One rainy Saturday when I was a kid, my dad drove me and my siblings to the movie Watership Down in Manchester, New Hampshire, in an old green Commando Jeep he drove most of my childhood. On the way there, approaching an intersection, the brakes failed, and he slid through an intersection blaring his horn and flashing his lights. Under a benevolent star that day, we cruised through the red light unharmed, and my dad pulled over, doubtlessly nearly breathless with relief.
For a child, that memory remained as a flashy bit of drama. As a parent at the wheel with three kids, terrible misfortune averted. When I told my 18-year-old daughter to drive safety the other day, heading to high school or work or out with her friends to the movies, she rolled her eyes. I reiterated that I will always be your mother, so bear up, my beloved.
Today is my mother’s 80th birthday, two days after my father’s 80th birthday, both children of the Depression, with their own long lives which have touched so many people.
I think of parenting like the proverb from an old Tom Selleck movie: The ox is slow, but the earth is patient, plodding along with heavy-hooves, but overhead spreads the changing, infinite sky, the eternal constant comfort of the earth beneath our feet.
Best wishes on your birthday, mother.
…Let me congratulate you on
the birthday of your son…
You didn’t make him prosperous or famous,
and fearlessness is his only talent.
Open up his windows,
let in the twittering in the leafy branches…
Give him his notebook and his ink bottle,
give him a drink of milk and watch him go.
– Yevgeny Yevtushenko, from “Birthday”