Twenty and Nine.
There’s a story I have yet to tell you, and it’s quite fitting the way your life continues to evolve. Perhaps, you can say it’s a vindication, but I believe it’s much more than what you or I can ever comprehend.
You were only 4-months old, and I was barely three months into being 16-years old. I remember wearing a necklace with a pendant that had an engraving “Sweet 16” and I thought “did I still qualify?” During that time, you and I had been on a waiting list for a Teen Mother’s Program at Fairfield High School in Fairfield, California. This is a program who assisted teen mothers into assimilating back into high school. The program was located away from the other classrooms–as if the choice the teen mothers made may have influence on others. There were two rooms within this program: one was a classroom where the teen moms spent the day to catch up on what they may have missed with classes. The other room was structured as a day care, and each baby or toddler had their own assigned cribs. You can say that instead of lockers, the teen moms the cribs for their babies. During the lunch hour, instead of socializing with our peers, we would instead go to the day care rooms and spend time with our son or daughter. You always knew when it was lunchtime because you were always awake to welcome me.
It was one of the many highlights of my day–getting to spend time with you.
On a daily basis during this time in our lives, I’d wake up at 5 a.m. in the morning to get all of our items ready: my school bag, and your baby bag. This required some strategy as you would still be sleeping, and you often slept through the diaper, and outfit changes. It’s almost as if you knew it would be easier this way.
You and I would leave the house as grandma and grandpa would get your aunts and uncle ready for school. I’d tell them goodbye as you and I make our way to the city bus stop. I’d carry my backpack on my back, and your baby bag on one shoulder. You, on the other hand, I carried close to my heart in your baby carrier with its straps wrapped around my waist—so that I would never drop you.
Those were early morning walks was where I would find the time to dream about your future—who would you become? What kind of man will you turn out to be? Will you fall in-love once or many times over? Will you be kind and generous? Will you always love your mom, or will you rebel one day? As these thoughts run through my mind, I’d always remind myself to never get too far ahead with dreaming the possible, and to just take our lives one moment at a time.
You and I would get on the bus and take the 20-minute ride to the high school. By this time, I have gotten used to the looks passengers would give me. There was one old lady who caught the bus every morning, and she’d look at us and smile. She was only one who I felt never cast a judgement our way.
One day, a few teenagers who were my age caught the bus also. They looked at me as if I had some kind of disease that should they have sat anywhere near me, they’d catch the teen mom syndrome. They started to whisper among themselves, and I had some notion of what they may have been talking about.
“She’s probably going to end dropping out of high school, and being a loser for life.”
“Her kid is going to be in a gang one day, and spend his life as a thug.”
“She’s never going to make it anywhere.”
To avoid making eye contact with any of them, I looked at you nestled in my arms. That day, you tilted your head up at me with your eyes still closed—and in that moment, you smiled. It was the goofiest smile and while it may have been that you let out some gas, it was enough to tell me that you and I were going to be fine.
As I write this, I think of how fitting that day and all those other days are now.
You and I never dropped out of high school, but went on to college successfully. I have only become a loser in playing Monopoly as you continue to dominate that game. You did eventually rebel, and went through your phases–but you acknowledged all of them as part of growing up. You didn’t join a gang, but you did end up with the most amazing best friends.
Today, people are still looking at you, and it’s not in the way that those others have looked at you as a son to a teen mother—they look as you deliver the stories of people’s lives; stories that reminds them of the kindness that still exists in this world, and devastating news that reminds them to hold on steadfast to their hope for a better world.
On your 29th birthday as you celebrate on your vacation in China (it’s September 10th there already), I wanted to tell you this story so that you know as you write and deliver the stories for the city you live in—that you too have a beautiful story of your own.
I am so proud you.
Happiest birthday my Sunshine.