On my son’s birthday, memories of 7th grade

Like all of you, I’ve been riveted by the King v Burwell challenge to Obamacare, but there has been so much written about it, I don’t see the need to add more. My prediction is that the court will find in favor of with the government, creatively, as Roberts did previously. As we wait for the dust to settle on the latest drama, I had some personal thoughts to share. Forgive me some navel gazing..

My son turned 13 last month, and along with love and admiration for the dude, I’ve been awash in memories of my own childhood. He reminds me so much of myself, the best parts of me, but the thing that I marvel at most, because I didn’t have it at his age, is his self-confidence. His comfort among his peers. He is cruising through 7th grade with a wink and a smile, and I can’t help but remember..my 7th grade experience was so very different.

peter-max

Peter Max artwork

My parents were divorced when I was 2, and I was raised as an only child by my mom, a struggling writer. It’s fair to say we didn’t have much money. It is a testament to my mom that I never felt poor. Which boggles my mind when I think back. It wasn’t until years later I realized how little we had..and it dawned on my a few years ago, we were essentially homeless for my 7th grade. My mother had moved us from the upper West side in Manhattan to the suburbs, Carmel, NY, for my 5th grade, after I got mugged at knifepoint on the way back from school, (it’s not safe!) and we spent two years in a house “in the country” with my mom’s boyfriend who lived with us. When they split up two years later, it took us a year to find our footing again. I spent a month or so with my grandparents back in Manhattan (Chelsea before it was sexy), until mom found a sublet a few blocks uptown. I remember that place for having a Peter Max mural on the wall and a copy of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that I listened to 100 times. We didn’t stay in that place long. For some months we rented a spare room in another friend of my mom’s house, and after they fought, we got thrown out literally on the street. Coming home from school to see all of our possessions in the driveway was a shock, but for some reason it didn’t phase me long, I was so focused on my life in school. I spent the entire year as “the new kid” because I went to 3 different middle schools. We spent a bunch of months in Mahopac, I’m not even sure when that was, but the house was big and old, maybe haunted. It was the only time I played in fall leaves as a kid. I spent another month on the sofa of a friend of my mom’s, until we finally found our own place. And by “own place,” I mean another place we rented from a friend, this time in Golden’s Bridge. Eventually, we settled in Katonah, NY in a duplex right next to the Metro North tracks, where I spent my high school years. The house would shake every time the train would go by, and I could touch opposite walls of my room with my fingers. I quickly stopped noticing the trains, but it amused me whenever a friend over to the house for the first time would look up startled as a train went by, the windows rattling, not knowing what was going on.

As I watch my boy at this stage of his life..seeing so much of me in him, a swirl of emotion. He’s had stability in his life that I never had. He’s gained a confidence that eluded me for many many years. And mixed in with my glowing pride in the boy, is a recognition that by giving him what I didn’t have growing up, he’s become a poster child for privilege. And how can we not give our children every possible advantage? Indeed he has all the advantages. The son of two doctors. I’m getting more and more another emotion …a powerful sense of responsibility that he not take these advantages for granted. Of course, I’m going to keep loving him hard, but I want him to have humor and perspective, most of all perspective, and the next few years will see about that.