Once upon a time, there was a little boy. He was a mighty cute little boy. He had wispy blond hair and striking blue eyes. His face danced when he smiled. His lips curled into a perfect little “o” and he giggled the most delightful giggle. Oh, how he was loved by everyone who walked by and tickled his belly or stroked his hair.
But none could love him more than his mother. Yet with the fiercest of love, she also was the most generous with love – for she shared her little precious boy with me. He was four days old when we met and it’s been twenty-eight years of non-stop love. I babysat as often as I could. I used to wait at the entrance of the church for the family to arrive and I would snatch up that little bundle and carry him around on my hip as if he were my own. We were so attached, he and I. When he fell down and scraped up his knee, he’d walk past his mom and come to me kiss away the “boo-boo.” He’d cry when I left and quiet when I approached. We were so bonded, he and I.
When I left for college, I returned for his birthday parties. I spent the summers with him. I went to Disney with the family as his friend. As he entered high school, his mom would call me and say “He’s having a hard day, can you call him?” and I did. As he moved on to college and to his time in the service, we continued to talk and share and connect. When he took classes in the city, he would spend the night each week in our “toy room” and wrestle the boys in the morning before we all left on our separate ways for the day.
Any “normal” mother would have been threatened by this relationship, worried that her son had no love for her. But R.S. was no “normal” woman – she was amazing. She loved with abandon and taught her children to love as eagerly. I once asked her if she was concerned or “didn’t like” how close her son and I were in his early years. Her response was simple and profound – “the more people who love my son, and the more people he knows love him, the better he will be.”
And she was right. He did turn out to be fantastic. Oh, it was not easy. He had an abundance of stubbornness and strong-will. He did not care to sleep through the night for years. He had enough curiosity to rack up hundreds of dollars in damage. He had enough passion to punch a hole in the wall. He had enough courage to serve his country. He had enough self-confidence to ask the girl of his dreams to marry him.
And yesterday he walked down the aisle with his beautiful wife and his face smiled and his eyes danced. In our firm embrace at the end of the pew, I told him how happy I was for him and how proud I was of him. I turned to walk out of the church with tears in my eyes – thinking, “there goes my little boy all grown up,” at the same moment that I turned to look behind me and …. “and there are my own little boys.”
There come along three stubborn, strong-willed, curious, active, and loving boys. There come three bundles of joy who have more energy in a millisecond than I have all day. There come three determined souls pushing against all the limits placed upon them, eager to engage the world, conquer the world, master their universe. There come three eager, yet anxious, boys calling out for reminders that they are loved – hugs and cuddles, kisses and “lovings.”
And I am reminded that it is my job to continue to seek out and build relationships with others who will be able to come alongside my sons. Who will love them. Who will model all of life redeemed for them. Who will cheer at their games and pick them up when they cry. Who will tell them that they are AWESOME and will correct them when they stray. For children need to know that there are at least five adults outside their family who love them so much, such that as life tosses them around, they can keep finding their feet again. I want that for my boys. There may not be too many “Nonni’s” in the world like I was, but there will be lots of love.
For one day, I will watch them take the hand of a beautiful lady and beam with joy as they walk through a gentle cloud of bubbles. And I will thank all who helped me shape the man. For little boys will grow up.