Last week we got to watch our son play cello with his school orchestra in their performing arts center, which was a giant leap from standing in a crowded elementary school gym, listening to both the school band and orchestra. I'm so glad he chose orchestra and from a daily grind perspective, I'm pleased he chose the cello. Having to endure repetitive notes from some of those other high-pitched wind or string instruments...I don't think I could take it. Although I will concede that the viola sounds kinda cool.
The closest I ever came to string as a child was making cat's cradles. And my only acquaintance with musical instruments was playing Mary Had a Little Lamb on my recorder and taking drum lessons from Bob Ego's brother at The Drum Shop on Whyte Ave in Edmonton. Bob was the drummer in Streetheart ( a famous Canadian rock band) at the time. I don't remember his brother's name. And I never did nail the 64th note on my drum pad. But I played percussion with precision, pride and pizazz. I was a boom chick boom boom chick.
Fat lot of good it has ever done me except that I have been able, over the years, to air drum that wicked drum sequence in In the Air Tonight with impressive accuracy, and speaking of air, I have become quite adept at playing the nose sax on dance floors, when the moment has called for it. This is many musical movements removed from our budding young Yo-Yo Ma ma's boy alchemic ability to read, interpret and transform sheet music from sight to sound.
As the Decade Fades
In just a few days, Holy Son turns 11. I accidentally bumped into him last week in the kitchen and had to take a second look because it felt like I ran into a Huskies linebacker. Who was this giant 5 ft. 4 inch, blue-eyed, teenage-wannabee dudester and what was he doing in my kitchen?
More to the point, what happened to our little eggghead (forceps babe), our baby whoa-wah, our meistieman? Time is the greatest of tricksters. One minute you're bathing your bare-assed babe in the sink, the next minute you're having to remind your bare-assed boy that mooning the family in the kitchen is perhaps not the wisest of options, considering that the next door neighbors have full view of his pretty posterior.
Ten years ago today, we were busy planning his first birthday party in Pakistan and desperately searching Islamabad for black string licorice. We planned the party to be a bit of a blow-out event, because we were about to be booted out of the country - a long story involving Nawaz Sharif not wanting to honour a signed joint venture agreement between his predecessor, Bhutto, and zat faymoose Canadiene PM bastaird, his right dishonourable, Mis-yewer Jean Createn. And a rather short bit about Holy Hub's company not realizing that the only way a contract really gets inked in the third world is when a little dirty money gets laundered.
This first birthday party and last big hooplah was hysterical. A dozen or so ex-pat babes from my Moms and Tots group attended, with parents, ayahs and assorted other servants in tow. As I recall, our son was the only one of the bunch who had his sea legs, having recently learned to walk. Holy Hub's boss graciously lent their lawn for the affair, which included hot dogs, chips, a double-sized zoo cake (adorned with a black licorice train track begged, borrowed, stolen from the British commissary) and last but not least, camel rides.
What a difference a decade makes. He still runs around impulsively sticking his fingers into light sockets and deliberately defying me whenever I tell him he can't do something. But we no longer see camels strut past our house enroute back to their villages miles beyond and centuries apart from the city confines of Islamabad.
I have a theory. It's a story I've always stuck to and that is that all that early social conditioning with weekly happy hour at the Canadian Club and having a bevy of Thai beauties ooh and ahh over him throughout his early travels to Thailand has forever shaped and altered him.
He now spends an inordinate amount of time in front of the mirror, fiddling with hair products in order to get his hair styled just right. And his cell phone rings off the hook night after night with calls from girls. Pick a girl's name - chances are good it's saved in his contact list.
Two weeks ago, he decided to plan a group date at the local schwanky mall as a public way to be able to hang out with one particular girl he's pretty sweet on. He met up with about 8 girls from school and one of his scout buddies, who ended up bailing on him early afternoon. Having to go from perfume shop to Claire's to Mariposa so that all these tween girls could try on dresses and get the boys' opinions - that was too much for the other boy.
Holy Son, on the other hand, ate the whole thing up in one super big gulp. He was like a metrosexual sheik with a harem that day, trying on men's colognes at Sephora and modeling 'dudes' dress shirts at Hollister while the girls sighed and complimented him profusely. The only low point was when he walked into Zumiez, a skater-type shop, and the kid behind the counter called him a Hollister fag. He heard about the comment after the fact but it didn't bother him overly much because he knew that he looked good in his Hollister shirt and that he looked even better surrounded by a bunch of pretty girls. He chalked it up to jealousy.
And so begins his next decade, which shall be defined largely by image and typecasting, popularity and peer status, athleticism and academic standings.
I'm proud that he's self-confident enough to ignore snide comments. And that he was courageous enough in the midst of his gang of wallflower friends, to ask the girl he likes to dance in public view of all the 6th to 8th graders at the middle school social last month. And that he's brave enough to take the lead role in the Nutcracker again this year, despite not being a dancer and being the only boy in the cast.
And that he never hesitates to step up to the microphone in order to thank a coach or leader on the team or troop's behalf. And that he feels as comfortable playing sports or snowboarding or going on a scout backpacking trip, as he does sitting at the lunchroom table with a bunch of giggling girls. And that he instinctively knows to open doors and say please and thank you, and to do a good turn daily.
But I miss the little guy who impulsively yanked on the dreadlock of the sadhu way back that cold December day in '97 in Kathmandu. Not that he's forgotten the fine art of yanking - his sister's chain sees the bulk of it these days.
Time flies in the blink of an eye. The next time I should happen to glance up, my prodigal son will be looking down upon me in ways too multiple to count.
He's already begged to skip a birthday this year on account of the fact that all his school friends are one full year older than him and he wants to be, too. I want to tell him that I already have my parental seatbelt notched as tight as I can on this whirlwind ride that keeps getting faster and crazier and dizzier and more terrifying with every spin, and that every time I sneak a peek at the top of the track, I'm reminded how precarious this game called mortality really is.
To appease him at his birthday party with friends this weekend, we will put a generic sparkler on his cake and trust that suffices. It will catch up with him when he's 15 though, and his friends are driving while he is not.
As The Whirl'd Turns: Parental Edition. One minute it's Johnson's baby powder and sweet chamber music, the next minute it's defiance, car keys and tuition dues.
Stop the ride. I think I'm going to throw up.