I stand watching him from the doorway. I watch his easy back and forth banter with the group of giggling girls gathered in front of his cash register, his patience as he takes their orders.
I study his profile, the stubble on his jaw, I notice his new way of combing his hair, his shiny leather bracelet adorning his left wrist. I drink him in visually, taking my time to remember every detail.
If I didn’t know who he was, I’d have thought this was a man in front of me. But I know better. This is my 17 year old son, the first baby to fill my heart. My little boy has become a man, almost overnight.
My breath catches in my throat. He is mine, this boy, but mine no longer. He belongs to himself – he knows where he wants to go and how he wants to get there. He doesn’t need his mama as much – but will always love her and want her approval.
I stand stock-still at the door of the restaurant, holding back the tears, trying to staunch the flow of memories. He looks up and sees me, his smile turning on all the lights in his soul. For a moment he’s that 12 month old who has taken his first steps and looked for his mother to share in his accomplishment, that six year old who has triumphantly mastered riding his bike without stabilizers, that 13 year old who has laid tefillin for the first time, then he winks at me and rolls his eyes and carries on taking the girls’ orders before allowing himself the comfort of my hug.
Just yesterday I was cradling him in the hospital, awed with the responsibility of having to raise this child, scared to mess up, wanting so much to do it all right. Even with all the missteps and sad times, he has become a mensch of the highest order. I am so proud to call him son.