Forgive me if I’ve told you this story before. I’m halfway in to a bottle of old zin and reminiscing something fierce.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I went in to get the ultra sound that would tell us the sex. I wasn’t too concerned about it, I just wanted us both to be healthy, but excited nonetheless. The med tech who showed me that E would now stand for Ethan as opposed to Elizabeth said this was the 5th baby boy she had ID’d that day.
“Really?” I said. Which is something I tend to say more than anything else.
“Mmm-hmm,” she said. “A lot of boys coming into the world. You know what the Bible says about that, right?”
Double Blink. The Bible? Yeah, not a text I’m familiar with. Could we switch to Shakespeare? Maybe some Adrienne Rich?
So, ok, I’m 21 years old. Happily unmarried and yet don’t have the guts to correct every fucking person at the doctor’s office who decides to tack a “Mrs.” to the front of my name, I’m living in a big shiny city, in a brand new state and I am completely at a loss for words. I pretty much do the big eye, fish mouth thing until she decides to speak.
“When more boys are born, war is coming. It’s a warning to be ready.”
This is the year 1999. I was having an accidental millennia baby. War seemed so far away. So highly unlikely. It felt safe to laugh. It felt safe to say, “Uh, ok…” and wipe the goo from my belly and head out into Seattle’s version of sunny.
I think I was about 7 months pregnant at this time, definitely showing. I remember the weight settling in on my hips, on my pelvis but also on my mind. I felt this bridle, this yoke fit around my shoulders. Responsibility. Can I pull this off? Can I muster the strength to make this work?
I remember singing Ethan his ABC’s and reading him Shell Silverstein before he breathed his first breath. I remember feeling the need to share with him my love of words and logic and rhythm. I counted by two’s and three’s and five’s when I walked to work in the morning. I patted out the syllables to my favorite poem on my tummy, estimating where his feet should be based on the pressure in my ribs. I talked to him about the weather, cloud patterns and geography. Just as my body was making sacrifices to feed his body growing inside of me, my mind went into transfer mode. From me to him, teach him everything.
When E was born I looked into his face and I already knew him. All I felt was the comfort of, “Yes, of course, here you are, perfect timing, we’ve got so much to do, now let’s get going.”
And yet, the ultrasound tech’s words never left me. When my second child turned out to be a boy, the memory fell clanging around me. So many boys being born means war is coming. Rubbish.
9/11…. my two small sons, babies, play on the carpet in front of the TV as buildings explode… war is coming. My sons, NYC attacked on repeat, my babies, more boys, war is coming.
Over a decade of war has now passed. Drones are striking as we speak. E is 13. We battle daily about the games he gets to play on his computer.
“But, Mom,” he says, “everyone plays battle games. All my friends. It’s not a big deal.”
“I don’t care,” I say, “War has come and it is not a play thing.”
My hope for my son as he now transitions from kid to teen is that my love of words stays with him. My love of peace sustains him through the years of tumult. My love of logic guides him during the emotional swings. My love of pattern and rhyme and caring too much sometimes for the little things stays close to his heart as a society greater than me claims him as it’s own.