20

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Last night as we drove home from early Thanksgiving in East Tennessee with my family, my sleep deprived son laid his head on my shoulder and slept. And I wondered how long it had been since I pillowed that beloved head. There in the dark quiet, as mile after mile slipped away underneath us, a treasure trove of images came flooding into my mind. Bits and pieces of a life. My life, with this darling boy of mine.

I saw him as a wriggling bundle of soft. Always hungry. Hungry for milk, yes, but hungry also for life. Voraciously drinking in everything around him. Storing it away. Making it part of him.

There was an image of him hunched over paper and pencil as wondrous pictures took shape under his hands. We were astounded by them. So was everyone else. Dragons, robot warriors, complex pieces of machinery, staggering in their detail and precision.

I saw him brandishing a sword. Usually of his own making. Ferocious grimace on his face, eyes blazing, leaping off something.

I remembered my dear boy, tender and serious, telling me that when he grows up he is going to marry me. I could never bring myself to explain to him why that was a problem.

There was Jake the explorer; stick in hand, dogs at his feet, traipsing up and down hills, across creeks, and over the wide expanse of our farm.

And Jake the Lego master, fingers flying as he gathered a gaggle of loose pieces into some extraordinary creation.

I thought of the many, many friends my boy has accumulated over the years. It is almost impossible to not like Jake. Ask anyone who knows him. Loyal, gregarious, funny, smart. What’s not to love?

I saw Jake the musician coaxing marvelous sounds from piano, guitar, mandolin, melodica, banjo…. And singing. Singing with the family on long car trips. Harmonizing with friends. Pulling something from deep inside himself and translating it into a language that we could all hear, and feel, and understand.

How many times has he told me, “Thank you for supper. It was delicious.”? How many long, deep conversations have we had about life, and love, and hurt, and joy? How many sweet hugs? How many hikes and vacations have been better because his delight made them so?

Last night, as I pillowed the head of my baby boy, my heart nearly burst with gratitude for the gift of knowing him. For the weighty responsibility and privilege of caring for him. For the way the world has been different because I have experienced it with him.

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Happy Birthday, Jake!! Welcome to your twenties. I predict it is going to be your best decade yet. I love you. Always. God grant you many, many years.

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