There are many milestones for moms. Milestones of birth and first tooth, milestones of first day of school and graduation, milestones of heartbreaks and accomplishments. And one of those milestones is when a child turns twenty-five. I don’t know what it is, but twenty-five is a big deal.
Twenty-five is an adult. Twenty-five is a quarter of a century. Twenty-five is a reminder of my mortality, a reminder that I am growing older and will someday grow old.
And today my second child and first-born son turns twenty-five. Born on a hot evening in the middle of Ramadan in Islamabad, Pakistan, he came into the world with a full head of blonde hair and the most gorgeous blue eyes I had ever seen. The sleepless night that followed had me staring at those wide open eyes for over 4 hours. It was a moment that I will never forget. In those 4 hours all the love that I could pour out in this world poured out. I was smitten.
The memories I have of a tow-headed toddler are both hilarious and poignant. Running across a carpeted apartment floor with an egg, thinking it was hard-boiled only to lose it on the ground and realize it wasn’t, resulting laughter erupting from the soul. Seeing the Egyptian policemen change uniforms in spring and saying in complete sincerity “Mommy, when I grow up I want to be one of them!”. Cries for me to pick him up when I was pregnant with our fourth and so tired. “Can I tell you a secret Joel? I can’t pick you up because we’re having another baby. You’ll have another little brother or sister!” His eyes went wide with amazement and he walked the entire way up the hill.
The more recent memories come in the form of a picture taken in Trader Joe’s parking lot in Cambridge. He gathered up his older sister and I in his arms and someone snapped a picture. Taped to our refrigerator, it is a reminder of bear hugs and warmth. Memories of this past Christmas in Cairo, late nights in coffee houses, climbing up the highest minarets in the city and laughing on a French express train to Alexandria.
It’s these memories and more I have as I think about this day and milestone. His debating skills, honed on his father; his love of travel and history; his cooking ability; his ability to make friends; his raucous laughter that makes everyone around him laugh, even if we don’t think something is funny – all of this is the person who is Joel.
Joel lives miles away and has been independent for some time. He manages his world without his mom. It’s hard to admit but he does it well.
And today he will turn twenty-five without us. Though presents have been sent, it’s not like being there and raising a toast in his honor. It’s a milestone. A milestone for him, a milestone for me, a milestone for his dad.
Happy Birthday Joel – You came into our lives and our world did a dance.