September 19, 2018
It’s His Birthday
It’s his birthday. This creature called Clark who was so many things wrapped up in a small bundle. He was our fifth child. Nicholas, our first stillbirth. Alexandra, our second stillbirth. One miscarriage. A beautiful answer to prayer we called Abigail, so aptly named because it means “Source of Joy.” And then Clark.
He wasn’t a beautiful baby. I would look at him and wonder if he were going to be a plain child. His head was a bit oddly-shaped. His face seemed a trifle off-centered. His somewhat chunky arms and legs just seemed a bit ill-proportioned. I would ask friends and family, “Do you think he’s homely?” “Do you think he’ll have hair?” “Do you think he’ll look normal?
But my mothering instincts ran deeply through my soul, and my love for him gave me comfort that however he turned out, we were so deeply thrilled to have this son. After all of that death, we were now a family of four, and that blessing gave me comfort every time I held him, every time I looked at him, every time I heard him cry.
So this lump of an infant grew and began to take on shape. And my doubts became moments of surprise. By other standards, he was slow in learning to walk. But when he did, it was “Katie-bar-the-door!” Constantly running, it became obvious that his little body was, so they say, a well-oiled-machine. Elbows tucked and knees pumping, this boy could outrun his sister who was two years older. He became a joy to watch.
He also became a joy to look at. Those scraggly tufts of hair became silky blonde curls that any female would envy. Those somewhat murky-colored eyes took on a crystalline blueness that out-blued the eyes that helped create a life-long career for Paul Newman. And those chunky arms and legs became inspiration for any Greek sculptor. He was becoming an absolutely beautiful child.
But it was his personality that captivated his admirers. Those blue stars that shone in his face gave off a million watts of joy and life and heart. That face itself was the essence of mischief. He was his father’s son a thousand-times-over when it came to mischief and jokes and impish trouble. One day his sister Abigail, a couple of years older than Clark, was doing that sisterly thing of trying to keep this younger brother-pest out of her room, and had taped up a sign on her door that she had carefully lettered: “No boyz alloud!” I found him standing in the hallway, the heels of his shoes backed up to the very edge where the hallway carpet met the different-colored carpet in her room. The mischief fairly emanated from him as he smiled and winked at me.
And the absolute “boy-ness” that he came to exhibit! Before he could say much of anything, he loved his “b-balls”. Anything resembling a basketball or a baseball was a b-ball and those were his favorite toys. And it must have been early spurts of testosterone that caused him to disrobe completely and run through the house, waving his shirt over his head. On a rare night of my trying to cook some supper (he loved chicken legs), he was pulling on my skirt asking me to come play. I explained that I was cooking him some chicken legs, and he gave out a “Whoop!”, and proceeded to run from the kitchen through the dining room, across the hallway and through the den and back again, around and around in this circle. Arms waving over his head, he kept yelling “Momma’s cookin’! Momma’s cookin’! “Momma’s cookin’!”
And he seemed to have no fear. Very early on he learned to open the back door that led to the garage and beyond. I would miss him, and find him exploring the back yard, the neighbor’s back yard, and catching caller-pitters to bring to me for pets (a habit he had picked up from his sister). And then came the day when he had gotten out and nature must have called. When I found him, he was stark naked, both arms over his head and holding onto the decorative rail fence at the end of the driveway. In full view of the street and most of the neighborhood, arms up and knees bent, he was depositing small brown clumps of poop directly below himself. And he was looking down, observing his deposits and obviously proud of his progress.
And today is his birthday.
There is a quote from the film Camelot that we used at his funeral service and this quote is now on his grave marker. When, in the midst of losing a battle and his approaching demise, King Arthur sends a small boy “behind the lines” to proclaim and share the story of the Knights of the Round Table so that all would come to know the pure wonder and glory that was Camelot. When asked just who this boy was, King Arthur replied…
“One of what we all are…just a drop in the great blue motion of the sun-lit sea. But some of the drops sparkle. Some do sparkle.”
And, oh, how he did sparkle.