Happy Birthday, Miles

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Miles turns 6 today. What a journey.

Before Miles, I used to think there was a chance of getting hurt, of feeling pain. Now I realize the true potential of getting hurt, of feeling pain. When he was born, everything changed. I guess it’s like this for all parents – I hope it’s like this for all parents. I remember lying on a hospital cot, next to Annie, the night after he was born, I folded my hands across my chest and recited this crazy prayer that I had recited for so many years. I started it and it had changed, just like that, the first person I blessed was Miles, didn’t think about it, just came out. I realized then how different things would be from that day forward.

Over the years, I’ve written about Miles, his laughs, his fears, his sayings. Here are a few.

 

Thursday, January 14, 2010.

Miles says Datt. A lot. Curly locks around his ears, they get curlier the dirtier he gets. Eight teeth (four up, four down), two molars coming in on the sides that make him want to gnaw on the sides of tables. He loves spaghetti with red sauce, can’t get enough and anything with olive oil, don’t bother with butter. Likes pancakes, the sweetness of the maple syrup running into his mouth and the stickiness running down his chin and onto his frog bib. He’s the epitome of freedom when he eats, spilling, shoveling, laughing, gorging, spitting out what he doesn’t want.

He makes up words, he thinks we understand him, we pretend, we laugh.

Ever since he went to Birmingham, he talks with his hands. Like a conductor, hands waving in circles, like he’s waving a magic wand. Again, we don’t know what he’s saying, but he’s saying with flourish.

He says Dad – more like Datt – ball, hat, thank you, Oh God, nice, good night, Momma. He high fives, shakes hands and claps. He can stand on his own, but doesn’t like to, he can walk a step and then he dives for outstretched arms.

He’s jumped out of his crib twice. Now he sleeps with a net over his bed, works great, although he wakes up every time I try to zip it up at night, we place him down like a feather, then zip the zipper and he wakes up.

 

Thursday, July 1, 2010.

Miles is funny, needy, joyful, bounding with energy, focused, exploratory, loves reading, loves his books, just turning his pages with determination, he likes Mr. Williams’ cow next door, likes to wrinkle his nose and say, “mooooooew” when you ask him what the cow says. He hates my laptop, sneaks over to the side of it, looks at me, and snaps it closed. He knows it’s not right – and right all at the same time. 

 

February 1, 2011.

“What’s going on, Dad?”

Miles, first thing in the morning, blurry, before 7, standing in his bed, asking his dad what’s going on? Not sure, son. Not sure. I guess that’s the key to parenting; don’t ever show the uneasiness, the fear, the unknown. Miles thinks life is secure. Or, I hope that’s what he thinks. I hope he never knows the uncertainty felt by his dad throughout his childhood. It’s all acting.

Miles’ biggest concerns are easy to figure. They come in the form of requests.

“You read it. I have it. I want it. In the cave. Strawberry. Palm. Cereal. Milk. Lorax. Cat in the Hat comes back. Hamilton.”

I’ll try to keep it that simple for him. And for us. 

 

Friday, January 27, 2012.

Miles dances on his toes. Naked. Spinning, talking, skipping. Freedom. Complete abandonment. No worries. No observers. His world. Long may he live in his world, without all the stress, strife, worry, angst.

 

December 10, 2013.

Strange week. Snow days and birthday parties. Cold horses and dedicated help.

First the snow. You know it’s coming. Know the ramifications when it does come. The newscasters who stand on plowed street corners and interview motorists and shovelers should come to the farm, we’ll give them insight and color.

I get up in the dark, slide on layers set up the night before, I wonder why we gave up the apartment in New York City for the farm in Middleburg. The winter gear felt so much warmer the last time, skiing in Jackson Hole is a far cry from mucking in Middleburg. I wake up a cat on the porch, walk to the barn. The air whips across the back field, angles and spindles of light dance off the snow. It would be pretty, if not for the blindness of a full barn waiting to be awakened. All the horses stay in to protect from the ice and snow, they’re mad about it, I’m mad about it. I see light from Blue’s stall. Like a sailor discovering a lighthouse in the distance. Did I leave the light on all night? No, couldn’t have. I see movement. Dari has made it. I hug him. He wonders why. I’ll have my second cup of tea in minutes, rather than hours.

Horses seem good. Ready to get out, buck and kick after a pent-up night. It’s a risk, turning them out. It’s a risk, leaving them in, as they get fresher with each hour. Life with horses.

This routine goes on for days, dressing in the dark, making the walk, hoping for the light.

The light was on every morning.

I’m back in the house in minutes, rather than hours.

As all kids, Miles has learned to love the snow and all the chaos it brings. No school. Late breakfast. Snowbound parents. No babysitter. Books and blankets. Sesame Street. Then the art of bundling up and venturing outside. He crawls through the snow, pushing it like a plow, then rolls in it. He answers, “I’m not cold,” to any question I ask. We hike, looking for gypsies, “Dad, where do the gypsies live? What do they eat? What do they wear? Are they nice? Are you a gypsie?” We make half a snow man, he topples it. He climbs to the top of his new swing set, pushes the snow down the slide and follows it, laughing and spinning in freedom. I snap photos, hoping for a Christmas card. Maybe, that one. Maybe.

I remember the freedom of snow days. Free days. Then, one day, my older brother told me we had to make them up later, cutting into the summer. Life never seemed so free again. I’m not telling Miles that one.

Sunday birthday party postponed until Wednesday. A dozen kids converge. We sing, eat cake, dance, open presents. Another free day.

When it’s all over, Annie and her sister Stella take naps, they did the heavy lifting. Miles brings me seven new boxes, “Open this, Dad. Open this, Dad. Open this, Dad…”

We put together the Lego Police Helicopter. Well, I put it together while Miles asks why it’s taking me so long. All 94 pieces, this is not my childhood Lego set. Seven extra pieces when finished. Hmmm. I hide them.

Miles jumps up and runs through the house, flying the helicopter.

We eat dinner. Take a bath. Read three new books and say good night.

“How was your day, Miles?”

“Dad, it was the greatest day of my life.”

I turn off his lights, say good night and think to myself, “Me too, buddy. Me too.”

 

December 26, 2013.

Miles opens another Christmas present without a notice or care, next, next, next, until he finds something that roars, beeps or lights up.

I intervene.

“Miles, you have to be polite. Even if it’s something that you might not want, just be polite, be nice, be gracious.”

Ten minutes later, he opens a navy sweater from an aunt. He looks at it and takes a deep breath.

“It’s not what I was expecting.”

 

December 10, 2014.

Happy Birthday Miles. Six years ago today, everything changed. I type this as Miles gets ready for school – kindergarten, Hill School. Wildly imaginative, creative, loves animals, hikes, the fort we built in the woods. He played a piano recital Sunday, walked across the stage, introduced himself to the crowd, told a joke. He hates sports, hates horse racing, loves girls, barely plays with boys, carries a golf club everywhere he goes, memorized the entire script from Fiddler on the Roof and recited it for us last night. He’s discovered what it’s like to play with Legos. He sleeps late, loves Saturday morning shows, wants to be a Sea Rescuer when he grows up. He woke up today and told me, “Dad, I’m six. Six. Can you believe that?”

I can’t.