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The Thirteenth Birthday

by Jill Waterhouse

My son had his thirteenth birthday last month. I can't decide if the big number is when you turn two digits which you will remain for a very long time, or when you reach the magic teens.

I feel old. My husband feels old. I keep a picture of my son as a baby on the refrigerator. As I picked it up on the morning of his last day of being twelve, I cried. This beautiful little boy who has always been everything to us is a young man now. I can't help but reflect on the passing of time, how quickly it goes, how much I want to hold on to time and not let it spin out of control. I feel like I can't keep up, I feel like I'm missing something, my old fart brain can't remember years gone by, I only have glimpses of now and then.

We used to live in South Florida in an apartment on the beach. I still think it was the best place we have ever lived. Looking back, those were the good old days. The building was just beginning to change to younger folks, and the older folks were not always happy about this. Every day, the older ladies of the building would sit in the lobby and my son and and I would wander down, passing through the lobby on our way to the beach or the pool. We would pass by the older ladies sitting by the big window that overlooked the ocean. Some of the nicer ladies would always coo at Nick or give me a little advice. Every day. One of things that always sticks in my mind (that for some odd reason never fell out with the rest of the forgotten moments), will be the ladies telling me, "Enjoy! It goes by so fast." And I would think to myself, 'it can't go by fast enough' as I ran after my son, who was a little hellion, and I would smile and secretly pray that Nick would not start spewing the four letter words he knew so well.

Now I know, those ladies knew it all, the bittersweet feeling of having children which covers every emotion a human can have. Their own children grown and far away, they sat beside the ocean and watched a mother and child walk by and knew in all their wisdom that some day I would be just like them.

Suddenly, I have this wonderful young man that takes care of me. He sees so much more than I can. He knows how to save a dollar better than I can, he knows how to calm me down. He makes me laugh and he makes me cry. I chased him constantly when he was a child, I fell down with exhaustion and thanked the Universe when he would finally fall asleep. I wasn't the best mother in the world, but he seems to have forgiven me. Sometimes I wish I could go back and do it all again and be the perfect mommy. I would have caught him each time he fell.

Now, he stands tall and looks me in the eye. He's smart and beautiful and he's mine, for now. He's thirteen and I'll probably cry for the next ten years as I watch him take each step into adulthood. I'll try to hang on to him and never let him go as he slips away.

I woke him on the morning before his birthday with these words of wisdom.

ME: "Your last day of being twelve!"

Nick: "Good, let me sleep through it."

ME: "You know, in some cultures, thirteen year olds have rituals to perform, like going off naked into the woods and waiting for a vision."

Nick: "I have a vision."

ME: "And, what would that be?"

Nick: "The back of my eyelids."

Jill Waterhouse is a stay-at-home mom of two, living in Florida, trying to maintain her sanity.

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