I tend to notice a lot of things in early spring. By the middle of spring, I am usually plagued by spring fever and am unable to focus on much of anything. But in early spring, I’m alert, I’m happy that winter has come to an end, and I’m much more observant. I notice, of course, that the grass and weeds in my yard grew while my back was turned and that the tree in the front has lost all of its pre-leaf blossoms overnight. I notice that my cats are shedding like we’re in the middle of a heat wave. And I notice that my sons seem much taller than when I dropped them off at the airport nine days ago.
This time, at least, driving to the terminal to pick them up, I don’t cry. I take it in stride now, their new ability to take a direct flight on their own. I will never take it for granted, but it is the new norm, the status quo. Of course, it is still a novelty, and I wait with excitement on the receiving side of the revolving security doors, watching. I see Aidan first, notice the sun across his nose, his hair, the color of milk chocolate, casually falling across his eyes. He wears cargo pants and flip-flops and sports a new shirt. Nigel towers behind him, also in a new shirt, and jeans, carrying a tote bag. I smile and wave as I approach them. I embrace Aidan, inhaling the scent at the top of his head, realizing that I won’t be able to do that much longer. Nigel stiffly accepts a hug. Usually I don’t think about it; this is how he hugs. But sometimes I wonder if it will always be this way. No matter. It is what is, and I love him for it.
I notice a wide ring of chapped, irritated skin surrounding Nigel’s mouth, and then I notice that he has shaved. Shaved! The last time he had gone to L.A. to visit his father (at Christmas), I had mentioned to him that Nigel might need to start shaving soon, but we hadn’t discussed it since, and now, it’s done. My little boy! Shaving!
“Wow! You shaved!” I exclaim.
“Yeah,” he replies in his deep, steady voice.
We step out of the way of the other passengers filing through the security doors and start making our way to the luggage carousel. “It looks like the shaving caused some irritation to your skin,” I say, which he denies. He claims that it had been windy and dry on a day that they were outside all day long, and that had caused it. But Nigel has always had extremely sensitive skin, so I am not convinced. He seems to believe that I might tell him not to shave any more if he admits that it irritated his skin, and no way would he give up a rite of passage that he’d long awaited.
“Well, I think your skin just needs a little time to heal before you shave again,” I suggest. “It needs to get used to the sensation of shaving, and then it won’t get irritated when you do it. We’ll put some lotion on it, and it should be fine in a few days.”
“Okay,” he says.
Later, at home, I bring him some facial lotion. The lower half of his face is red and dry, the skin tight. He has been opening his mouth in an exaggerated manner, trying to “stretch the skin so that it won’t crack.” I suggest that doing so might make it worse, but he is adamant, even though he complains that it hurts. I cut to the chase.
“So how do you feel about shaving? Do you feel like you’re growing up?”
“I’m fine with it,” he states. “It’s just another step to adulthood.”
Apparently the rite of passage wasn’t as big of a deal as I had thought. He takes it in stride, my not-so-little boy. I think I’d do well to follow his lead. But for the moment, I can’t get over the fact that my firstborn is shaving! Even though I knew it was coming, it snuck up on me faster than the grass and the weeds, faster than any sign of spring. Yes, spring is here, and my boys are growing up. All at once.