EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO, your story of life started out very traditional, just as I had envisioned it before you and Grace became my children. Your father and I brought you home to a little brick bungalow that I had lovingly maintained. I was a full-time mother to you and your big sister. I was so happy and thanked God every day for my little family and our little house and our dog, Huck. It was therapeutic for me to create, have and cherish what I had never had—a traditional family. I never yearned for anything else. We were so content and you were my new-found music. Then, when you were three years-old, the white-picket-fence-life started to deteriorate, board by board, even though I kept trying to repair it—gluing it with everything I had in me. I tried to fix that damn fence for years, Sammy J, and in my way I am still trying to today. But that “traditional” wasn’t working in our favor, so we became a family of three, a Trinity.
Over the years I know it hasn’t been ideal that your mom also tried to be “the man,” in your life. Actually, I now realize that it was probably extremely embarrassing for you, even though I thought I was doing the “man-thing” quite well. (I will refrain from writing here my not-so shining attempts.) But hey, at least we ate a lot of meat and guacamole like “real men,” while watching football on television (even though I still can’t explain that game). And I do believe because of our male bonding movie nights you’re now an excellent driver—via watching the entire franchises of Fast & Furious, James Bond and other films. And maybe I should include those romantic movies you watched with me and Grace, all of which cultivated you as an excellent suitor and perfect gentleman. Okay, maybe I’ll stop there—Fast & Furious, it shall and only be…remembered. You are a fine driver, my son.
On those unexplained books in our home: Presidents, Inventors, Businessmen, Economists, World Scholars, Scientists, Peacemakers and then some, I read every one of them for you. I wanted to know how they became “men,” and “leaders” because I wanted to raise you like one of them, even though picket-fence-traditional was no longer part of our family DNA. I didn’t care if they were republican, democrat, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist or whatever. They were all just men who did something with their lives, to me. I just wanted to know how someone like Barack Obama graduated from Harvard, became a good husband, good father and then the forty-fourth president of the United States without a “traditional” father (or mother) who raised him. I didn’t really find a single solution or sure-thing recipe over the years, reading the lives of all of those successful and great men. But I did I find some comfort that some of their journeys weren’t exactly easy or traditional; and after downloading all of their lives, I did find traits of you in every one of those books and I have tried to foster those characteristics of steadfastness, honesty, discipline and the honor I see in you. (By the way, because it is your eighteenth year, you’re now the owner of 107 biographies, mostly first editions)
From the day you were born, I knew you were an old-fashioned, compassionate soul and you have this wondrous-way of never judging others. It is not lost on me today as to why your crew buddies refer to you as “Pops.” You’re a natural paternal-figure for many—helping them with schoolwork, never wanting another to fail, taking your less fortunate “band of brothers” out for pizza, gladly sleeping on the floor so a buddy can have good night’s rest on the bed, giving your money to someone who needed it more than you, and now as a senior in high school you still look after everyone in your sphere of youth, allowing them have it easy and a little fun. And although I am incredibly proud of you for being so grown-up throughout your life; it has pulled at my heart because I just wanted you to have some fun—be carefree, like a kid should. And I truly understand this nurturing-way of yours is your fun, as well. It’s been my Catch-22 in raising you.
On My Word to You: I know I have disappointed you and your sister many times because I have said, “I need just a little more time” to fix a financial crisis or cure the errors of our past or buy you a gift or whatever you may need or want. And my “little more time” often turns into a year. I know that’s tough on a kid because waiting for anything in life is a week and possibly a month—at most, not a year (or two or ten). I beat myself up for this, time and time again. I wish I could’ve fixed things instantly for you. Thank you for always being patient with me. When time permits, I desire more than anything that you will not focus on those long struggles of “a little more time” but rather that I have delivered, and always will, in the end. Of those many delayed “deliver” moments in our lives, and there have been some HUGE “delivers,” today there’s one, which might seem small, that I never want you to forget: When we lived on Charney Road in University Heights I had prepped you and Grace for our big move out East by having all of us watch Little Manhattan. The boy in the movie owned a really cool scooter. I asked you if you’d like one and you said “Yes, Mom.” And I said, “Okay, buddy. I’m going to buy you one just like it when we move to New York.” Well, once out East things got rather tough, not at all according to our “Big Apple Plan.” It was hard to make ends meet at times, as you are well aware, and has become the Ring Cycle of our lives. In typical Sam-fashion you never asked me about the scooter I had told you I was going to purchase for you. You’d never do that, even though I knew you had envisioned sailing the sidewalks in Hoboken and NYC on that scooter long after I gave my word to you. And then one day, over a year later: “Buddy, get ready. We’re going to the City.”
We took the ferry across the Hudson and I held your hand during that long hike over to the Upper Eastside. Finally, we arrived at the bike shop. I told you to pick out a scooter, like the one in the movie. You were surprised and excited, to say the least. Eager to take that scooter for a sail, as the proprietor was counting my cash of nearly $400, your eyes kept looking at me, the scooter and then to the counted twenties on the counter. You asked me to bend down and you whispered, “Mom, can we afford this? I really don’t NEED it.” And that my son is a small spark of your “greatness;” your gift and not taught in all of those books read by your mother. I just answered you with conviction and teary-eyed, “Yes, and you DO NEED this scooter.” Oh Sam, watching you sail-up York Avenue that day on your beautiful scooter, so proud and carefree at nine years-old, is one of the winning moments in my life, for many reasons. You owned that moment and deserved it. Weather permitting, you sailed on that scooter for years—with your “band of brothers,” to school, helping us carry groceries on its handle bars, you’d pick-up pizzas from Benny Tudino’s in Hoboken and on a few rare occasions we used the scooter to balance furniture we found on tree-lawns and pushed those treasures home with ease. You had the family wheels back then and definitely put them to very good use and had fun! (One of my better investments, for sure) And today, you’ve way outgrown that scooter; but I do hope it is a living metaphor you will carry with you throughout your life. I am certain that you are going to continue to sail into manhood with purpose, my son, owning it, enjoying it and doing great things…in time.
I LOVE YOU, SAM. Always, Mom
PS. Please do try to have MUCH fun in your journey, too.