Wednesday, September 10, 2014

He opened my eyes to the possibility that an insect could be a diplomat. Now, he's married.

So, if you have anything to do with me on social media, you'll know my son is married.

"My son is married." Those are four strange words, indeed.

I met my son at 5:42 p.m. on August 17, 1988. He was sort of red, sort of blue, sort of gray -- I didn't have any idea what newborns were supposed to look like, but he looked a little worse for wear, and not altogether happy to be there, wrapped in a blanket on my chest. I was allowed about 30 seconds with him before someone whisked him away to "suction him out." That phrase alarmed me then, and it alarms me now; no wonder he wasn't happy.

Scott was a serious baby. No gurgling and smiling for that guy; just a lot of looking with giant eyes. I'd never seen a baby raise an eyebrow, but he could; many of his expressions seemed to convey a sort of disbelief with the place in which he'd found himself. For those of you who remember Mork from Ork, that was Scott -- a silent Mork, though, and not silly at all. Just quietly incredulous that he had landed in such a strange place.

As he grew, though, he questioned everything: Was I sure the rides at the amusement park were safe? What would happen if the power lines up above us randomly fell and landed on us while we were taking a walk? What if the ant I had accidentally stepped on was some sort of diplomat ant, and now the ant community would have to schedule three days of mourning?  I kid you not -- these were the kinds of questions I fielded daily. He could be mentally taxing at the end of a long day, but he was always enthralling.

And that never stopped -- the enthralling part, I mean. He grew up and studied philosophy. He headed up student groups that helped raise money for countries devastated by natural disasters. He grew his hair long and wore shoes with toes in them.

One year, he announced that he was going to drop out of college and become a bartender. But after the worst fight we had ever had, he grudgingly agreed to finish his studies and get his degree. "In anything -- anything," I had begged him. "Just get the piece of paper. You'll need it."

"Mom, no offense," he had said before he put the phone down. "But you exemplify what's wrong with this society."

It was a tough time for us, but we muddled through. And gradually, I apparently became smarter -- and less damaging to society -- because he did get the degree. Two of them. And in the midst of earning those "useless pieces of paper," he found himself a wife.

She didn't become a wife right away, of course. But I knew the first time I met her that she could be a contender. She was beautiful, and different, and from a land far, far away. She liked that he had a heart for helping others; he liked that she didn't subscribe to rigid gender roles, and that she didn't care that he played FIFA for hours every night. They got together, and it seemed right away as if they had been mated forever, like swans.

And now, they are mated legally -- not like swans; in part like the rest of us, but somehow different. Of course, they argue, but they also respect one another in a way that I think is unusual for young people. He accepts that she is on "South African time" -- placing no urgency on the clock -- and always will be. She accepts that he sees the world a little differently, and will probably always have to be reminded to put his keys where he can find them and to mow the lawn.

They live in an unusual sort of universe, a peaceful one where people don't seem to want to change one another.

I wish I had thought better on my feet when I was asked to toast them at their wedding. "Congratulations, Scott. I have always learned from you, and I keep learning from you," I said, among other things. And it's true.

But I also would simply have wished them a lifetime of what they have now.

As a mother, it's all I could hope for for my child.

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