Sunday, September 09, 2007

Boys, Water and Deja Vu

The big guy in the photo is my oldest son Jonathan. The little guy is his son, my grandson Nicholas, who is just over three and half years old. Next week he will attend nursery school for the first time. The locale is the banks of the Hudson River, a section called the 'Esopus Flats'. From this pocket park one can see the Esopus Lighthouse, a little gem. Its picture graced the header of this blog during the summer months. In these few moments at riverside Nicholas was thoroughly absorbed in throwing rocks into the water, admiring his throw, noticing the splash of the rocks and ripple rings created by their plunges into the deep.

This bucolic scene brings Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to mind with an aura of summer adventures, packs of boys inventing their days as pirates, explorers, or Indian scouts. It also brings a sensation of deja vu, of having been there or done this before. Only back then it was with three of my own little boys, discovering the world, building sand castles, trying to dam up streams, designing the ideal tree house. It was a challenge to keep up with their energy, with their curiosity and their adventurous, fearless natures. What a blessing that was! What a dear time!

I can still see them practically naked beating a native dance with their feet in the street where a sudden summer storm created a river and rain poured down their supple bodies. I remember the day Jonathan, then about five years old, cut off a huge swath of hair right above his forehead just to see what he would look like. And there were summer evenings made for neighborhood games of hide and seek in which a whole crowd of little boys learned the ins and outs of backyards and every short cut through every hedge and also whose property was strictly verboten. Also carved into memory are the torchlight parades of boys, eleven to fourteen in age, along with their counselors, crossing the playing field of Camp Dudley in the Adirondacks. My younger sons, Matthew and Andrew, were lucky to be Dudley scholarship boys and I got to witness this throng of boys, this stream of emerging manhood with their ankle length unwashed t-shirts, muddy sneakers worn without laces, hair buzz cut or over grown or even dyed green, their skin brown as berries from the sun and bodies strengthened and lengthened by early morning nude dips into Lake Champlain!

Another blessing shared with many grandparents is the sheer pleasure of watching your child become a parent, seeing a son or daughter transformed into the total giver every good parent has to become. Many have agreed with me that within two generations, the level of involvement of fathers in the lives of their children has increased dramatically. Some of this has happened of necessity and two working parents became the norm to support a family and share in the work of raising children. But something else has also been at work here. The women's liberation movement has also liberated men to the point that it is now perfectly acceptable for a young father and husband to change a diaper, shop with babies and toddlers along for the educational experience and to be engaged with their children to an extent not often seen only 40 to 50 years ago.

Seeing your child become a parent and watching grandchildren grow almost from the moment of conception via the now common early ultra-sound image brings one to a new level of mothering. Old worries have gone and new worries take their place. But the love grows and grows and the awe expands a pace. What a blessing it is!

If anyone can tell me how get all the paragraphs to single or double space uniformly, I would be most grateful. I know I have to adjust the HTML but can never get it to work in my favor!

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