November 27, 2021

Dear Ethan,

We’re back in Cape May. Growing up as a kid in Texas, I’d often wonder (and worry) where my future would take me. Rarely did these dreams take me to New Jersey. 

Cape May is starting to feel familiar to me–the soft blue gray walls of Grammy’s little brown house, boating out to hear the dolphins sing, the sleepy breakfast diners, Uncle Harry’s toy box, the familiar, calculated steps of Sarah’s sneakers and the long thumps of Giacomino’s as they enter and exit an unlocked door. 

This Thanksgiving day, you decided that your third cousin Jack was a 15-year-old demigod. He was sweet enough to play with you for hours, and when he needed a break I saw the waves of devastation crash over your face. You are starting to interpret the world. You like to be left completely alone when you are sad, just like me. I finally get why people find it hard to give those who are suffering their solitude. I hate to see you alone in your grief. 

Later that trip, you told me that you needed your privacy when changing into your clothes and that you wouldn’t come into the girl’s restroom anymore. All of these leaps of awareness took place over one weekend. I worry that I don’t have the skills to talk to you about your body, or being a boy and then a man in this world. 

Last night, you fell asleep by yourself in a small twin bed. It’s been at least a year since you did that. I hadn’t realized how much I depended on your familiar patterns to fall asleep myself. You often hold my hands and turn to face me, smiling so big that your eyes close, and then we drift off to sleep one after the other. 

I slept lightly, with dreams of burning houses. Around one in the morning, you walked over to me and said “mind if I join you?” while wrapped in your favorite blanket. 

I woke up the other morning, absentmindedly stroking your soft baby hair, and it dawned on me that you wouldn’t always be there. I was already mourning you as a future adult, not at an arms reach. 

Parenthood is full of twists and turns, but it’s in your vulnerability that I see you more fully, as well as myself. I have so much more grace towards my child self than I ever did, one of the beautiful gifts of parenthood. I love you, I love you, I love you.


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