My two-year-old son and I have the same first name – James – and before too long, he’ll be too old to be rocked to sleep by a lullaby. That’s too bad, because he loves “Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor. He always nods off during the chorus:
Goodnight, you moonlight ladies
Rockabye, Sweet Baby James
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose
Won’t you let me go down in my dreams
And rockabye Sweet Baby James
We already had four kids by the time James came along. And, as you may have guessed, James wasn’t supposed to come along. Yet here he is. He was a mistake who became a surprise who became a blessing.
We had already planned our lives around the idea of four kids in school. My wife was going to go back to work part-time; I was going to get rich, and everything was set. Then James came along and screwed everything up. We weren’t sure if we were going to forgive him for doing that.
The day he was born changed all that instantly. He came out with a full head of dark, scraggly hair – unlike all four of our other kids who were bald as ping pong balls upon their arrival. James also, unlike our other kids, had a hard time breathing for the first few days. We were told his prognosis was good, but he he had to be put in intensive care on a respirator, and we couldn’t hold him. The irony was thick on the ground – here was the child who’s arrival we had been dreading, and now we were terrified at the prospect of losing him. The day we were able to take James, healthy and happy, back home with us was one of the greatest days of our lives.
I think the hair was still helping matters. The dark hair was replace by blonde curls, again, unlike the four straight-headed kids who preceded him. Near his second birthday, my wife asked me to go get his hair trimmed, and, being an idiot, I gave very vague instructions to the SuperCuts girl, who proceeded to practically shave his head. My wife burst into tears when she saw the curls were gone, and they haven’t come back. It’s still a sore subject around the house, but, fortunately, we’ve found other reasons to love him.
He’s smart and funny, and he wants to grow up in the worst way. Last night, at a cousin’s house, he decided to imitate his older cousin by crossing his legs, but he couldn’t quit lift his right leg over his left. It was fun to watch him struggle with it. He’s obsessed with cars, or “bye-byes,” as he calls them, and given the opportunity, he’d watch Pixars “Cars” movie all day long. Sometimes, when my natural sloth takes over, I almost let him.
That’s a mistake.
This is precious time that we’re never going to get again. He’s the last one. I’m trying to remember that. I’m trying to enjoy the fact that he carries his little blue blankie everywhere; that his face lights up every time he sees a doggie or a kitty, that he calls all his brothers and sisters by name but still calls himself “baby.” He’s growing. He can crawl out of his crib now. He wants to grow up more than I want him to stay little, and nature says he’s going to win out in the end.
I’ve only got so many “Sweet Baby James” nights left.