On Wednesday I mailed a very important letter. A letter filled with contents I did not know. Well, I knew some of the contents. The author allowed me to see most of the letter, but not the final few sentences. Then he entrusted the missive to me and left for school. Backpack slung over one shoulder, a few crumbs from breakfast still on his cheek, a model airplane to show his friends in hand.
Cole is now eleven. And times, they are a-changin’. He is on a writing kick right now- having mailed enough letters in the last week that my husband joked we were going to start charging him for the stamps. But this last letter was different. It was a hybrid construction. It was written to one of his best friends. A friend who has been near to him since kindergarten. And now she is dear to him as well.
The letter was sweet, and simple, as feelings are when we are young. He said what he felt. He didn’t overplay it or shy away from it. (something, it seems, we lose the ability to do as we get older). He wants to hang out, wondered what her schedule was like. And then…and then I don’t know what else it said. I must admit, once he left for school, I was tempted to peel back the self-adhesive flap and read it.
He would never know. But I would.
I would know that I broken my promise. And I had expressly given it, for when he had me read the beginning, he clearly stated ‘don’t read the end’. I told him I wouldn’t. He could trust me. I would never do that. Then I paused. I would never read something private, I said, unless I thought there was something serious an adult needed to be aware of, or, as we refer to it in our house ‘an issue of healthandsafety’ (a phrase that gets uttered often enough that Eleanor thought it was all one word for a while).
Long after the voices had faded and the car had backed out of the driveway, I stood in the front hall, holding the letter, weighing its contents in my mind. A letter of hope. A trail of words paving the path from childhood into adolescence. A foreshadow of feelings to come as puberty blossoms. The first few flaps of a fledgling.
I am thankful that Cole still wants to share his inner life with me. I am grateful that he still seeks my input. And I recognize that we are transitioning to a new phase. The beginnings of change started a couple of years ago, around age 9. The brew of testosterone, gonadotropins, and a host of others have begun their powerful and irreversible effects. The transition is a bit unpredictable, chaotic. Lurching forward and stumbling back as if drunk on the potent cocktail of hormones. It is like watching Calvin climb under his transmogrification box. You never quite know who or what will emerge. But today, today he is still a boy. He will always be my son. No matter how tall, no matter how changed. No matter how much he chooses to share, or not.
As for the letter? I left the envelope sealed. It’s been posted.