In my mind's eye, he was just born. In my mind's eye, he looks, moves and sounds just a little younger than his bigger brother and sister. In my mind's eye, I can still carry his sleeping form up the stairs when he tuckers out after a particularly busy day.
In my mind's eye, I'm apparently living in the past, because when Noah
turned 13 years-old yesterday, it was clear he was well on his way toward growing into those enormous feet of his. As much as we want him to be our baby indefinitely, time has a funny way of turning parental wishes on their ears.
He wasn't home on his big day. He was up at camp, having the time of his life with friends from home, friends from last year, and friends he had already made since his arrival. Policy at this otherwise delightfully unwired camp is to allow birthday kids to call home. He sounded tired, happy and content, a perfect reflection of the sweet little guy we had dropped off earlier this week.
He'll no doubt return home later this month just a little bit taller, a little bit more filled out, a little closer to the man he will become and a little further away from the baby he once was. Soon enough, he'll be taller than Debbie and then, just as likely, me.
My wife and I were both the youngest kids in our respective families, and despite the fact that we're long past our own periods of, ahem, relative lack of age, that sense of "being the baby" persists. Wherever our not-so-little-man tops out, that thinking will apply to him, as well. He'll always be our baby even if he has to bend down to hug us.
The days of carrying him up the stairs and other little-kid stuff are over, and because he's our youngest he marks the closure of yet another chapter in the life of our family. And as much as we'd like to hold onto those vestiges of his childhood, we recognize that we didn't bring him into this world so that he'd be a static totem of eternal little-kid cuteness.
If we're lucky enough to be given the time, we all eventually lose the patina of childhood. We may be a little less cute, and little less cuddly and a little less likely to be propped in the middle of the kitchen floor to entertain the houseguests. But we'll always be our parents' babies. As Noah will always be ours.
Happy birthday, little man. Always know where your home is. No matter how big you get.