I arrived exasperated and late as usual to my nephews eighth grade Panel Discussion, Hootie-Hoo clinging to my leg. He was graduating and turning fourteen in a few days and was reading from his eloquently written presentation.
As he bravely read? in front of the Principal and his eighth grade teachers he spoke of how his experience in ski racing in the Junior Olympics helped him to get through a difficult emotional journey when volunteering at a soup kitchen in San Francisco, “I believe that it is the experiences in life that have made me who I am. Whether the experiences are of hard times or good, it does not matter. There is something that changes in me with every situation I encounter. However, my experiences mean nothing if I am not open and looking for a way to progress. There are no limits to the pleasures and understandings of being open to a single new experience. So I believe in being open to the worlds’ experiences and allowing them to change my life forever.”
Listening to his words , I was moved to tears wondering where all this time had gone. Who was this intelligent, brave boy speaking in front of us? I was so close to him when he was a baby but somehow life, and the addition of my three boys, separated us from one another. The memories flooded back of his mother, my sister, exhausted from another sleepless night, begging for him to take a well needed nap. He was colicky, but I also think he was strong willed and wanted to be with his mother.
Before we had kids Baddy and I remember well when his parents looked at each other in astonishment during a temper tantrum, as if they had no idea where this possessed child came from. Baddy would freeze in complete fear knowing that we were next, “We will not be raising spoiled brats,”he would whisper over the chaos, not knowing that this was par for the course.
Stories were told of my nephew pouring a full bowl of soup over his head, in a restaurant in London, after his grandma commented that the soup looked like hair.
He was born five years before any of the other cousins and was my first introduction to the magical world of children. I had a deep connection with him and luckily only lived a half hour away. I would call my sister in the middle of a busy film shoot I was working on, and tell her that I needed a fix and was on my way to see him.
He was a shy, independent, quirky, funny, argumentative little boy who challenged my intelligence, which admittedly was not always so apparent as he asked me questions that I sometimes could not answer to the depth that he required. My mother, my sister and I would watch in amusement as this crazy child would dive bomb into pillows and? aggressively shake his head back and forth until his eyes rolled back into his head into dizzy oblivion.
There were many nights where I would play with him and his trucks? in his room and point out the trees and birds outside his window. Then we would snuggle, in his sleigh bed, and read and chat until his father would come in and gently remind me that my goal was to get him to sleep, not to engage his imagination.
We have watched him as he has faced life’s obstacles. He has been our gauge of things to come as well as a great role model.? He desperately tried to? hold onto his youth and shy away from becoming a teenager but, as life would have it, he slowly transitioned from being the leader of the pack with his cousins to preferring to sit with the adults in conversation around the dinner table.
At the moment he does not seem to notice his fan club but I suspect High School will awaken his senses and the minute he takes interest in girls, his shy smile, olive skin and blue eyes will melt all of their hearts.
At his graduation from his school of eight years, his best friend’s mother quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson in her speech that she had written for him:
“What would we do if the stars only came out?once very 1000 years?? No one would sleep that night.? We would become religious overnight.? Instead the stars come out every night and what do we do?
She ended her speech with this, “I feel like you look at life as a starry night that only presents itself occasionally. Keep on embracing all that you do and all who you love this way and you will live a fulfilling life!? All of us here are so fortunate to have been a part of it so far”.
I walked away from the graduation excited to hold a new piece of? my nephew in my heart and knowing that not too long from now, it will be his children that I will be holding my breath to hear every word.