I was mindlessly streaming through my instagram feed when his familiar face jolted me awake. It was when his hair was still blond and his arms and legs were dimpled chubs.
It was also before that fateful day when he lost his two front teeth in a moment of boy.
That was a memory stabbed into my heart. I don't wish I could forget it, I wish it had never happened.
It was a summer day, tailored for play dates at the park. Ninety degree days meant nothing to him, but at least he conceded his skin-tight Wranglers for a pair of shorts. Come hell or high water, though, the kid was going to wear his Tony Lamas. Rain, shine, snow, sleet or hail, cowboy boots always won.
The scene is still fresh in my mind. Amy and I were standing and talking while our children climbed the empty bleachers at the ball fields. I can see it but can't figure out why we were there–swing sets and jungle gyms were scattered elsewhere.
Thomas had taken to jumping off the side. He started low on the first bleacher, but gradually creeped his way higher. Even at two his actions exposed belief–the greater the risk, the greater the reward.
I noticed once he got higher than my waist and cautioned him, "Your boots are slippery," and in answer he pressed what all little boys do: "Just one more time," and off he flew.
As soon as he jumped, I sensed his misstep. He landed face first. The only thing holding back his wail was his breath being knocked clear to Texas.
I scooped him up, a mixture of horror and anguish. The rest of our children were statues, intuitively knowing this was serious.
Amy had to look. True to my I-could-never-be-a-nurseness, I couldn't bear to inspect the damage. I could comfort and soothe but I could not look past the blood to determine what next. Thank God for Amy.
Calm and insistent, she guided me, "Let's go to the dentist." Somehow we herded all five of our babies and made the quick car ride over.
It's a blur, this part always has been. They took Thomas from me (I wasn't hysterical but visibly upsdet) to make an assessment. His teeth were cracked vertically and would have to come out. Right then.
I can still hear his whimper on the other side of the door. If I hadn't been convinced my presence would make it worse for him, I would have knocked the damn thing down.
Standing right outside, though, I was in greater pain than he was. Every parent learns that the hard way, and every hard way is different.
A few years later we'd learn that my son was missing nine permanent teeth, but thankfully not his front two. Still, they would take years to come in. A fine irony. A fine, expensive irony.
I was frozen looking at the picture he had shared…lost in time. His hair and his face have changed, but not those steely blues. Not that wide open personality.
We talked candidly yesterday, about sex and drugs and alcohol. I'm that mother, the one a boy needs but probably would rather not have around at times.
It's been a thousand years since he'd gnaw an ear of corn with his entire face.
He graduates high school in six months.