Poem: It Takes One Night to Grow a Year Older
It Takes One Night to Grow a Year Older
Off on the skateboard he goes
His lanky form in worn-out Vans
Tanks from Hawaii and hair
Thick like coconut husk
Only yesterday, he was pushing
The scooter, almost the same size
Up the incline, he puffed and yelled,
“Mom, a little push, please.”
Only yesterday, he was speedy Gonzalez,
A nickname from his soccer coach
His tiny feet the first to the ball
only to retreat when hunky legs
Descend to clamor, the ball to steal
Soccer years without goals
Yet years later, to come back and initiate
Underground soccer for the underdogs.
Only yesterday, he was lying on his trampoline
Eyes to the sky, arms and legs spread
Like the early twinkling stars
“Mom, I’ve already spent one-eighth of my life,” that
From a boy who just celebrated his tenth birthday
If time could be caught between fingers
I’ll intertwine them and not let go.
Only yesterday, he cried
Spitting out vowels and consonants
A language foreign and hard
To squeeze years of learning into six short months
To make his father proud
The first to be bar-mitzvahed
He banged his computer and pulled his hair,
“I can’t do it. I can’t” formed the refrain
To the canter’s prayers
Only to read with poise
Hebrew prayers flowing
Like syrup from Log’s cabin.
As mothers gawked and friends wondered
At the half-Asian boy who wasn’t supposed.
If time could be caught between fingers
I’ll intertwine them and never let go.
Copyright 2011. All RIghts Reserved.
It always amazes me how it takes just one night for a kid to turn a year older. For instance, your kid was eight the night you put him to sleep and the next morning, he magically turns nine on his birthday. While kids are generally happy to add more years to their young resume, as parents birthdays can get reflective. You turn around and your kid has lost those cute chubby cheeks. You turn around and your kid has lost his two front teeth and soon the lisping that comes with lost teeth is replaced with bigger stronger teeth and sometimes, a more sassy mouth to match. You turn around and your angel has become this smart-alecky kid who is not too keen to snuggle up with you and watch Disneyland movies. Before you know it, the little kid is all grown and driving himself to school.
They grow up too fast and if we don’t capture the moments, they slip away. Often, I find myself reflecting on the eve of my kids’ birthday and this poem is born out of that. It was the day before Aaron’s birthday and as I watched him scoot off on his skateboard to his friend’s house, I realized that the day after, he would be a full year older.
I thought about the milestones—there are many but this poem will show a few. I remember the time when he was almost the same height as his scooter and he still needed help pushing it up the hill. Then, for all his elementary school years, he was in the soccer league but he never really made an impact due to his small size—he was always afraid of the bigger stronger kids. Though he was exceptionally fast, he cannot match up in terms of size. He gave up when he went to middle school but the love for soccer never left him. In due time, when senioritis was at its peak, he formed the underground soccer for kids who love the game but are never really good enough to make it to any major teams. It was a success and as it turns out, he became quite formidable at the game too.
And how can I forget his Bar Mitzvah? Being half Jewish/half Asian, he falls in the middle. Some consider him Jewish but others are less ready to accept that classification. To make a long story short, when he was tested for his Hebrew understanding, he was reading at kindergarten level and he has 6 short months to learn what most Jewish kids were learning all along until their 13th birthday. The cantor warned us it would be daunting, if not impossible. At the end of the 6 months, he was awarded the most improved kid award and on the day of his Bar Mitzvah, he read with so much prose that even Jewish grandmothers were won over.
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