To Derek on your 12th Birthday

I just knew you were a girl.  I felt it in my gut.  It was confirmed by the psychic woman who sat across the table from us at dinner in Hawaii.

“Do you know what you’re having?” she asked.

“I don’t yet, but I think it’s a girl,” I replied.

“I feel like you’re having a girl too.  I’m kind of a psychic.  Have you thought of any names?”

“Yes.  Brooke Michelle.”

She stared at me in disbelief.  “Did you say Brooke?” as she took out her ID from her wallet.  “Look at this.”

She showed me her name on her driver’s license.  “Brooke.”

I was then convinced beyond all doubt that I was having a girl, and this was a sign confirming it.  I even called my mom who was three hours ahead back home to tell her that indeed, I was having a girl.  The psychic named Brooke said so.

One week after returning from Hawaii, your dad and I sat in the little room while they squirted stuff on my belly for the ultrasound. (What you would later call mustard when I was having my ultrasound with your little brother.)  The technician asked us, “Do you want to know the sex?”  We both nodded eagerly and waited while she moved the probe around to get the best angle.  She then went to the keyboard when she found the right frame and typed, “B-O-Y.”  We were so surprised and happy.  I wasn’t sad that you weren’t a girl.  In fact, I’d even dreamed you were a boy.

I immediately was filled with a vision of who you would become.  I saw an intelligent boy who grew up to do great things in his life.  I was scared, though.  I wasn’t around a lot of boys growing up.  I seemed to have been surrounded by girls but for two boy cousins that I tried to avoid anyway.

I didn’t know what I would do with a boy.  I didn’t know how to play with boys, didn’t know how to talk to boys.  All I could think of was a 10-year-old boy, and how do I relate to a 10-year-old boy?  Little did I know, I didn’t need to worry about that yet.  I just needed to take care of and love a little baby, and the rest would come.

You were born late at night after a pretty traumatic labor and delivery.  I didn’t get to see you for a while after you were born.  When they finally brought you to me all swaddled up like a “burrito baby,” with a little hat on your head, you were already so alert, your eyes darting all over the place, trying to take it all in.

The next morning, it was just you and me before everyone came to see you.  I cradled you out in front of me, and you stared back into my eyes, and I knew then how old your soul was, and I no longer feared the unknown.  I knew we were in this together.  We would grow and learn together.  You were mine and I was yours.

You were the baby of endless smiles and belly laughs.  You sucked your thumb with your right hand and touched my face with the other.  You were having real conversations with me by the time you were 17 months old.  I had no idea that wasn’t typical.  People always looked at you in wonder because you sounded more like a 3- or 4-year-old.  You loved to listen to music and would learn the words of songs after hearing them only once or twice.  I remember you singing, “What Was I Thinking?” by Dierks Bentley when you were about two.  A man called the radio one day and told the DJ that his five-year-old son knew all the words to the song.  I turned around to you in your car seat and said, “Ha, that’s nothin!”

You were so timid as a little boy.  I would take you to the park and you would climb up the ladder for the slide, but if another child came up behind you, you would climb back down the ladder to let them go first.

When you were three, we put you in skating lessons at Sprinker, and we’d watch you shuffle across the ice.  After about three sessions you were burnt out.  That was the end of that.  Until you were six and wanted to learn how to skate again.  The skates went on, and like a rocket, off you went!  Then when you started hockey classes in Tacoma, the night before your first session you could hardly go to sleep from the excitement.  You said, “I can’t believe I’m a hockey player!”

You are the child who keeps me on my toes with your quick-witted personality.  Nothing gets by you.  You love music and you analyze every song you hear, wondering about the hidden meanings.  I love how you love The Beatles and how you will say, “This sounds like one of the songs they sang while they were on drugs.”

You constantly straddle the line between being hilarious and totally disrespectful.  I suspect we will have the best conversations when you are an adult.  But I will always remind you that I am your mother and to watch it.

You have grown and changed so much in your life.  You are our resident comedian.  Gone is that timid little boy who would give up his spot in line for the slide.  You have learned how to stand up for yourself.  You will harass your little brother to no end, but if anyone else messes with him, you are all over it.  You have a soft spot for little kids.  You like to mentor them.  You are a natural leader.   I love that you are passionate about the things you love to do.

You are 12 years old now.  I know I could probably write something like this for you every year, and perhaps I will, but I just wanted to get something down now.  You seem so much older than 12 already, and the time is slipping by so quickly.  This is your last year before you become a true teenager and things really start to change.

I hope you know that I am always here for you, no matter what.  I will always be here to pick up the pieces when you are sad.  I will always try to make you laugh when you’re mad.  I will always know when you’re lying because you make the same facial expressions I make when I try to lie.  Your face turns red like mine too.

I love you so much, Derek James.  You are a special gift.  Happy birthday.

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