El Surfeador

Four Sibs1852

So my oldest, affectionately nicknamed “El Surfeador,” will be twenty years old on Saturday.  20 on the 20th.  His golden birthday.  He’s at home, in the U.S., and we’re here, in Spain.  Here were a few things I did to help him start enjoying the epic Two-Oh, just two days away!  (Wow.)

One.  Maybe six weeks ago, I emailed all kinds of people who had been important to him, and I invited them to shoot him a card for his birthday.  A couple of weeks ago, I sent a reminder email.  My hope is that he’ll get somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty birthday cards.  A friend at home gave me the idea:  she invited friends to do the same thing when her daughter was turning eighteen last fall.  So exciting, that he’ll be receiving birthday wishes from all kinds of people who have meant the world to him!

Two.  My other three kids–Goose, Miss Zinnia, and Miss Lavender–sang him some birthday songs, and the Eleven O’Clock Dad filmed them.  The video went into an email attachment and then into the inbox of a new Acqaintance, Treat-maker, and Co-conspirator I happened to stumble across . . . who happens to live near my son.  (Funny, how those coincidences happen!)  When my son “happens” by her home on his birthday (there will be a pretext, of course), she and her husband will open the attachment for him so he can hear his siblings sing to him on His Day.  Surprise!

Three.  The package.  All this week, he is opening gifts we sent him in a birthday package–one a day:  things like antique peseta notes (Spanish bills), some dating to the 1920’s, that he can use for bookmarks; a #10 Lionel Messi wind-up action figure (with very sweet moves); two professional yo-yo’s, and other bits of utterly (un)Necessary Nonsense.

Four.  A couple of days ago, we all emailed him our own list of twenty things we love about him.  Goose’s was priceless.  Among his twenty to his older brother:  You’re awesome, You can kick a ball hard and far, You’re one energetic kid in a man’s body, and “I am happy you were born.”

I realized some of you may be far from children whose birthdays are coming up, and, being an inveterate Idea Thief myself, I thought you might want to steal a couple of these if they worked for you.  Or maybe you’ve sent your own Love to birthday kids who are far away?  I’d love to know!

(Photo:  The Kids, on the day El Surfeador reported to the missionary training center in Provo, Utah.  He began serving as a missionary for the Mormon church last August and will finish in August of 2014.)

{ Comments on this entry are closed }


I love Shakespeare. My kids know this. Especially El Surfeador, who grew up seeing me buried from time to time in the Yale edition of Shakespeare’s complete works, which I toted around for years.  It’s several inches thick and probably weighs more than my husband’s truck, but that’s neither here nor there.

Point is, my oldest son referenced Shakespeare the other day, in a letter. I had asked him to do something for me, and he responded by quoting words from Hamlet to his mother, Gertrude: “I shall in all my best obey [thee] madam.” (Hamlet says “you,” not “thee,” but who cares?)

I laughed out loud–out of pure delight.

His tone in the letter was tongue-in-cheek. But the reference to Hamlet wasn’t. He knew it would throw a smile onto my face quicker than anything else.

This boy doesn’t go around quoting Shakespeare; he never has. There are certainly things higher up on his list: grabbing the right waves on the right morning, at the right spot–ideally when the locals have Huntington Beach to themselves. Or getting deep into a Mario Kart fest with his little brother on our old GameCube.

But it was just the tiniest bit cool to see the reference to Hamlet. Made my heart smile in that highly particular way that occurs when I’m happily thrust into the intersection of Child Love and Literature Love.  I adore it when those streets cross.

What do your kids do that throws a smile onto your face?  As a mom, which ‘intersections’ do you love to stand in?

(Photo:  El Surfeador, air surfing last summer in Nuremberg, Germany.)

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Clave finishes dribble castle_8598

Last Sunday evening’s foray into what I’ll call Gaudi’s Dream made me realize: the famous Catalan Modernist architect and my son, El Surfeador, have a few things in common. One, they both made things that prompted me to go Wow. Two, obviously, neither of them was feeling the Legos anymore. Three, they both understood this Crucial Truth: if you build it, they will come.

Dribble masterpiece_8602

Four, they both knew that while the act of building something is cool, the art of dribbling it is divine.

(Photos: El Surfeador, on a stretch of beach near Amsterdam, Netherlands.)

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Grown Son, Growing Mother

by Becky on January 4, 2013 · 5 comments

in Parenting

Clave finishes dribble castle_8598

As often happens with me at the beginning of a new year, I find myself thinking about the passage of time and the way it changes my children. Watching a child transition from teenagehood to adulthood is one of the weirdest, coolest, saddest, and most brilliant things I’ve ever experienced.

The Weird.  I remember his younger self so vividly still!  A baby so pudgy his thighs used to get chapped when he learned to walk.  A boy who knew he was Legolas, coopting the sword his father brought home from Spain years ago and wielding it against the imaginary foes lurking throughout the house.  A young man on a surfboard, his cutbacks so pretty, you’d forget the athleticism required to make them look so effortless.  Every one of those boys still lives in my mind even though right now, in real time, they’re gone.

The Cool.  Around age seventeen, maybe eighteen, he acquired judgment.  Enough said.

The sad.  He’s an ocean away.

The brilliant.  He reaches out to others.  It’s a talent, and he’s using it.

Watching your kids grow–it grows you, too.  Had I known how much work raising children would be, I would have been more afraid.  But I would have been more grateful, too, for the opportunity awaiting me to be acquainted with a boy like this one.  He is indeed grand.

Clave by ocean_8512

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

One Way To Love A Teenage Son

by Becky on October 29, 2012 · 3 comments

in Books, Music, Parenting


My son’s a surfer. He pops up on a wave and you know it’s him, his elegant cutbacks reminding you of cursive.

My son’s mother is not a surfer. Never will be.

But just because sports isn’t necessarily my thing; just because I wasn’t the mom out in the front yard kicking a soccer ball around, just because we didn’t have matching dirt bikes (or surfboards), that doesn’t mean our interests never intersected.

Witness: books, and music. There it is. Because books and music–not always in that order–are hugely important to me, I wanted to pass along my enthusiasm. And it wasn’t hard. It’s never hard to create interest in the things that get your own heart racing.  I still remember him turning a backwards somersault on the bed as we neared the end of the first Harry Potter book.  I read it to him when he was eight.  Seems like it was last night.

So how did Harry Potter and Singin’ in the Bathtub (John Lithgow’s genius take on old standards for kids), for example, translate to the teen years? Well, I’ll try to make the story short. First of all: came a time when I really needed to draw on the many hours I had put in reading and singing aloud to my son. What I invested back in the day left me with a balance when he was older–a balance I needed to draw on. Money in the bank, so to speak, and it came in mighty handy. Second, our shared love of books and music helped me keep our connection alive when it mattered most. We segued from Rowling to Shakespeare, from clever children’s songs to Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, and Beethoven (just for starters) because these things had become a currency we both traded in. Indeed, in recent years, we spent countless hours, especially late at night, listening to music together and talking about the relative merits of one recording versus another, or the stylistic hallmarks of a particular musician, or just the music itself.

Just before he embarked on a two-year service effort that will separate us until he gets back, the two of us drove in to the Hollywood Bowl one night to watch Dudamel conduct the L.A. Phil performing Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, with the stunning Yuja Wang on the piano. There we were, my son and I, side by side on one of those immortal (read “stiff”) wooden benches, my son leaning forward, his elbows resting on his knees while he listened so attentively he seemed momentarily frozen. I kept the ticket stub, and I actually pull it out every once in a while so I can take myself back to that classic outdoor evening and the young man who shared it with me.

Whatever your gifts, invite your son to practice them alongside you, in whatever way he’ll agree to.  If you make things grow, have him help you plant a fruit tree.  If you throw pots, have him sit and get his hands wet and messy as he styles his own.  If you’re the world’s gutsiest woman base jumper, ask him to film you leaping from whichever building happens to be the world’s tallest at the moment.  Even if he’s afraid of heights, he can stay below and zoom in as you’re rocketing toward the ground.

Sometimes I wish I could visit my younger self and tell her this: keep talking books, keep reading them aloud, and keep that music going, all kinds of it, until the house and everyone in it fairly vibrates with wonder. “Do that,” I’d instruct the younger me, “and you’ll keep your son close, no matter how the teen years buffet you.”

There are many ways to love a teenage son.  I know this one.  And I have total faith that when we create intersections, our sons will step into them again and again because we’ve shown them where to come.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }