The child turns nine.
The sweep of time, the weight of change, these are the units of life.
A halfway point is reached, if you count by the rules. The pang in the heart, not too sharp: the rules have nothing on a mother’s love, itself a thing evolving. (That will not end, though I can tell it is preparing to turn corners unimaginable.)
His halfway there is also bifurcating the techno-legal bounds of parenthood. The sleepless nights to come, however, will not be spent supporting weight of flesh or singing softly. Less boundary-setting from now on and more surveying. Less no, please, why, more yes and how (one hopes). Nine years, it also happens, are just shy of one-fourth of my life’s length so far.
As once these some-year-olds seemed nothing like my tiny son, now tiny sons seem only to be relevant to other people’s lives. And men just-formed, big children suddenly, their mothers’ sons. Or teenage girls! Now they evoke my girlhood only rarely, now they are as mysterious to me as they might one day soon seem to my son.
There is infinitely more wonder in all of this than grief, but it would be untrue to claim that there is no longing. But it is interesting, as far as longings go: not for what was but passed, but for what is and is expected to be longed for once it’s gone. (Ameliorating this discomfort is the knowledge that with each loss, satisfying new gains divert attention.)
What may be most remarkable in the child’s turning nine is the way this brink seems to contain, in equal parts, smallness and independence. As if it were the very midpoint between coming into the world and leaving the nest for it. But didn’t I say the same thing on the day he turned six?
And might I not again, when he is halfway to forty?