wow, has he taught me a lot. I am his mom, so I know I taught him a lot, but I think we might be even. He opened my world to things I would never have experienced without him. I think he will continue to do that. I sure hope so. He is one of the very best people in the whole wide world, in my opinion.
Happy 21st Birthday, Matthew. I love you.