Birthday Boy


February 21, 2016 by Paula Reed Nancarrow

Aidan At My Mother's 80th Birthday Party, 2012

At My Mother’s 80th Birthday

Today my son Aidan is twenty-seven.

I have experienced contentment in solitude, and I have experienced it in the company of others. But there are a few people who teach me about contentment, even when they are not themselves experiencing it, and of these, Aidan is one. So I thought it fitting to dedicate today’s post to him.

[Don’t worry, son. This is not your present. I will also try not to embarrass you all to hell. But after all, I am still your mother. It does kind of go with the territory.]

Here then, are three of the many reasons I am grateful for Aidan’s presence in the world. I brainstormed a lot of Aidan stories, but even with editing, one blog post only gets me through the fourth grade.

1. I had the best meal of my life the day he was born.

I went into Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit at four in the afternoon. Aidan was born at seven in the evening. I’ve described that three hours elsewhere, but not what happened immediately afterwards. Which was that I was suddenly starving. Absolutely ravenous.

The nurse informed us – unbelievably – that the kitchen was closed. I still can’t figure out why she’d say that. Hospitals are open 24 hours. People work in them 24 hours. There is always at least a cafeteria open somewhere inside.

Nevertheless, Aidan’s dad went out hunting. Because that’s what providers do. It’s built into the evolutionary DNA. What he found, across the street from the hospital, was a Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Or KFC, after they rebranded it to de-emphasize the “fried.”

He came back with a “two piece” box – a drumstick and thigh, mashed potatoes and gravy, and coleslaw. I sucked those bones so clean you could have played a xylophone with them, and licked the gravy off the plastic top on the styrofoam container, which was barely distinguishable from the mashed potatoes, to boot. Shortly after we were told that there had been a mistake, and they brought me a sandwich. I scarfed that too.

There was KFC at my son’s family birthday celebrations for many years after that – though he later became a vegetarian, and is now that shorter word – but I don’t think it ever tasted so good to me as it did that day. I am not sure any meal ever did.

OK, it wasn't this long ago... but I love vintage pictures. And this one is connected to a great article on the social history of KFC and white bread.

OK, it wasn’t this long ago… but I love vintage pictures. And this one is connected to a great article on the social history of KFC and Wonder Bread.

2. He showed me how to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

Aidan was a talker as a child. In first grade he explained to us that he had a big brain, and “there’s a lot of stuff in it that just needs to come out.” This caused some problems at school on occasion, but it was church that proved the greatest challenge. He would do his best to remain quiet and still, but the best would last around 32 minutes, which if his father didn’t do too long a sermon (slim chance there, because he had a Big Brain too), would bring us about to the Eucharistic prayer. I used to think that if I got quiet toys he would be quiet, but the toys always ended up talking.

One time we were late for church and didn’t bring any toys and he actually drew quite silently – generally his sister’s favorite church activity – extending his best to a full 37 minutes. Then I began to hear, low but distinct, that squeaky talking voice Aidan would use with his stuffed animals. I looked over.

My son had pushed up his pant legs over his knees and had drawn faces on them. He was talking to them. The boy was talking to his knees. And they were talking back.

Oh well. Talking to your knees, talking on your knees. They’re not so far apart.

Maggie and Aidan at Grasmere Zoo, Nashville

Maggie and Aidan at Grasmere Zoo, Nashville

3. He taught me how to set better boundaries.

My son was a generous child, and remains a generous adult. From the time he was very young he was a lover of animals. He was a voracious reader of Brian Jacques’ Redwall Series, which was fun at first, though after the second or third book, they were all pretty much the same. He once named a hamster Nathaniel. Only a Redwallian would do this. At one point we discovered Thornton Burgess, whose animal stories were much beloved by my father as a boy, and they had a bonding experience over these. Though between Mariel of Redwall and Jimmy Skunk there is, to be certain, a great gulf fixed.

At some point he ended up on a mailing list for the Humane Society. I do not have any idea how this happened, but he started getting those letters than include address labels with cats and dogs on them, and sad stories about abandoned and abused pets. The kind little old grandmothers respond to.

We were a family that encouraged giving, but after the second or third time that he emptied out his piggy bank so I could write them out a check, I said “You know, Aidan, you don’t have to give all your money every time they ask.” “But, mom,” he said, “if I don’t, they might stop sending the letters.” I assured him that this was not the case.

Several months later, the phone rang around dinnertime. It was the Humane Society. They wanted to speak to their donor. “Your donor is in fourth grade,” I said. “Please take him off your calling list.” “Oh my goodness,” said the kind little old grandmother on the other end. “What a tender heart.”


mariel and jimmy

28 thoughts on “Birthday Boy

  1. Diana says:

    I always love it when parents publicly express love and appreciation for their children. I also love that these stories are not ones that are likely to cause embarrassment — yet still reveal the heart of the child (and the mom). Happy mother’s day to you (as you celebrate your child) and Happy Birthday to Aidan, who has clearly made some good choices in his life.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. metaphysicalquilter says:

    Love this post. There is something about raising a son (or a daughter) who grows into an amazing person.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed this! I love the line “Talking to your knees. Talking on your knees. They’re not so far apart.” I agree:) Happy birthday to your son. Great son. Great daughter. Great mother. A wondrous trinity.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The Humane Society story reminds me of my youngest. I hope he keeps his caring and generous nature as your son has. Happy Birthday to you both. 🎁🎈

    Liked by 2 people

  5. midxfresh says:

    Happy birthday to him, wishing him long and prosperous years ahead in good health


  6. stuckinscared says:

    Paula, This is a delightful post… I wanted to read more. Any chance of a series? :)

    I love that your son talked to his toys (or his knees), and that they talked back. My Littlie talks to everything…and everything talks back. She has a box of around 200 hairbrushes (one of her many collections/obsessions. They all have names (which Mum is expected to remember o_O) and she has conversations with all of them.

    Your son sounds a gorgeous soul. Like his Mum :)

    Really enjoyed this post, Paula. Many happy returns to Aidan.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kimmie! My son has occasionally noted that his sister comes up more in the blog than he does. There are many Aidan stories I’ve repeated over the years, as he reminded me at his birthday dinner last night, and I am pretty sure they all need to be recorded for posterity. ;-) Given what beautiful long hair your Littlie has, it makes perfect sense to me that she would have a collection of brushes. I only hope you are not also expected to clean them all.

      And yes. He is a gorgeous soul. It’s been a privilege to keep company with him.

      Liked by 2 people

      • stuckinscared says:

        I don’t have to clean them at all. We’re not allowed to brush hair with them… they are for looking at and talking to only. I have to have one that isn’t part of the collection for brushing her locks :)

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Lisa Reiter says:

    Just gorgeous.. Everything about it and even though I’m a vegetarian, I’m laughing at chicken bones licked so clean, you could tap out a tune on a xylophone with them!
    I think I’m a nice round 10 years behind you Paula. The 6ft light in my life is 17 and I’m hitting a milestone birthday this year. We must remember to clink a cyber glass of champagne!
    Lovely, lovely post. I feel such love ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  8. elainemansfield says:

    I love learning about Aiden through your eyes. After reading this, I feel contentment that comes with the Mother Archetype, a good meal after hard labor, and a creative son who is no longer a child. My sons put up with my writing about them, but I try not to embarrass or reveal too much. And now, visiting my sick brother, I have the same problem of wanting to write about the tenderness I feel toward his frailty without making him feel exposed. I’ll begin with memory since we’re digging around in childhood experiences–the good and the hard.

    Thank you, Paula. There is the idea of contentment and the feeling experience of it. As I fretted over my brother’s health before making this trip to spend a few days with him, I could imagine the contentment of being here, but it’s not a thing like me reading your blog on my laptop with him siting at the other end of the couch, dozing, lightly snoring with my dog lying at his feet. Ahhh… We’re OK…for now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was worried that I might have embarrassed him, but he assured me no. I was careful not to tag him on Facebook, which would have alerted all his friends to the fact that his mother was writing about him. That might have been annoying.

      I will look forward to reading about your brother, in whatever form that takes. You’ve given me a good picture just here and now.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. A handsome lad! Mine just turned 30 and inspired similar wistful thoughts. Luckily my son doesn’t follow me on any social networks so he’s unaware he’s being spoken of (and he’s missing out on the glowing commentary). Ain’t it grand to be a proud momma?? Congrats on raising your son.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Anita says:

    What would we do without our memories of our children? Those endearing stories have carried me through a myriad of “growing pains” as they stumbled their way to adulthood.

    Thank you for sharing your tender memories. It took me back to several of my own for which I am grateful! Beautifully written!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Norah says:

    Lovely post,Paula. How lovely to meet Aiden. I hope you all had a wonderful time celebrating this birthday. What strikes me is the joy that you get from each other. Such a rich warm relationship with one’s children has got to be one of life’s greatest pleasures. I am so pleased to have the same with mine. And they are definitely my best teachers and they never sstop working on me – still a work in progress. What a remarkable human Aiden is, as is his mum. Isn’t it wonderful to see your children develop into warm,caring, contributing adults.Best wishes to all. 🎂


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