I remember when I turned ten and all my friends came to the party. My sister Trina made me a cake shaped like a castle with upside down sugar cones for towers and cream cheese frosting that was inches thick. It was August 1979 and, for me, the outside world was just starting to unfold. I had no idea, of course, that I stood on the cusp of so much change. If you told me, I would certainly have shrugged it off and said, "Yeah. I know."
Now, nearly 32 years later, I've had the pleasure of watching my oldest child celebrate his tenth birthday. Seeing him glow in the light of his special day with friends and family all around. Wondering where the years have gone and, simultaneously, how we've packed so much life into those years. For a moment, a baby to hold close and nurture as we watched for his every need. In a blink, he toddled into exploration of his immediate world with Mama and Papa always nearby to lift him out of harms way or hold him tight after an ouchy spill. Quickly stretching into a childhood chock full of imagination and the serious work of play. Eventually, letting go of our hands to run a bit further into the unknown with some confidence to balance those fears. Ever so quickly we have come to Now. Now I see a boy. A boy with so much time to dream and play and learn all that is in his heart. Now, those baby steps have become strides and, as I watch, I remember the feeling.
I remember the feeling of trust as my Mom let me venture further from the nest. I was out there and free, among my friends, without the eyes and ears of adults to constantly monitor our activity. Learning the language of friendship. From silly to serious to raunchy and all points in between as we learned to communicate with, and care for, each other. I knew every inch of ground in my expanding territory. All the short cuts, all the scary dogs, where the bullies might be and the corresponding escape routes. Of course, when trouble struck, I found out that the network of parental eyes stretched far in a small town and usually my Mom knew what had happened before I was even home. So, I learned to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. One day built upon the next and a childhood came into full bloom.
In my ten year old son, I see doorways opening onto paths that no one yet can see. Sometimes he'll catch me watching him while he reads, "What?" he asks. "Nothing. Just thinking." I reply. Thinking about the words circling in his head as he travels through a story and ponders all that may be possible. While he goes about the business of being smack in the middle of childhood, he must now begin to wonder, just a little, at what the future holds for him. I wonder about that, too. But, mostly, I revel in the very moment of the eldest Soule baby. He is walking into the unknown as are we. Yeah, I remember being ten. Very well.