My Living Child

First of all, I hate the phrase.  My living child.  It emphasizes that I also have a dead child – two of them, in fact – and it seems to subtly diminish my son's other qualities, to imply that the most important thing about him is that he's here with me, living and breathing. And maybe that's right. But, since for a whole bunch of reasons, I almost never mention him on my own blog, I'd like to tell you a few other things about Gray.

When Gray was three, despite my misgivings, he insisted on wearing an all-pink outfit to preschool. After he got home, I asked him how his day had gone.  Mommy, you know that some of the kids were so stupid that they said that pink was only for girls?  He rolled his eyes at their pitiable lack of knowledge and I told him that, in our family, we didn't use the word stupid.

He has a beautiful tenor voice, sings with an a capella group and used to perform with local opera companies whenever they needed a child actor. He went to a bilingual school until he was eleven and speaks French with just the tiniest American accent. He seems to have lots of friends. He hates almost all sports. He makes and edits movies. He writes political articles for a student magazine. He still gives me spontaneous hugs and ends most telephone conversations with "l love you."  A year or so ago, he asked me, in all seriousness, "Mom, why would anyone care what other people think?"

In some ways, he's so much like me – the same pointy chin, the same eyes – his a shade or two darker – the same cynicism, the same temperament, though without my crippling shyness. In the last few years, he's grown even skinnier and longer limbed and now towers over me. We've never talked about the twins.

This morning, he was sitting at the kitchen table, translating some lines from Virgil for Latin class and I was singing Saturday Night Fever and showing off my best late-70s disco moves, my flailing arms making shadows against the walls. Gray looked up at me.

"You know, Mom, that looks just like —"

"Plato's allegory  about the cave?"  I said

"How did you know I was going to say that? It's kind of a wasty allegory anyway."

And then I said Happy Birthday. Because seventeen years ago today, it was a Wednesday and it was Yom Kippur, the most solemn and the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Labor went quickly and easily and Gray was full term, but there were some problems and I only saw him for a moment before they rushed him off to the NICU. And, terrified and exhausted as I was, it's hard to remember another time when I was so completely, so impossibly filled with hope and joy
How do you feel about the phrase "living child?"   If you have any living children, we'd love it if you'd tell us just a tiny bit about them.